2018 DODGE DURANGO SRT
When my kids were young, the minivan was the only sensible vehicle for domestic duty. Still is, for that matter, but its terminal uncoolness has sent family types flocking to three-row crossovers— which, while not as practical, shuns the minivan with its more rugged all-wheel-drive disposition. Then there’s the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT. Ohmy. The SRT doesn’t somuch shun the minivan as take it behind the gym, head-butt it and steal its lunch money.
Unloading the kids from this threerow mu thain the school parking lot will surely win you points with the youngsters, and probably garner a few sideways glances from adults. Key to the SRT’s swagger is its naturally aspirated 6.4-litre Hemi V8 that kicks out 475 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque and an exhaust note that goes from a deep-throated burble to all-out banshee wail, depending on the angle of your right loafer.
Factor in 20-inch black alloys, plus a plethora of functional air vents and intakes, and you’ve got a mighty imposing family hauler. It would be all too easy to dismiss the Durango SRT as a dumb truck wit hanover sized engine, but that’s far fromthe truth. The denizens at SRT go to great lengths to engineer well-rounded vehicles (that happen to go like hell), and this latest offering from the go-fast lads follows that script to aT.
With a starting price of $72,495, and here optioned up to $83,833, the six-seat Duran go SR T presents itself as a bona-fide luxury crossover capable of coddling and spoiling with the best of them. Okay, so the interior quality isn’t up to European standards, but it’s a clean and ergonomic ally smart effort, here benefiting from upgrades that include supple Laguna leather, a rearseat DVD system, a second row console armrest and a stitched dashboard.
Standard features include a kickin’ Beats Audio sound system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a heated flat-bottom steering wheel, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and push-button start, plus a remote starter, LED fog lights, power lift gate and the uncom-uncom monly-monly logical Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen interface that, in my opinion, sets the template for usability. It also includes Apple CarPlay, Andoid Auto, GPS navigation, SiruisXM Traffic Plus and more.
The Technology Group, at a reasonable $1,400, rounds out the requisite tech count— adaptive cruise with stop and go, lane departure warning/assist, blind-spot and cross-traffic warning, forward collision mitigation and advanced brake assist.
All well and good, but is this performance truck’s ride going to ruin my day? Fear not. Considering SRT spent a lot of time tuning the Durango SRT’s underpinnings on the challenging Virginia International Raceway, it delivers impressive compliance. Yes, the ride is firm, but it’s a refined firmness, devoid of unpleasant crashes or knocks. The steering is well-weighted, linear, and directs the big barrel snout with surprising crispness. Thestandard six-piston Brembo brakes respond with linear precision and feel as though they could stop a Peterbilt truck. Its eightspeed automatic transmission is fantastic, easily cycling through the gears or cracking off shifts instantly with bids fromthe paddles.
About the only real concession to true luxury here is the Hemi’s unrelenting soundtrack. On long highway hauls, the droning gets tiresome. While many performance vehicles offer complex dual mode exhaust systems that lend some civility to the proceedings, the SRT does without that frippery. It’s just loud. All the time. Chase the redline and it howls like Chewbacca passing a kidney stone. Full-throttle upshifts are punctuated by the stuff of a proctologist’s nightmare.
And this truck does relish in a bit of hooliganism. Pressing the SRT button below the screen opens up a world of opportunity. Choose between six settings — Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Valet, Eco— that alter the parameters of the adaptive damping, stability control, throttle response, steering effort and transmission mapping. Or create your own dynamic cocktail with the Custom setting. The expertly honed chassis has no problem keeping up with the engine thanks to its adaptive Bilstein shocks, stiffer spring sandan 18-per-cent-stiffer rear anti-roll bar. In Sport mode, the AWD system sends 70 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels.
Still, it all cycles back to the guilty pleasure of that hair-trigger V8. Throttle response is wicked fast, and as expected, it exhibits a voracious appetite for fuel. Luckily, the Durango SRT doesn’t ask for premium. On light throttle loads, the V8 runs on four cylinders, and you’ll know by the gruffer engine note and slight vibration. The best I saw was 13.2 litres/100 kilometres on an extended highway run. Ouch.
The Dodge Durango SRT comes only with second row captain’s chairs, making it a six-seater. The two thirdrow perches are perfectly inhabitable by actual-sized humans and access is pretty handy, thanks to the easy fold-and-flip captain’s chairs. Just a reminder: pushing the numbers on that nifty G-force display while ferrying a full complement of progeny will turn your lovely cabin into a full-scale barf-o-torium.
The whole concept of a muscle-bound, three-row crossover is tenuous at best, and $85,000 is a lot to pay for a Dodge truck. Yet this is such a surprisingly well-rounded, well-sorted and, yes, luxurious brute. You just can’t help but tip your hat to SRT for making the effort to bring this niche hauler to market. It’s a wacky thing, but damn, it’s fun. Minivans, hide your lunch money.
Overview: Muscle-bound, threerow crossover
Pros: Mega Motown motor, sorted chassis, luxurious Cons: Loud, voracious thirst, price Value for money: Actually, quite good
What I would change: Nothing. It’s perfectly nuts
How I would spec it: Ditch the rear-seat DVD screens. Kids have iPads
Driving 2018 Dodge Durango SRT.