An SUV powered by 710 passion-driven horses.
A few years ago Dodge began a transformation from a car company to a maker of passion-driven machines that can also go to the grocery store, out to dinner or on a road trip. Starting with a muscular design, Dodge added the 717 horsepower Hellcat, the 797 horsepower Hellcat Redeye and the 808 horsepower Demon to its Charger and Challenger lineup.
I see them on the road, those growling muscle cars that can hardly contain their power and practically launch off the line when the light turns green. They get your adrenaline pumping even if you’re not behind the wheel.
It just isn’t fair. Why should sedan drivers have all the fun?
Well, Dodge thought so, too. So, in the spirit of passion-driven cars, the company has now added the Hellcat engine to the Durango SUV. Finally, a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat – a muscle car for all seasons.
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Who This Car is For
This is a truly legit question. After all, who really needs a 710 horsepower, track ready, race-quality SUV? Well, first, those who want one. But also:
- Fast and furious track families
- Families who tow, especially those who tow a track car or dirt bikes; the Tow n Go package has 8,700 lbs of tow capacity
- Drivers with a lot of great hills and curves on the daily drive or road trip route
- Drivers who need room for more than 4 passengers
- Drivers who frequently face rough winter weather and for whom all wheel drive is a must — it’s standard in the Hellcat
- Buyers who want a muscle car in every parking spot in their driveway
Not Just More Power; A New Look to the 2021 Dodge Durango
While yes, the big news for Durango is under the hood, you’ll notice it on the outside and in the passenger cabin, too. That’s because the Durango Hellcat— as well as the entire lineup of Durangos— has more Dodge DNA in its appearance. Taking a cue from two key places, the Widebody Charger and the Dodge logo, the Durango has wider wheel wells, a more sculpted face and slimmer headlights. The signature Dodge “double slash” logo is built into the running lights, too, creating a distinct look on the road both day and night.
Adding to the look are a hood scoop and air vents— a necessity for the Hellcat engine. Racing stripes, Brembo brakes and the Hellcat badge complete the look of distinction.
A New Cabin Design With Room and Function For Everyone
Inside, the cabin has been redesigned for more of a driver’s car feel behind the wheel and luxuries for all passengers. The 10” infotainment screen is angled just slightly toward the driver and the entire dashboard is more streamlined for a sleeker look and feel. Gone is the vertical screen and commands that were only found on the touch screen; added is a still large but more horizontal screen, hot buttons so the important things like climate, radio and SRT drive modes can be accessed immediately.
Dodge also added more space for stuff in the center console area; there is a wireless phone charger pad, a key holder and cup holders. And, so your phone is as speedy as your car, there are USB C fast-charging ports in both the front and rear seats; these charge at 3-5 time faster than standard USB ports (and, are a premium feature mostly found on luxury cars these days). There are also standard USB ports for those who haven’t caught on to this marvel yet.
UConnect 5: A Great System and a Huge Improvement
Also new to the Durango is Dodge’s UConnect 5 infotainment system. The entire system has been redesigned for a more modern look and function. You can arrange screen apps to customize the screen however you like, though a panel of standard controls— home, media, comfort, navigation, phone, vehicle settings and apps— remain at the bottom of the screen so you never have to look for them. Plug in your phone and connect to Apple CarPlay once and from then on it’ll pop up when you need it. If you connect your phone via BlueTooth it’s even easier; Apple CarPlay will automatically connect when you get into the car.
Overall the redesign of the UConnect system, now in its 5th generation, is a huge win. It’s more intuitive, easier to use and more like the computers, phones and tablets that we’re used to using.
Related: 2019 Dodge Durango SRT Review: The Powerful, Fun to Drive SUV that the Entire Family Will Love
A Surprisingly Roomy Cabin
It shouldn’t come as shock that a full sized SUV has a roomy cabin. Right? But, with a focus on performance and track driving, it would also not be surprising if compromises were made in the cabin. However, that is not the case here. The second row and third row are surprisingly roomy and comfortable. I know. I sat in all 6 seats in our test model.
The model we drove, a Hellcat, had second row captains chairs and truly, unless you really need seating for 7, that is the way to go. Getting into the third row was pretty easy and once there, the seats were comfortable. The second row seats are stationary; they cannot move forward, but for me (I’m 5’8”) that was fine; I had enough leg room. I can see the third row easily being used on a daily basis.
Our test model also had suede seats. These are not only super luxe, but they are great for planting butts into seats even on curvy or high-speed drives. They keep passengers from sliding or swaying too much on the road.
What’s the Drive Like? Glad You Asked
This might seem like a silly question given the status this SUV carries as one of the most powerful on the road — and by some measures, the most capable. It was a sheer delight. As a driver, the power isn’t out of hand, you feel completely in control every second. I got to try it out on the track and it was amazing; I can see this as a weekend track car for performance driving fans. And, on the street it was equally capable — easy to manage in and out of traffic and fun for the highway on ramp. Thankfully, you’ll be able to see the road signs plainly displayed on the information screen, and you’ll need that.
But, power can be both intoxicating and nauseating. It can creep up on you so before you know it you’re in speeding-ticket-territory. And it can cause a stiff, bumpy or jerky feel for passengers. I got to ride in the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat on the track and, while, yes, we were on a track, it was surprisingly comfortable. Sitting in the center and rear seats I can believe that passengers will feel comfortable in most driving situations. I’d probably sit out the third-row track opportunity, though. That probably isn’t the most ideal seat for that experience.
And for daily driving, the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat has 7 drive modes: Auto, sport, track, snow, tow, eco and valet. Auto is the default mode, but you can put it in sport for a faster experience (it’s hard to tell much difference on the street but on the track it’s discernible). Track mode is necessary if you want to use the drag-strip ready Launch control. And for towing, tow mode will regulate the engine and transmission for optimal load handling. If the 16 combined MPG is eating away at you, eco mode is there to help. And for those times you don’t want others to try out the fun Hellcat experience there’s valet mode.
What This Car Costs
For buyers who don’t want to be tempted by all that Hellcat power, there are other engines are available, and they can be had with all the luxuries of the redesign:
- The Hellcat, a V8 with 710 HP and standard AWD, starts at $80,995
- 392 SRT, a V8 with 475HP, starts at $62,995
- The R/T, a V8 with 360 HP, starts at $52,900
- Citadel V6 with 295 HP starts at $47,805; add $2,600 for AWD
Completing the muscle car feel are paint color names like White Knuckle, Redline, Destroyer Grey and Reactor Blue. Inspiring, yes, but I think on the insurance application I’d just go with the basic color, like white or blue.
Need a Bit More Passion? This SUV Takes You To Racing School
The Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat really is born for the track. To never drive it on a track is to do it, and you, a disservice. Understanding that, Dodge is offering buyers of the SRT models a full day of track instruction at Bondurant Drag Racing School. So you can learn to really put your SRT Hellcat through its paces, lean it into corners, shift through the straightaway and launch it off the line. Then, drive home depleted of adrenaline and filled with a new passion.
And that is the point.
Disclosure: I was a Dodge’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.