The big Durango news this year was the addition of a Hellcat-powered version with 710 horsepower. That screamer of a vehicle sold out quite quickly but there are plenty of other options for the power-hungry SUV-needing family person. Enter the Durango R/T HEMI.
There aren’t too many three-row performance SUV’s on the market and the Durango has the distinction of being one of them (and by far the least expensive). BMW’s X5M isn’t available in a three-row configuration nor are the Range Rover Sport SVR and Mercedes-AMG GLE63. The mammoth GLS63 is but it’s a heck of a lot more expensive. Dodge gives parents with that performance itch who happen to have large families something to get excited about.
This model was introduced in 2011 so it’s getting on in years and is due for a refresh very soon. Despite that, the SUV’s rugged good-looks have aged very well. The Durango is quite unique and unmistakable for anything else on the road, especially via the rear with its large full-width wraparound taillights.
The Durango provides the occupants with a spacious and ergonomically-sound interior. Everything is right where it should be for ease of use. There are large knobs for volume and fan speed which I cannot say enough good things about. The gear shift lever is large and perfect to rest your hand on. Keep in mind this is a six-seater, not a seven-seater though other Durango trims can seat up to seven people. The third row will be a bit tight for adults and is best suited for youngsters.
Powering R/T is the brand’s 5.7-litre HEMI V-8 engine making 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. It rumbles ferociously on start and anyone within earshot will turn their head. 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. Between this engine and the Hellcat there is one more option which is the 475-horsepower 6.4-litre 392-cubic-inch HEMI V-8 engine. You can also buy a non-hemi engine if just want the Durango without the power.
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 an instant and the steering is precise with good road feel.
Another reason to upgrade to the SRT trim is the 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. Launch control is handy for those days at the drag strip and very simple to operate compared to some other systems. Those options are absent on the R/T.
As a parent, I really appreciate brands who spend the time to engineer proper rear-seat infotainment systems. Dodge (and parent company FCA) is one of those brands. 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. 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’ve tested competitor systems which where borderline inoperable. FCA has always been and will remain the leader in this department.
With a starting MSRP of $56,279 and the test vehicle coming in about $20,000 more with all the options, one may feel that it’s a bit high. When we compare to other high-performance SUVs which routinely run above the $100K mark it starts to look a little more reasonable. The Durango R/T delivers a practical and fun performance package that is definitely worthy of further examination even if you’re used to driving fancy European machines.