Dodge has been on a bit of a tear in recent years, shoving large engines in their cars and shattering records for performance. The Charger and Challenger Hellcat models are prime examples with their 707-horspower 6.2-litre V8 motors. If that wasn’t enough the 2018 Dodge Demon raised the bar even higher offering up to 840 horsepower if equipped with the Demon Crate Package. It’s the only production vehicle that can actually pop a wheelie at the drag strip. Naturally the performance tend has now made its way to the Durango with the release of the 2018 SRT model.
The Durango SRT has the distinction of being one of the few high performance three-row SUVs on the market and by far the least expensive. BMW’s X5M isn’t available in a three-row configuration nor is the Range Rover Sport SVR or Mercedes-AMG GLE63. The mammoth GLS63 is but it’s a heck of a lot more expensive. Dodge gives dads with that performance itch who happen to have large families something to get excited about.
Featuring the brand’s legendary 475-horsepower 6.4-litre 392-cubic-inch HEMI V-8 engine under the hood, the full-size Durango can sprint the quarter mile in just 12.9 seconds with a 0-100km/h time of 4.4 seconds. Thy even went so far as to have that time certified by the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) just to give it that much more street credit. It rumbles ferociously on start just as the Charger or Challenger SRT models do and anyone within earshot will know it’s no ordinary Durango. It’s loud and that’s the point. Your neighbors might not appreciate it so much and it may get a bit tiresome on long road trips but that’s to be expected with such a performance machine. I did a fair amount of highway and wasn’t able to get fuel consumption below 14.3 L/100km but again this is to be expected.
Dodge spent much time testing and tuning the Durango SRT at Virginia International Raceway to ensure the truck would be able to handle all of the power accordingly and I have to say it’s paid off handsomely. The ride is sporty, solid, precise but also capable of absorbing the everyday bumps in the pavement. Step on the gas and the 8-Speed TorqueFlite Automatic transmission instantly delivers the power to the road in a smooth way. Brembo brakes can bring you to a full stop in a stomach-churning instant and the steering is precise with good road feel.
There is also the SRT seven-mode drive system accessible via the SRT button on the dash. Suspension, torque distribution, shift points, stability control and engine mapping are all controlled through here. The modes are Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Valet and ECO. Launch control is handy for those days at the drag strip and very simple to operate compared to some other systems.
The interior of the SRT is given full luxury treatment by Dodge. Demonic Red Laguna (yes that’s the actual name) leather adorns the seats, the dash has contrast stitching, suede inserts are soft to the touch and the rear occupants can enjoy the DVD entertainment system via pair of screens which fold out of the back of the seats and much more. One thing to note is that while the Durango is usually a seven-seater, the SRT is a 2+2+2 configuration for a total of six only.
The Uconnect infotainment system is one of the brand’s strong points. The intuitive display is a breath of fresh air compared to much of the competition with easy navigation via the 8.4-inch touch screen. As a parent with multiple children I always make sure to give the DVD system a thorough test. Uconnect makes the best one there is for three simple reasons: The driver can operate it from the front, you can put a DVD in and it doesn’t take a technical specialist to figure out how to hear it and finally you can watch the movie on the front screen when the vehicle is stopped. I just got through testing the system on a competitor and it was borderline inoperable. FCA has always been and will remain the leader in this department.
You may feel that a starting MSRP of $72,840 is a bit high but compared to high performance SUVs of other brands which routinely run above the $100K mark it starts to look a little more reasonable. The Durango SRT delivers a practical and fun performance package that is definitely worthy of further examination even if you’re used to driving fancy European machines.