Luther Ingram’s famous words "If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right" sprang to mind the moment I stepped on the accelerator in the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT. You think your brain is playing tricks with you, as your senses are picking up signals that do not correspond with driving a 3-row family SUV. The push in the back is vigorous and relentless and the spacious cabin fills with the bellowing noise of a Challenger SRT 392. My excitement must be noticeable, as Pete Jacobsen - Vehicle Development Manager for the Durango SRT - chuckles and encourages me from the passenger seat to do it again.
Giggling like 10-years-olds we blast down the road, looking for another empty stretch to do it again. And again, and again. Clearly used to the fast acceleration and not the slightest bit alarmed by the ‘abuse’ of his creation, Jacobsen shares some background information: ‘This is the first project I am entirely responsible for. I was a Vehicle Integration Manager before, so that brought me a lot of experience about putting existing engines is new models.’ A large part of the Durango SRT project was the implantation of the 6.4 Hemi V8, but there is an incredible amount of work that had to be done to make everything work in unity. ‘Hoisting in a big powerful engine effects basically everything in and under the vehicle, but suspension and brakes needed the most attention’, explains Jacobsen.
With Bilstein adaptive dampers, 3-percent stiffer front springs, 16 percent-stiffer rear springs and a rear anti-roll bar that is 18 percent-stiffer, the SRT is very composed and holds its line without any noticeable body roll. To get near the limits of this Charger 392 SRT in SUV drag, you need to go on a track, something we were not able to do unfortunately so no way of getting close to the top speed of 180 mph. With these levels of grip the Durango SRT is not just a big old beast with a very potent engine. The 475-hp Hemi splits the 470 lb-ft of torque nicely between the four 295/45 Pirelli P Zero tires making a sprint from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds as easy as kicking the loud pedal in the carpet.
With a total of seven drive modes the driver can dial in anything from extra safety for winter conditions to total madness for the full SRT effect. A nice touch are the SRT Performance pages on the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen showing data like lap times, 0-60 sprints and drag strip reaction times That sure beats an analogue clock from any Swiss brand… An impressive feature that will be used regularly is the active noise cancellation that filters out booming from the exhaust when in cylinder deactivation mode. Basically the mode that most drivers will use most of the time.
Even though the SRT team did a great job masking the enormous weight of over 5,500 pounds, there is no way of hiding that mass when the whole circus needs to come to a halt in a rush. Still, the giant 15.0-inch front discs with six-piston Brembo calipers and 13.8-inch rear discs with four pistons calipers do an almost ridiculous job slowing the Durango down. Make sure to check if there are no kids in the back before using these brakes, to prevent a potential family drama.
With a price of $64,090 the Durango SRT is not cheap compared to the Charger SRT 392 and Challenger SRT 392, but it comes with a lot more seats and luggage space, making it a very responsible choice for daddies with a speed addiction and the need to tow 8700 pounds. Looking at comparable vehicles like the Range Rover Sport SVR and Mercedes-AMG GLS63 puts the price in an entirely different perspective, as these Euro luxury trucks cost $112,345 and $125,025 respectively. That leaves plenty of room for the SRT guys to start thinking about a Durango Hellcat and maybe even a Durango Demon...
Engine: 6.4 liter/392 cu in V8 Hemi
Power: 475 bhp
Torque: 470 lb-ft (637 Nm)
Layout: front-engine, AWD
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
0 - 60 mph (96 km/h): 4.4 s
Top speed: 180 mph (290 km/h)
Weight: 5,510 lb. (2,499 kilo)
© Words Natan Tazelaar