Dodge’s Durango SRT is the truck version of a NASCAR stocker.
SRT is all about power, muscle and grunt with an engine grumble that sounds like a stock car ready to bust out of the pits and head up the banking at Daytona. Otherwise, it’s a fine, luxurious mid-size SUV that will haul a family, or a load of friends in comfort all the while satisfying their need for speed.
The party starts under its massive scoop-bearing hood with a HEMI, yes, a HEMI that creates a throbbing 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. This 6.4-liter V8 will carry this 5,510 lb. truck from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, or so Dodge tells us. I can only attest to it rocketing up to highway speeds in short order.
No speed racer is complete without strong brakes too. SRT abides with red Brembo calipers and big discs to whoa this baby in a flash.
SRT doesn’t stop there. AWD is standard on this SUV to give its horsey engine plenty of grip, even in snow and slush. And the 8-speed automatic transmission easily slips through the gears to put the power to the pavement. I’d witnessed some hunting for gears in a drive in a GT version a few years back, but this test truck’s transmition was flawless.
Handling has been firmed in the SRT to give it a more precise feel and better response. Even in lower trim lines the Durango is one of the better handling mid- to full-size SUVs.
Ride is where most trucks fall short of luxury SUV and crossovers for comfort. While reasonably well controlled and not punishing, the Durango exhibits truck bounce and what I call rock and roll over uneven roads and parking lot entry points. You feel a little side to side action. Yet in driving at speed the truck corners well with little body lean, and aided by the fine handling characteristics, especially for a truck that’s a bit over 201 inches long. Note too there’s an adaptive sport-tuned suspension in the SRT, which no doubt helps handling, but not ride.
Inside the dark metallic red (Octane Red) Durango the SRT package delivers a classy and comfy look. Standard are Nappa leather seats trimmed in suede. The test truck also added a $2,495 premium interior package that adds a suede headliner that both looks swanky and helps assure a quiet interior. The package also includes a leather-wrapped dash and real carbon fiber trim.
The seats are black leather, but accented with white stitching, the same on the dash. The steering wheel features a matte chrome trim and on its paddle shifters behind the wheel. Other trim is either the carbon fiber or chrome around air vents, by the big screen and cup holders and door handles. The carbon fiber is in bits along the dash and inserts in the doors.
A big win for Chrysler remains its fine Uconnect infotainment system and 8.4-inch display screen. This is among the easiest systems to use that I encounter in my test drives. Apple Car Play and Android Auto capability also is included.
Naturally Durango is large enough for a roomy uncrowded interior. The test truck came with captain’s chairs for row two, which makes it easier to crawl in the third row seat that’s actually pretty comfortable, even for adults.
Front seats are powered, include power lumbar supports and are heated and cooled. Second row seats also are heated and there’s a heated steering wheel. Bravo, scream us northern Midwesterners.
My only bugaboo is that the heated/cooled seats and heated wheel are controlled via that big infotainment screen. This requires you first punch the Climate button to adjust these features, and the system did not remember what you had them on before you turned the ignition off. I prefer a simple button or switch on the console for these functions, one that stays adjusted when you turn the car on and off.
The other downside to such controls on the touchscreen is that it doesn’t respond to a gloved hand. Sorry, but in the winter most Wisconsin drivers wear gloves of some sort.
A plus though is the sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel standard in SRT. It not only looks sporty but allows for more knee space when entering and exiting the SUV. The wheel also is a power tilt/telescope unit and its hub is loaded with trip computer and smart cruise control buttons and such.
This SRT also added all the safety equipment options you’d expect, although you might expect more to be standard at a list price of $64,490, including delivery. Traction control and a back-up camera are standard, along with ParkSense offering front and rear parking sensors.
Optional were blind-spot and cross-path detection systems that added a reasonable $495 to the price tag. But a technology group with adaptive cruise, advanced brake assist, full-speed forward collision warning, and lane departure warning costs $2,395. Somehow that seemed like piling on at this $64,990 sticker.
Funny too that there was no sunroof at this price. And like most SUVs, there are big A-pillars here that can block frontal side views at intersections.
Storage room is aces though. With all three rows of seats in place there’s 17 cubic feet of cargo space, about the same as a full-size sedan. But if you’re in need of more room, drop that third row flat and you have 43.3 cubic feet, or drop both rear rows of seats for an expansive 85.1 cubic feet.
Space and power have their price though. Gas mileage is poor, which is to be expected in a big heavy SUV with a fuel-gulping V8. Its exhaust note is a gem, but fuel economy leaves a lot to be desired. I managed just 13.5 mpg in a week’s drive of 200+ miles, about 70% on city and suburban streets. The EPA rates the SRT at 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, but I’m assuming a tailwind.
The test truck also added sharp-looking 20-inch Brass Monkey bronze wheels for $995 and tires are ZR20 Pirellis, aimed at performance and grip.
SRT’s stereo rocked too, but it was improved with 19 Harmon-Kardon amplified speakers with a subwoofer and 825-watt amp. Cost is $995. And then in case you really did want to tow a trailer, a $1,195 trailer tow group was included, adding receiver hitch, trailer brake control, a compact spare tire and 20-inch aluminum spare wheel.
Total damages were an astonishing $73,060, but then there’s not much else out there in this category with this performance.
If that’s a bit rich for your blood there’s no reason to abandon hope of owning a Durango. No, a base rear-drive SXT starts at a well-below-market price of $31,990. And that packs a fine 293-horse 3.6-liter V6 along with the 8-speed automatic tranny. Heck, that one will tow 6,400 lbs. and seats five comfortably. Need AWD, the cost rises to $34,590 with delivery.
And there are eight trim levels from SXT to SRT, including the R/T which boosts power with a 5.7-liter V8 that generates 360 horsepower. It lists at $48,090.
Seems Dodge offers plenty of choices for folks needing space, pulling power and who prefer a more muscular look, while civilized driving SUV. And if you’re into the power game, well, SRT should be your first test drive.
Hits: Roomy 6-passenger SUV with monster engine, power and rumble. Sharp handling for a ute, big screen and easy controls, heated wheel, heat/cool front seats, heated rear seats, flat-bottomed steering wheel and all the safety equipment you expect.
Misses: Poor fuel economy, serious price tag, somewhat bouncy truck ride, no sunroof, seats and wheel heat controlled via screen that doesn’t respond to a gloved hand, and thick A-pillar.
Made In: Detroit, Mich.
Engine: 6.4-liter HEMI V8, 475 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 5,510 lbs.
Wheelbase: 119.8 in.
Length: 201.2 in.
Cargo: 17 cu.ft., 43.3 (third row seats down), 85.1 (two rows of seats down)
Tow: 8,600 lbs.
MPG: 13/19, 13.5 (tested)
Base Price: $64,990 (includes delivery)
Major Options: Technology group (adaptive cruise, advanced brake assist, full-speed forward collision warning, lane departure warning plus), $2,395
Trailer tow group IV (class IV receiver hitch, trailer brake control, compact spare tire, 20-inch aluminum spare wheel), $1,195
Premium interior group (suede headliner, premium wrapped instrument panel, real carbon fiber interior accents), $2,495
19 Harman-Kardon amplified speakers w/subwoofer, 825-watt amp), $995
20-inch Brass Monkey bronze wheels, $995
Blind-spot and cross-path detection, $495
Test Vehicle: $73,060
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.