2018 Dodge Durango SRT Review: A Minivan Alternative with Muscles
Is Dodge going to squeeze a big-block HEMI into each car in their line-up? Just imagine soccer moms rushing to drop of the kiddos from behind the wheel of a 400-something hp Grand Caravans. That would be an interesting sight to see, or be terrified of, if you ask the husband.
For 2018, Dodge applies SRT treatment to its 7-seater Durango SUV. It’s the first time we are seeing the 392 cubic-inch (6.4-liter) block strapped beneath the hood of the Durango. In all honesty, going for the Hellcat’s supercharged 6.2-liter is a no-brainer. Instead, the 2018 Dodge Durango is limited to a naturally aspirated V8 which is still capable enough to hit the local track on Sunday afternoon and then return to routine city driving on Monday morning. Although probably few will actually ever see the track.
Family comes first
With seats situated on 3 rows, large cargo space and generally bulky elements, the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT aims to be a family vehicle with a bit more burble but also act like a gym-hitting brother for the Durango R/T.
The SRT treatment brought over some changes on the inside of the SUV which were expected, since this is now the top-end trim of the model. The whole upholstery features white stitching contrasting against the hand-wrapped dashboard and seat covers. Not that you touch the dashboard much, but when you do it’s now more pleasant compared to R/T and standard trim. Wrapping is extended to the flat-bottom steering wheel, with the addition of the SRT logo on the hub and a gray tone covering the lower spoke.
There is now a T-handle shifter replacing the classic control knob, resting on top of a gloss black center console. The instrument cluster is pretty much unchanged with the exception of SRT graphics and a speedometer that now maxes out at 180 mph. Most trims around the center console and door panels are covered in chrome black.
All the seats are covered in supple Nappa leather. In addition, front and second row seats feature integrated heating and ventilation. If you still didn’t have enough of the SRT logo, look towards your feet and you’ll notice velour floor mats with the same distinguished lettering. However, you only get velour mats when opting for the higher quality Laguna leather seats dressed in Demon Red. Quite a fancy name for a family car, isn’t it?
It could take a while for you to get accustomed with the flat-bottom steering wheel. Even once you get used to it, you might still long for the old, bulkier design.
Kids in the back seats can easily mess around changing tunes as the 2018 Durango SRT infotainment system includes Android Auto and Apple Car Play by default, along with HD Radio. On the bright side, music is transmitted via a high-quality Bose audio setup with 9 speakers and a 500-watt amplifier. Indeed, it can get loud, too.
About the SRT badge
The outer shell of the 2018 Durango SRT features straightforward American design. Only a few design elements separate the SRT from the R/T. For instance, there’s the “392” plate seated on the top-left corner of Durango’s front panels and the SRT logo placed on the front grille. Of course, you can also pop the modified hood and read the “6.4L HEMI” print on the engine cylinder heads. I wouldn’t recommend pursuing this course of action on unknown cars.
At 6,000 RPM, the naturally aspirated V8 generates 475hp and reaches peak torque (470 lb.-ft.) at 4,300 RPM.
Power passes through an 8-speed gearbox that can be operated via paddle shifters. The transmission is calibrated to match SRT dynamics and routes power to all four wheels. Power distribution is adapted to the currently selected drive mode. There are no less than seven drive modes; it appears that Dodge thought of every possible condition and made a custom setting for it. There is Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Valet and Eco.
Auto mode works best with long highway runs, providing a relaxed suspension and goes easy on the steering wheel. Sport mode tightens suspension and hurries shifting speed. Track mode will work best on dry, smooth tarmac as suspension is stiffened up as much as possible and shift speed is increased by 50% between first and fourth gear. According to Dodge, the gearbox can switch gears in about 180 milliseconds – fastest than even the best paddle shifter out there.
So, how what do all these numbers mean in terms of… well, other numbers that are easier to digest? For instance, Durango SRT swings past the quarter mile mark in just 12.9 seconds while reaching 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. With a bruiser this fast and heavy, you would hope it is able to brake at least as fast as it is accelerating. Thankfully, the roided-up Brembo brake kit makes the SUV bow down from high speeds without causing any unwanted drama. Of course, the wide Pirelli P-Zero tires play an important part in keeping the SUV on the tarmac.
To the pits, shall we?
With so many American horses screaming from beneath the hood, it should be considered an act of cruelty to not take the Dodge Durango SRT to the track, at least once. First of all, there’s no chance you will be able to actually use the entire power band of the engine on a public road safely or without a hefty ticket. Secondly, the 1.25-inch titanium exhaust should spark your curiosity, in terms of sound. If still not convinced, think about it: is there a better place to test those attractive paddle shifters?
Accelerating towards the entry zone connecting pit area to the actual track, the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT shifts so fast between gears it may catch you off guard for a second. On the bright side, the car maintains the same agile behavior when pushing the throttle to the limit. In other words, upshifting and downshifting are done with such precision and rapidity that you hardly, if ever, have to correct the drivetrain via the paddle shifters.
One major yet hidden upgrade from the RT trim are the bushings. They’re stiffer and manage to partly stop this mammoth from wobbling like jelly when suspension arms go up and down a few dozen times each second.
Don’t get it twisted. The 2018 Durango SRT is still a tall and heavy car, regardless of its impressive American V8 and performance gimmicks. You will get a bit thrown out around the cabin if you’re aiming for very sharp turns and rather high speeds. Maybe if Dodge went for better seats with lateral support the feeling wouldn’t be so obvious.
When talking numbers, the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT can be described in just a few words; it moves people and payload without grunting too much. The car offers a decent amount of interior comfort, allowing for prolonged drives while packing suitcases for all family members. The 2018 Durango SRT lets you madly sprint out of the parking lot or come out the merging lane faster than some cars actually go on the highway itself.
Soccer moms may feel overwhelmed with the sudden burst of power released by the HEMI unit whenever they sneeze and press a little too hard against the throttle. Dads on the other hand will love the tremble and rugged sound the titanium exhaust gives out at higher RPMs.
Without a doubt, the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT packs more power than anyone can legally utilize on public roads. However, as any car enthusiast will agree, more love never hurt nobody. The extra pump is welcome and when combined with 7 seats and the highest tow capacity in the segment, makes the Durango SRT a valid partner for almost any scenario.