On the Road Review: Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Yes, regular readers, we recently reviewed an SRT Durango. We have actually experienced several of the current generation Durangos over the 10 years or so Dodge has been building this model. Yet none of the others has been close to the potent performance offered in this limited production SRT.

Wearing a luscious Redline Pearl paint, augmented by dual black racing stripes front to rear, our SRT also featured the 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V-8 motor that now fills the engine bay of no fewer than five FCA/Stellantis models: Dodge Challenger (the original), Dodge Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ram TRX, plus this Durango. Add the voluminous after-market crate-engine sales and FCA has created a monster-motor for motorheads on a mission. 

Red is an apt color for a vehicle that conjures so many of the symbolic notions we have for this vibrant color. Red is recognized as the color of energy and ground pounding action. Red is for extroverts, the color that is also considered sensual, strong and a stimulant that not only raises our blood pressure, but our passion. Red is life; red is anger and love.

Dodge employs red everywhere to enforce all of these attributes in the SRT Durango. Bright red Brembo brake calipers leer from behind 20-inch wheels. Brilliant red LED lamps cross the stern of the Durango. Red accent lighting in the instrument panel, in the enlarged U-connect screen, and even the necessary red keyfob that signifies that you hold the full-power switch for the Hellcat engine, all signal that the beating heart of this crossover is full of energy, passion and strength. 

This is a red rocket that means the kids will never be late to school, ever again. This is a six-passenger wagon — the most powerful three-row crossover in the world — that is as fast as a Ferrari. 

In case 710 hp from the supercharged Hellcat engine isn’t enough, there is a gentleman in Texas who will build you a 1,012-hp version of this Durango — with a warranty, just like Dodge. 

Featuring full-time AWD, running through a superb eight-speed automatic, the Durango utilizes launch control to leap from 0-60 mph in only 3.6 seconds, just a fraction slower than a 760-hp Shelby GT500 Mustang. The kids have their own rear screens to watch, so they won’t mind while you entertain yourself. 

Of course, today’s enthusiast drivers expect much more than straight ahead acceleration, so Dodge revamped the fully independent chassis this year for more body control while turning and charging down your favorite road (or, preferably, a track) and the results are an excellent riding and driving crossover. The mind-bending acceleration is just frosting on the cake. 

Dodge ever retained 8,700 pounds of towing capacity. In reality, this speedster can actually tow your race car to the track, and then maybe do a couple of competitive runs too. 

Lisa Barrow, the FCA rep for New England, is the coolest media rep we get to work with because she shares all of her toys, toys like Rubicon Wranglers and Gladiators, TRX and Power Wagon Rams, plus the full pool of Hellcats. Dodge/FCA, better than any other automaker, has tapped into a well of enthusiast drivers who can’t get enough of these high-performance products — high-margin products that are selling extremely well. While this may be a relatively narrow audience in some regards, these choices drive sales and profits that translate into products for consumers with a slightly different driving interest — like Pacifica hybrid vans.

To get a similar driving experience to the Hellcat Durango, you would need to spend tens of thousands more for a high-performance Mercedes, BMW or Audi crossover that won’t be nearly as user-friendly. The familiar Durango interior, and all of its inherent attributes like comfy seating, logical controls and expansive cargo hold, can’t quite mask the basic Durango’s competence (base price $31,750) while the SRT Hellcat commands a loan-officer shocking $91,065 sticker price that included the whole Durango parts catalog. 

The supercharger whine never gets old, the seats are all-day supportive and the layout and the drive dynamics are quite incredible — for such a powerful, and red, vehicle. That has been a hallmark virtue of every Hellcat-powered vehicle ever sampled. 

Eighteen miles per gallon were coaxed from the SRT for a 200-mile day, while the average was usually smack against the EPA combined estimates — 12/17/13 mpg. Caning that throttle does exert a certain cost at the pump, however, the emotional rewards of piloting this red beast far outweigh that inconvenience. 

Next week: Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy

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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