2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD Review
Some things simply make no sense, seem coo-coo crazy, yet are so much fun that a person ignores their lunacy.
For instance: Dodge’s Durango SRT Hellcat with its 710-horse supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8. Any engine oozing that many adjectives is sure to be a demon.
This wild child is a one-year wonder from Dodge. The Durango SRT Hellcat is a 2021 model only, so pony up your $90,000 right now as these will surely be collector items.
Wild? Yes. The Durango, normally a fine mid-size SUV, has a top speed of 180 mph according to Dodge. Its 0-60 mph time is 3.5 seconds — even quicker than a much pricier Lamborghini Urus, a luxury/performance SUV.
We shouldn’t be surprised by any of this, even in a hybridizing world where electrics are playing a larger role each model year. Dodge has gone full-bore performance in the past decade. It slightly refreshes its aging car and now SUV lineup, but keeps upping the ante for horsepower, always under the SRT and/or Hellcat brand. These are both in the Challenger and Charger models already and they too are land-based rockets.
I guided this missile to central Indiana and back, leaving knee-high corn stalks quivering in my wake and farm animals nervously looking over their shoulders.
The Durango was a blast, as are all Hellcats. Power is simply unspeakable. SUVs weighing 5,710 pounds are not supposed to have this sort of grunt. But tromp the metal-clad pedals and this SUV lurches toward light speed as if it were a stock car running on nitrous.
Handling is suitably sporty with a moderately heavy feel and good cornering ability. No body lean here and the $595 extra Pirelli 3-season ZR20 performance tires give it race car grip. AWD doesn’t hurt either, but you’ll need all-season or winter tires to put the power to wintertime pavement.
Ride is typical large SUV bouncy with some side-to-side motion on uneven pavement. This is the same as the SRT Durango I tested about 18 months ago. Big bumps are well absorbed and no shockwaves are transmitted to the cockpit, but the bounce is noticeable.
Still an SRT Hellcat buyer isn’t full-checkbook into this SUV for ride, but for performance. The SRT toggle at the center stack’s base will be their friend, lighting up the snazzy 10-inch info screen for selection of virtually any setting the driver requires. There are the pre-sets of Auto, Snow, and Tow, but more likely the Sport or Track settings will be desired. These firm up handling, ride and power to deliver race-worthy performance. A Custom setting allows everything from steering and ride to shock dampers to be adjusted.
There’s also a Launch button in case you’re headed to the drag strip to grind off excess rubber from those costly performance tires.
Braking is vital to a beast like this and the Durango packs giant rotors front and rear and dolls up the SRT performance calipers with blue paint.
My test truck was Destroyer Gray, which looked an awful lot like the prior week’s test car, a Ford Mustang in Jet Fighter Gray. This added low-gloss black racing stripes, a $1,195 option, but what self-respecting buyer wouldn’t want these?
Those stripes and the muscular nose with flat-black air vents embedded in the bulging hood give this a big-time tough-guy look. Visually, Durango assures any onlookers that they’re in for a butt kickin!
The irony is that inside the Durango Hellcat is as comfy as your living room sofa, maybe more so. It looks racy with black leather and suede seats with an SRT Hellcat logo embroidered on the front of each seat backs. Instrument panel gauges are racy red and there are carbon fiber inserts (look a bit like snakeskin) on the doors and dash and alongside the console. All that and the suede headliner are part of a $2,495 premium interior package.
But the seats are so well shaped that they feel as if they are hugging you, plus the front seats are heated and cooled while the rear seats are heated. The steering wheel is heated too. The second row here includes comfy captain’s chairs and the third row seats are decent too, both for comfort and roominess. Several “older” friends offered high praise for the monster truck’s seat supportiveness.
Then there are those metal clad pedals down below, a power tilt/telescope flat-bottom steering wheel and a fine 10.1-inch info screen. Dodge delivers an easy screen interaction that's simple to understand and use while driving. Its Uconnect 5 navigation system works fine and there are nine Alpine amplified speakers with a subwoofer stacked in to deliver awesome sound quality, too.
That big screen is the main focus of all the performance enhancements and adjustability. The SRT and traction control toggles are down low on the stack and there’s a wireless phone charger beneath. In back the hatch is powered.
Leaning heavily toward performance, the Hellcat did not include a sunroof, and while generally a fine interior there is tire noise and most of all a whiny supercharger hum that can become annoying at low speeds. Otherwise the exciting rumble and roar of the supercharged V8 is fun and even quiets considerably at highway speeds after Dodge’s 8-speed automatic shifts to a cruising gear.
Fuel-efficient though the Hellcat is not. In fact I’d swear a few Hoosier hogs saluted as we drove by. I got between 14.7 and 15.1 mpg in mostly highway driving, but a few longer jaunts in town that resulted in that lower figure. Heck, the EPA rates this at just 12 mpg city and 17 highway. Then again, if a buyer is drooling over using 710 horsepower it’s likely that gas savings are not on their radar.
On the practical side (seems odd here I know), the Durango will tow 8,700 pounds and if all its rear rows of seats are folded flat will haul 85.1 cu.ft. of cargo. That’s something an equally powerful supercar could not deliver.
Such an exotic car couldn’t come close to competing on price either — most such wildlings starting in six digits. The SRT Hellcat lists at $82,490, including delivery. That’s a bargain for this much power, comfort and usability. The test SUV ended up at $89,665 with its tally of options.
In addition to those mentioned earlier the Durango added about $3,000 of safety equipment, which I’d expect to be standard on a premium vehicle such as any Hellcat. A $495 add-on included blind-spot and cross-path detection, which are pretty much standard equipment on nearly every vehicle sold today.
The bigger bite was a $2,395 technology group that included advanced brake assist, lane-departure warning plus, full-speed forward collision warning plus and adaptive cruise control — the latter of which might help a bit in moderating gas consumption on the freeway.
Still, if neck-straining power is your thing, yet room for six or seven passengers and major towing power also are your thing, Durango SRT Hellcat is your best choice for a supersonic beast of burden.
Overview: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD
Hits: Crazy power, big-time tough guy looks, sporty handling, extremely supportive seats, heated/cooled seats, heated rear seats, flat-bottom wheel, wireless phone charger, 10-inch info screen, useable third row seat, metal pedals, red gauge faces, exciting exhaust tone. SRT toggle allows track settings, power hatch and power tilt/telescope steering wheel.
Misses: No sunroof, whiny supercharger, a gas hog.
Made in: Detroit, Mich.
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8, 710 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 5,710 lbs.
Wheelbase: 119.8 in.
Length: 200.8 in.
Cargo: 17.2/43.3/85.1 cu.ft.
Tow: 8,700 lbs.
MPG: 14.7-15.1 (tested)
Base Price: $82,490 (includes delivery)
Major Options: Technology group (advanced brake assist, lane-departure warning plus, full-speed forward collision warning plus, adaptive cruise control), $2,395
Premium interior group (suede headliner, premium instrument panel, forged carbon fiber accents), $2,495
Low-gloss gunmetal dual stripes, $1,195
Pirelli P Zero ZR20 3-season tires, $595
Blind-spot and cross-path detection, $495
Test vehicle: $89,665
Photos: Mark Savage
Editor's Note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.