There aren’t many manufacturers that would deliver a 475 horsepower sports car in the middle of a blizzard. But in the midst of a late-winter storm that brought a foot of snow, closed schools, and left many without power, the Dodge Durango SRT arrived in the Limited Slip Blog driveway. “Nice weather you’re having!” the driver exclaimed. And with that, he left us to it. Several days later, another 10 inches blanketed our area. Over the course of the week, we racked up over 24 inches of combined snowfall. But no mere meteorological disruption could slow down this 7-passenger performance demigod.
Four years ago, we wondered if the V8 SUV still had a place in the world of crossovers. We were testing the Durango R/T with its entertaining 5.7L V8 at the time. This year, FCA’s SRT division cast off all doubt on the V8 SUV’s potential by fitting the Durango with its 6.4L V8. The resulting rip-snorting, tire-smoking, heavy-hauling excuse for a family-friendly SUV is 2.7 tons of fun. And while the engine is the reason this Durango hits the highlight reels, there’s much more engineering that’s gone on to make the Durango SRT a capable handler.
A larger and more powerful engine requires more airflow. The SRT hood features a functional air inlet and heat extractors. The revised front fascia includes large cold-air ducts for the engine and brakes. Flared wheel arches cover 295-width 20-inch wheels on all four corners. The Durango SRT has been given all-new suspension components to handle the extra performance. The springs and rear sway bar are stiffer and an active damping setup helps control body motion. When it comes time to stop, Brembo high performance brakes help stop the hefty hauler. The biggest performance engineering feat comes from the AWD system. Given a new badge for 2018 across Dodge’s lineup, the system has seven drive modes. The Sport and Track modes both increase the damping, steering, and transmission shift speed as they would in any SRT vehicle. But the AWD system also changes the torque split, sending up to 70 percent of the power to the rear wheels in Track mode. There’s even a Snow mode to lock the AWD system in 50-50 distribution and start off in 2nd gear, which we used to full effect. With the all-season Pirelli tires fitted and a careful right foot, the Durango SRT was barely impacted by the blizzard conditions.
When conditions improve, the Durango SRT is a true animal. This seven-seat beast will sprint to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Of course Dodge has even certified this SUV with a 12.9 second quarter-mile drag time. Acceleration is startlingly brutal, even from a rolling start. The soundtrack that accompanies the SRT’s performance, a thunderous V8 roar, is absolutely intoxicating. We found ourselves goading the TorqueFlite transmission to drop a few gears just for the thrill of it. Even with all the sound and fury, the Durango SRT is very predictable. The all-wheel-drive system means, for the most part, everything stays points in the right direction. It’s not only power, its usable power. Unlike the Challenger 392 or Hellcat, the Durango is immensely predictable right up to the limit.
Even with all the enhancements, the Durango is still a usable family car. The upgraded Laguna leather seating is soft and comfortable, and the high performance seats do help hold you in place. The optional second-row console and rear entertainment mean the kids will be kept separated and entertained, if they can stomach watching a movie while you pull nearly 1G getting on the highway. The Durango SRT is also still completely of pulling its weight and more, offering a tow mode and 8,700 lbs towing capacity. But with an as-tested price of nearly $75k, we’re not entirely sure it feels like a $75,000 car inside. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT seems to do luxury performance just a bit better.
If there’s one thing we learned trekking through the snow and the cold, the Durango SRT is about as usable every day as any 475 horsepower performance machine could possibly be. It can seat four adults comfortably, commute through some of the worst winter conditions, and still embarrass a long list of sports cars. You can’t ask much more of a single vehicle, and yet it does it all extraordinarily well. The Dodge Durango SRT is the best 3-row performance SUV on the market.
|2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392
|High Performance Laguna Leather Seats||$1,595|
|Rear DVD Entertainment Center||$1,995|
|Trailer Tow Group IV||$995|
|SRT Interior Appearance Group||$1,500|
|20″ Low Gloss Black Multi-Spoke Wheels||$595|
|As Tested MSRP||$74,955|