Calgary Sun - Autonet - - FRONT PAGE - Peter Bleakney Overview:

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.

PETER BLEakNEy/ Driv­ing

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