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2018 Dodge Durango SRT First Look: The Nearly 500-HP Three-Row Charger SUV

Dodge powers up the three-row SUV segment

Dodge powers up the three-row SUV segment

Dodge is doubling down on its performance pedigree. In the midst of a teaser campaign for the April 11 unveil of the hellacious 2018 Challenger SRT Demon, the brand will use the Chicago Auto Show to introduce an SRT variant of its full-size Durango SUV.

Dodge chief Tim Kuniskis calls it the most powerful and fastest three-row vehicle. The 392-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 engine under the hood generates 475 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm, creating a family vehicle that will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and through the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds, according to National Hot Rod Association certification. That would leave competitors such as the Chevrolet Tahoe in its dust.

For all those who have spent the past few years questioning what Dodge stands for, the answer is power and performance. You can debate whether a three-row body-on-frame family vehicle out since 2014 needed SRT treatment, but you will get no sympathy from Kuniskis. After all, he’s the man behind the Hellcats and the coming Demon to be unveiled ahead of the New York auto show in April.

2018 Dodge Durango SRT front side 05

“This is one I really wanted to launch,” he said, adding that an SRT turns the all-wheel-drive Durango into a pure Dodge.

The Durango SRT will go on sale this fall with an aggressive, bold look and stance to show its kinship with the Charger and Challenger.

“It really is our three-row Charger,” said Mark Trostle, head of design for Dodge and SRT. Trostle said it was easy to adapt SRT DNA into the Durango.

The idea was to make it instantly recognizable as a fist-clenched Dodge on the road when you see the lights, big-mouth grille opening, and the new cold-air duct and heat extractors in the SRT hood. The new exhaust system is tuned to sound like a Charger SRT with a 2.75-inch dual exhaust system. The SUV even has launch control, a speedometer that goes to 180 mph (290 km/h), and a tachometer in the driver’s display; that might be at home in a Charger, but it’s not the norm for a family SUV. Graphics show performance, including a dynamometer readout.

“All SRTs must function and look as cool as possible,” Trostle said. “It has a real shifter instead of a damn knob.” The rotary shifter has been replaced with a new electronic T-shifter similar to the ones in the Challenger and Charger. The Durango has an eight-speed automatic transmission with Autostick and paddle shifters to change gears manually. There is rev matching on the downshifts, too.

An active damping system improves ride quality, and the suspension has 3 percent stiffer front springs and 16 percent stiffer rear springs. It has a 52/48 weight distribution in a vehicle that drives smaller than it is. Brakes are six-piston Brembos in front and four-piston calipers in back.

The Durango SRT has seven drive modes: Street, Track, Sport, Snow, Tow, Eco, and Valet. The modes adjust shift times, torque delivery, and other drive characteristics.

 

The roughly 5,510-pound (2,499 kg) vehicle will tow 8,600 pounds (3,900 kg), up from 7,200 (3,266 kg) currently, and has built-in trailer sway for better control in high winds and active noise control to keep the cabin quiet when towing a 27-foot boat up a hill with a V-8. The noise control turns on full time when in Tow mode.

There are new 20-by-10-inch wheels in a new color called Black Noise, an integrated wheel lip, a lower rear fascia, and a hidden trailer-towing hitch. The back also has both the SRT and AWD badging.

Inside, new finishes replace some of the bright chrome. It features a hand-wrapped performance steering wheel with paddles, an SRT pedal kit, standard captain’s chairs with lots of legroom, performance audio, and a reformatted Uconnect system and cluster with customizable displays with enhanced graphics.

And if Dodge hasn’t already driven home the point that this is no ordinary SUV, buyers get a day at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.