Dodge likes to build muscular-looking vehicles and then make special editions that really live up to that look – with some kind of blackout or gunmetal color thrown in to further bring the point home. The Durango SRT is the latest in the "shove horses under the hood" phenomenon that is Dodge.

Imagine, if you can, an executive meeting in which a lead engineer stands in front of a group of suits and says "Ya, so, our latest plan is to take a family-hauling vehicle and let the SRT guys put their bigass V8 in it. Maybe put some Pirellis on there too." This being a corporate meeting at Dodge, the VPs of this-and-that all look at the engineer and say "Sure, why not? Have Bob in accounting run up the budget." Most other automakers would send the poor guy in for psychiatric evaluation.

And so, we imagine, the 475-horsepower (354 kW) Dodge Durango SRT was born. The SRT folks took the same 6.4-liter V8 they stuff into the SRT Challenger and Charger models and put it into the Durango. A little wrench work, some fiddling with the chassis and brakes, and the addition of some sticky P Zero tires and it was done.

If this sounds excessive (it's got a full 115 horses over the Durango R/T), that's because it is. Only in America would the need for a muscle car that hauls six people and tows a boat be addressed. Which, above all else, is why we love this thing. Sure, that 4.4-second 0-60 mph (0-92 km/h) time is reason to smile; and yes, the Durango SRT's 8,600 pounds of towing capacity is reason to feel satisfied. But really, it's the idea of the thing that really makes it uniquely American.

We spent our week in the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT pretending that we drove it constantly because we have a busy family. And, you know, stuff to go get done. Stuff that required driving. Lots of it. Like spontaneous road trips and drives around the block for no reason. Light up the eight soda-bottle-sized cylinders on the Durango SRT and you're gripped by a sudden need to burn fossils. Even at idle this beast gives a visceral, rumbling satisfaction.

Punching the throttle on the 2018 Durango SRT makes things happen. Exciting things. Things that might make other parents at the school drop-off question their choices in life. While their pathetic minivans limply rattle their sliding doors, your rampaging battle steed grunts and screeches away as you work the NASCAR-like paddle shifters.

To tame this beast, Dodge engineers did give some additional offerings to the safety gods. Namely bigger brakes and some fiddling with the all-wheel drive settings. The brakes are from Brembo with 15-inch rotors up front and 13.8-inch rotors at the rear (381 and 350.5mm). The Durango SRT has AWD as standard and no fewer than seven drive modes to control how it operates. Power is biased according to selection, with a balance of 50/50 front:rear being the standard for Snow or Trailering mode and a 70/30 split for Track mode, with the others falling somewhere in between. The weight distribution on the Durango SRT aids all of this stability with an excellent 52/48 front:rear design. Billstein shocks and a firmed up chassis and suspension finish the job, making the Durango SRT capable of keeping itself wheels down on the pavement with every throttle press.

The 2018 Dodge Durango SRT is otherwise basically the same as every other Durango, with its roomy and plush interior, well-done Uconnect infotainment, and family-oriented ergonomics. It rides well, hauls people nicely, and stays comfortable doing it. With the SRT, though, you get the addition of rubber-scorching power, a beautiful exhaust rumble and an engine shake that you won't find in any other sport utility. Or family hauler, for that matter. It's a muscle car in an SUV body. Thus if you must ask about fuel economy, you're missing the point.

Driving the Durango SRT feels a bit like discovering cheeseburgers are healthy and you can have as many as you want. It's a version of heaven that Americans can understand and aspire to.

Product Page: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT

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