On the Road Review: Dodge Durango SRT 392

Yes, we recently featured a Dodge Durango in this space. And yes, that model looked similar to this heavily styled model. The Durango SRT 392, however, is like no other three-row crossover/SUV on the market and deserves its own review.

In fact, you can’t get anything like the Durango SRT 392 from Chevy, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota or any other top brands. While a critic might surmise that this is just another exploitation of Dodge’s current performance image — and you’d be partially correct — potential customers also realize that this high-performance, sharply focused niche product scratches an itch that the majority of drivers never experience. And these discriminating drivers are quite thankful to have this option.

Dodge’s SRT (Street and Racing Technology) emphasis is cleverly expressed in this three-row crossover visually and dynamically. While “regular” Durangos are well known for their adroit handling and ride comfort, this SRT 392 goes to another dimension. This is truly a track-oriented truck that works in the everyday world.

Visually, buyers get 20-inch low-gloss black wheels wearing Pirelli performance rubber — summer or all-season is your choice. Model-specific front LED lighting complements the aggressive grille, topped by a sport hood with a prominent scoop and tow heat-extractor vents, just like on Dodge’s SRT cars. Out back, twin 4-inch exhaust pipes play a sonorous mechanical melody that will capture every motorhead’s ear.

Under that big hood rests the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 — 392 cubic inches — in deference to the muscle car era labeling that still resonates with sporty vehicle aficionados. Naturally aspirated, it spins out 475 hp and 475 pound/feet of peak torque — 115 hp more than the R/T Durango’s 5.7-liter Hemi. Teamed with a high-performance eight-speed automatic and a sports-performance full-time AWD system employing four-wheel traction control, the SRT 392 leaps from a start when prodded and marches to impressive acceleration statistics. Again, in a three-row crossover with heated second-row bucket seats, power liftgate and coddling amenities that passengers and users expect in a full-size family vehicle.

While the powertrain is thrilling to manage, with heavy right foot applications producing addictively ripping red-line marches, perhaps the best system evident here is the chassis. Within the excellent U-connect screen, SRT performance pages render several configurable driver options; custom, street, sport, race or track settings can be tailored to your preference for steering, suspension damping, shift points and other parameters that allow you to exact real track-like performance from the SRT 392. Launch control even allows the four-wheel burnouts that are so impressive on YouTube, while the six-piston Brembo brakes clamp the 15-inch discs to appropriately arrest your pace.

In the real world, far from the racetrack, the Durango SRT’s fully independent suspension never stopped impressing. Pushing the wagon down an empty, sunny morning Route 9, cruising ahead of traffic on the interstate, or navigating over winter-ravaged rural roads, the Dodge delivered control and comfort.

And in this context, you have to spend almost double the SRT 392’s elevated Durango price to get a similar driving experience in any V-8-powered crossover — and they will be wearing German name badges. BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche all have powerful V-8 engined sporty crossovers — up to 570 hp — yet again, none can carry six to seven passengers or tow over 7,000 pounds.

Interestingly, the SRT 392 isn’t even the most powerful crossover in the FCA family; the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is available with 505 hp while the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk employs the Hellcat’s 707-hp supercharged V-8. There is a market for these sporty crossovers, and Dodge is going to capture a chunk of this profit opportunity — before whatever happens to Dodge, Jeep and the rest of FCA.

In an unofficial office poll, the female staff unanimously embraced the Durango’s luscious Octane Red Pearl paint, with two current Durango owners expressing outright lust for the new SRT model. While FCA doesn’t release specific trim sales data, reports are that sales of the SRT 392 are “brisk.”

Durango SRT pricing starts at $64,090 (including destination) and includes: all of the SRT gear shown, remote start, trailer-sway control, new U-Connect 4C system with Apple/Android/Wi-Fi, Beats Audio, heated and cooled power sport seats with memory, paddle shifters plus much more. Rear seat entertainment system, the technology group with laser-cruise, forward-braking assist, blind-spot detection and lane departure, plus tow package (adds a real spare tire and wheel) and power sunroof, can spin the retail up to our sampled $73,360 SRT 392. EPA estimates are 13/19/15 mpg on regular gas; we averaged 15.3 mpg for 1,170 thrilling miles.

Great soundtrack, impressive chassis, satisfying sports emphasis, all wrapped in a versatile three-row wagon with AWD. This is much more than a one-trick truck.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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