Once wild animals full of wanderlust, SUVs have long been domesticated into quiet, loyal family haulers used for bringing home groceries and shuttling sports and spectator gear to the field. Dodge believes that there's still some feral nature left in these still-formidable beasts and it's drawing it out in a big way with the all-new Durango SRT. Dubbed the "Dodge Charger of the full-size SUV segment," the new Durango packs power and performance previously unimaginable for a factory Durango.
We'll have to wait until the New York Auto Show in April to see the all-new Challenger SRT Demon, the "ultimate performance halo" Dodge has been teasing for weeks in a series of videos. But Dodge won't be limping into this week's Chicago Auto Show without an exciting muscle car debut. Only this muscle car is an SUV, a three-row SUV Dodge calls the fastest, most powerful and most capable out there.
The first Durango SRT ever becomes the larger brother of the ever-exhilarating Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Like the Jeep, it's powered by a 6.4-liter HEMI V8. That engine makes 475 hp at 6,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft (637 Nm) of torque at 4,300 rpm.
With help from a launch control system, specially calibrated TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic transmission and performance-tuned AWD system, the SRT V8 inspires some brilliant performance, starting with a 0 to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in just 4.4 seconds and 12.9-second quarter-mile.
In case you momentarily forgot while looking at those times, that's a bulky, 200-in-long (5.1-m-long) Dodge Durango we're talking about.
To assist with cornering at high speeds, Dodge and SRT have stiffened up the front and rear springs and rear sway bar. Bilstein adaptive damping is integrated into the short- and long-arm independent front suspension and the specially tuned multi-link system at the rear.
Dodge touts benchmark braking, saying the combination of Brembo high-performance six-piston front/four-piston rear calipers and vented rotors will bring the Pirelli 295/45ZR20 Scorpion Verde all-season tires and 20-in "Goliath" five-spoke wheels to a crisp stop from 60 mph (96.5 km/h) within an estimated 115 ft (35 m).
Of course, not every drive in a full-size SUV is going to be a full-speed hurl, and Dodge has worked to ensure a ride balanced enough for everyday life. The SRT seven-mode drive system lets the driver quickly tweak settings like shift points, front/rear torque splits and active damping. Among those seven modes are a relaxed Auto setting for basic, everyday driving, an aggressive Track setting for the highest levels of performance on smooth, dry surfaces, a traction-enhancing Snow setting, a fuel economy-boosting Eco setting, and a Tow setting for best putting the Durango's 8,600-lb (3,900-kg) towing capabilities to work.
As far as styling, the Durango SRT makes its first impression with a signature face that includes an SRT-finished mesh grille, and a new front fascia and lower valance built around the cold-air duct and LED fog lamps. The SRT hood helps improve cooling with built-in venting.
Moving back from the front-end, flared arches and rocker panels give the Durango SRT a strong, broad stance, while SRT, "392" (for the cubic-inch size of the V8) and performance AWD badging can be found around the exterior. The dual nickel chrome-tipped exhaust pipes release the deep, Charger SRT-inspired rumble of the new exhaust system.
Inside, the SRT comes with Nappa leather, suede and silver-stitched SRT logos standard. The driver sits in one of two heated and ventilated front seats and takes control with the flat-bottomed SRT performance steering wheel and paddle shifters. A set of premium velour bound SRT floor mats comes standard.
Over in the center console, the 8.4-in touchscreen Uconnect system serves up infotainment, including navigation, SRT Performance Pages, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A standard 506-watt, nine-speaker BeatsAudio system with subwoofer belts out the soundtrack.
Interior options include a carbon fiber instrument panel and door bezels, Demonic Red Laguna leather, and Dynamica suede covering the headliner and A-pillars.
The Durango SRT will start arriving in dealerships in the fourth quarter of this year. It'll be available in 11 colors and with a variety of options, including Uconnect Access with 9-1-1 calling and roadside assistance and driver assistance technologies, like adaptive cruise control with stop and forward collision warning with crash mitigation. Purchase will include a full-day session at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Chandler, Arizona.