If the formula ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and right now Dodge’s most popular formula is “power to the people.” Horsepower, that is. After shoehorning the 707-horsepower Hellcat engine into everything that could possibly contain it, then unleashing the outrageous 840-horsepowerupon us all, it was the Durango’s turn to get more oomph. Enter the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT.
With 475 horsepower from Dodge’s 6.4-liter (392-cubic-inch) V8, a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds and a National Hot Rod Association-certified 12.9-second quarter-mile, the Durango is America’s quickest three-row SUV. And, with a whopping 8,700 pounds of towing capacity, it’s the most capable one available, too. But what’s it like to live with? Plenty pleasant, as it turns out.
And it starts by being plenty good to look at. The Durango was already a handsome SUV, but in SRT trim it’s that much more menacing. The changes are primarily found at the front end, where a new hood features the trademark scoop and heat extractors as seen on the Hellcat, all functional, while flared fenders make room for massive 20×10-inch wheels. They can be wrapped in all-season tires if you don’t mind the compromise, though Pirelli P-Zeros are available for those wanting more stick. Out back, a new rear valence cradles shinier exhaust tips.
The biggest visual differentiation, though, is the “392” stamped on the sides. Some wear their hearts on their sleeves. The Durango SRT wears its displacement on its fenders. That motor’s 475 horses are ducted through an eight-speed automatic transmission and a full-time AWD system. It has a single-speed transfer case, so rock-hopping is off the menu, but there is a rearward power bias to help this 5,500-pound SUV feel more lively on the road.
Stiffer bushings than the base Durango also aid in responsiveness, as does a Bilstein adaptive suspension setup that can be optimized for comfort or sportiness, or indeed for towing, too. And you’ll want all the help you can get when hauling this thing’s maximum 8,700 rating, a figure the SUV can pull even up heavy grades in extreme temperatures.
I didn’t get to tow quite that much in the Durango SRT, but I did pull a 24-foot Formula Bowrider, a 5,000-pound boat on a 1,245 pound trailer. I hopped in, toggled Tow mode, and pulled away gingerly — only to quickly realize that I needn’t be so cautious. The Durango SRT still felt barely encumbered, accelerating more quickly than many unladen trucks I’ve driven.
It makes a great hauler for your track-day toy, but is this a track terror itself? To show off the SRT’s circuit chops, Dodge set me loose on a portion of the infield at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an abbreviated version of the MotoGP circuit. There the Durango SRT was able to show off its fierce acceleration, snarling and roaring all the while. In the braking and turning, though, the SRT felt a little less sure-footed. The brake pedal has a long throw and a soft feel, and though the stopping power was more than adequate, there was none of the firm bite you’d want from a proper track machine. In the corners, slow steering and plenty of body roll were the primary limiting factors.
The Durango SRT was capable on the track and never unruly or unsafe, but compared to sportier UVs such as, it still felt very much like the three-row SUV it is.
But that’s OK, because while it’s easy to imagine a Durango owner towing to the track, it’s hard to imagine them actually taking the thing onto it. Out on the roads, the SRT felt just as you’d expect. It has a slightly stiff, truck-like ride but it’s far from unpleasant, and the interior is comfortable and spacious. The infotainment system is comprehensive, including support for both, and the optional Beats sound system has plenty enough bass to make your insides feel funny.
It delivers on the safety side, too, with available blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise and lane-keep assist.
It’s easy to shake your head at some of the fire-breathing SRT creations over the years, but in the case of the SRT Durango, the extra power here equates to an SUV with more sport and more utility. And, while you’ll pay a premium for all that — $62,995 being the starting price — those who need to haul a big family with big toys now have the perfect solution.