"Muscle utility vehicle" just doesn't sound quite right, but the folks at Dodge don't mind. If they had, development of the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT would've hit a snag long ago.
Much like Jeep with its Grand Cherokee SRT, the Durango SRT started with some Dodge engineers asking "what if" questions. Like what if they reimagined the 485-horsepower Challenger SRT coupe as an all-wheel-drive SUV? It would be fast for sure, but it would also have three rows of seats and plenty of cargo room. And it would be able to tow a boat, too. Sure, why not?
Loud and Proud
Borrowing the 6.4-liter V8 from the SRT Challenger and Charger models, the Durango SRT makes 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. That's 115 hp and 80 lb-ft more than the 5.7-liter V8 offered in the Durango R/T produces. Both powerful and vocal, the Durango SRT's deep, emphatic exhaust sounds every bit as thunderous as you would expect.
Loud barks and a pronounced kick accompany full-throttle gear changes when you use the paddle shifters. The eight-speed automatic changes gears quickly and effectively, even matching revs on downshifts. The aggressiveness of the shifts can be changed by selecting one of seven drive modes. With launch control, Dodge says the Durango SRT will do zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds.
What Makes It Grip
The Durango SRT is surprisingly agile for a big and heavy SUV, with quick and accurate steering combined with a willingness to rotate in corners. The latter comes from the vehicle's 52/48 percent front to rear weight distribution, while credit for its overall agility goes to stickier tires and a firmer suspension with adjustable Bilstein shocks.
Pirelli P Zero run-flat tires mounted on 20-inch forged aluminum wheels both help increase cornering speeds and open up room for the large Brembo-badged brakes (slotted 15-inch rotors up front and 13.8-inch rear).
The all-wheel-drive system biases power between the front and rear wheels depending on the selected drive mode. At its most aggressive Track setting, 70 percent of the power goes to the rear wheels; in the Snow setting, the split is 50/50. The rearward power bias in Track helps make the Durango SRT feel a little more natural powering out of a corner — if that sensation could be described as natural at all.
A welcome byproduct of the increased power and braking capability is an increase in towing capacity to 8,600 pounds. That's up 1,500 pounds compared to a standard Durango with the 5.7-liter V8 and all-wheel drive. The SRT also benefits from a Tow drive mode that locks power distribution to 50/50, enables trailer sway control, and activates an active noise cancellation system to quell the boom from the exhaust.
Keeping Up Appearances
Beyond the engine and handling upgrades, the SRT treatment also outfits the Durango with the requisite "macho man" styling. The fascia aims to evoke the styling of Dodge performance cars by visually lowering the stance, while small fender flares add to overall width and cover the enlarged wheels. The hood looks similar to those of the Hellcat Challenger and Charger, with a functional inlet flanked by vents.
The Durango SRT's size makes it a unique option among SUVs. It's bigger than most midsize SUVs, but it's not quite a full-size. Longer and wider than a Grand Cherokee SRT, the Durango has enough space for a third row, upping seating capacity to six (a bench seat is available in other Durangos). The interior gains a flat-bottom steering wheel, leather instrument panel, and heated and ventilated front and heated second-row chairs. The Durango's rotary shifter is gone, replaced by a more traditional T-style shift lever.
Fuel economy ratings were not available at the time of this writing, but our money says they won't stray far from the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT's 15 mpg combined (13 city/19 highway) EPA rating. Like the Grand Cherokee, the Durango SRT can deactivate four cylinders while you're cruising to save gas. Drivers who are more sensitive might hear the subtle difference in exhaust when the engine's running in V4 mode, though the handoff is smooth.
The Durango SRT starts at $64,090, and that price includes a day of driver training at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.
For the money, the Durango SRT occupies a rare space, even slightly undercutting the cost of a Grand Cherokee SRT. You won't find another SUV that can go as fast, seat as many or tow as much. It's enough to make us think that "muscle utility vehicle" might not sound so bad.
Wait. No, it still doesn't work.