"It does all the things we want a performance car to do," says Mark Trostle, head of performance, passenger, and utility vehicle exterior design. "It really is our three-row Charger."
The 6.4-liter (392 cubic inches) Hemi V8 is considerably stronger than the already-potent 5.7-liter Hemi V8, which is rated at 360 hp and 390 lb-ft in the most powerful Durango available now. The SRT powertrain includes the TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic transmission used in the lesser Durango models (and many other FCA US vehicles), though it's calibrated specifically to the sportier demeanor of the SRT model. A similarly retuned full-time all-wheel-drive system rounds out the powertrain. Despite the fact this is a hot-rod SUV, it can still tow 8,600 pounds with a trailer, 1,200 pounds more than the most capable 2017 Durango (the rear-wheel 5.7-liter variant).
The Durango SRT is an obvious move for Dodge. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is built on the same platform in the same factory in Detroit, already has an SRT model. With rumors of a Hellcat-powered Grand Cherokee swirling and another Demonic Challenger on the way, the Durango was overdue for an engine upgrade. "When we launched the Durango in 2014, this is the one we really wanted," says Tim Kuniskis, head of FCA US' passenger car brands.
There's no doubt this is an enthusiast-oriented SUV. Dodge even went to the trouble of certifying the Durango SRT's 12.9-second quarter-mile time with the NHRA and tested it a Virginia International Raceway. Buy a Durango SRT, and you get a full day at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. When's the last time anyone did all of that with a three-row ute?
It certainly looks the part. The hood bulges with new air-ducts to help keep the big Hemi chilled appropriately. There's a new front fascia with more air vents and LED fog lamps. Plus, the grille takes on a menacing new glare with a mesh pattern, and the body gets wider wheel flares. Click through the gallery, it really does look like a Charger from some angles. "It has a family of shapes that all of our SRT products have," Trostle says.
Dodge also stiffened the suspension; the springs are 3 percent tighter up front and 16 percent stiffer in back, which is said to improve cornering. It has Brembo brakes and two Pirelli tire choices, and the exhaust is tuned to sound like (you guessed it) the Charger SRT.
Inside, the Durango SRT version loses the knob in favor of a T-shifter meant to convey a sportier attitude, which works with the flat-bottom SRT steering wheel and SRT paddle shifters. It can be driven in up to seven (seven!) different modes, including Sport, Track, Snow, and Tow. The cabin gets standard Nappa leather dressed up with suede inserts, SRT logos, and a 180-mph speedometer (the top speed hadn't been certified as of this writing). Performance seats are also available with Demonic Red Leather.
Dodge wouldn't announce pricing or fuel economy. Expect them to be SRT-ish, which is to say surprisingly reasonable. Debuting this week at the Chicago Auto Show, the high-powered Durango goes on sale in the fall.