Perfect for families on the go (and who insist on getting there as quickly as possible)
Words by: Adam Allen
I didn’t know I needed a large 3-row SUV with close to 500 horsepower.
Oh, but you do! In all seriousness, most people don’t wake up one day with a sudden and insatiable need for something so over the top like our Durango SRT tester. We recommend spending a week in one- it just might change your mind. Need more justification for a three row hot-rod family hauler? The only other choice you have is Mercedes Benz’s GLS 63, but it sports a price tag that begins at an almost unbelievable $53,000 more than the Durango’s, so the big Dodge becomes (relatively speaking of course) something of a bargain.
Is there anything better than a huge naturally aspirated V8 making all kinds of socially questionable noises?
Here’s the answer: No, there isn’t. As engine downsizing and turbocharging continue their proliferation across the industry, the Durango’s honking 6.4 lump is an anachronism of the best possible kind. It’s 2,400 kilos don’t seem to dull the V8’s fury, with a 0-100km/h sprint taking less than 5 seconds. We never tire of the almost comical way a big, heavy brute like this will scamper off the line. The SRT engineers made the process of doing that incredibly easy, skipping the Konami cheat code process of the Dodge Demon to launch from rest. Press a button on the console, step hard on the brakes and pin the gas pedal- that’s it. What happens next is a whole lotta Dodge Durango leaping towards the horizon like a scalded cat. This, ladies and gentleman, is truly the stuff of fun.
Just a guess, but the burly 392’s thrust is only part of the package.
Dodge’s SRT cars are much more fully realized automobiles than simply dropping a massive engine between the front shock towers. The brakes, gearbox, suspension and AWD system have all been tweaked to deliver a more holistic type of fun- fun that isn’t just had in a straight line. You might raise an eyebrow in skepticism that such a big thing would be such a hoot to play with, but you should know the SRT engineers spent countless hours at Virginia International Raceway refining the Durango’s breadth of capabilities-this, at one of the more technical tracks in North America- and the end result is a family truck that can sashay around corners way better than it has any right to.
If the Durango SRT can hold its own on a racetrack so well, it must be a knuckle dragger around town.
The Durango avoids the pitfalls of some performance machinery, mostly being finicky and restless around. In any suspension mode outside of the Track setting, bumps are dispatched with a one and done oscillation of the suspension without the pogoing and body roll that you might expect of something with this kind of ground clearance. Sure the right is firm; this is a performance SUV, after all. But it is never harsh and its tuning seems appropriate given what it can do at a brisk pace. While negotiating mindless weekend traffic heading north on weekend, it dawned on us that the Durango SRT was a pleasure to drive in the stop-and-go drudgery. Allow us to explain. Typically, the highest performing version of a car can lurch along in protest when the commute slows to a crawl, but our tester took everything in stride. The throttle is easy to modulate and only a slight whisper but your right foot is needed to make the big SUV creep forward with ease and in comfort. The brakes don’t grab unceremoniously and even the transmission seems free from lurching about. We’re not saying that we’d welcome the chance to test the Durango’s mettle in these situations any further than we already have (who would?), but we can confirm it is much easier to drive smoothly in the real world than you might expect.
The interior is an interior.
Yes- but isn’t that true of all cars? What that means is simply that the SRT team spent much more time finessing the mechanical bits than they did the creature comforts. Although it looks a bit spartan when you look inside- you’re met with an all-black color palette and aside from some carbon fibre flourishes, not much else- but it is very well equipped. You get grippy leather seats that are heated and cooled, all kinds of driver assistance technology, classy stitching spanning the entire dash and a micro suede headliner. This all makes for a comfortable, of not overly luxurious experience but it seems appropriate given the Durango SRT’s mission. The Uconnect infotainment system features an SRT-specific set of menus called Performance Pages which shows you stuff like your reaction time in a drag race, handling g’s and how much of the engine’s torque you are using in each situation. It seems a bit gimmicky, but if you are as a nerdy as us, you will find yourself playing with them more often then not.
What might go wrong?
Those seats we mentioned not long ago? They aren’t the most comfortable we have tried in recent memory, nor do the offer as much lateral support as we’d like, especially given the cornering speeds this beast is capable of. They also don’t yield much cool air when you ask, an uncomfortable proposition for a car pained all black with an interior in the same color to match. Keeping an eye on the fuel gage will add different levels of discomfort, even though nobody is going to be surprised that this is a thirsty customer, swilling gasoline in the same way a desert nomad might when they reach an oasis after trudging through inhospitable climes. We managed almost 18L/100km, one of the highest figures we’ve recorded all year and interestingly, quite a bit more than we saw when driving the Hellcat powered Charger a few years prior. The best we could muster was just over 13L/100km but that was on a highway trip under ideal conditions. Dodge has fitted the cylinder deactivation we have seen on RAM pickups to save some go-go juice, but with the numbers being what they are and the unpleasant buzzy sound it makes when it switches to operating as a V4 are, in our estimation, not worth the trouble.
Should I buy a Durango SRT?
If you answer this question based solely on
speed and performance, yes, you should buy a Durango SRT. All the convincing
you will need can be found when you nail the throttle on your test drive and
hear that ballistic Hemi sing its siren song through the oversized exhausts
that this is the car for your obviously cool family. If you choose to answer
this question in the context of a fitting replacement for the family’s tired
Prius V, the answer would likely be a hard no. But if you choose to answer this
query as rationally and sensibly as possible, the answer would be a
hard-to-argue yes because the BMW X5 M and Range Rover Sport SVR- two competitors
to the Durango SRT- don’t offer a third row for your mini speed demons in
training, and you could buy a 392 powered Challenger Scat Pack as a weekend toy
with the money you’d save over the aforementioned Mercedes Benz GLS 63. If your
family is constantly on the move- and getting from point A to point B as
quickly as possible is a weighty prerequisite on your short shopping list of
performance SUV’s, we believe we have already answered the question for you.
2019 Dodge Durango SRT AWD – Specifications
- Price as tested: $87,295
- Body Type: 5-door, 7 passenger SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 6.4-litre supercharged V8, OHV, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 475 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lb.-ft): 470 @ 4,300 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 2,435 kg (5,369 lbs.)
- Fuel consumption: 17.6/100km (13 mpg)