A big Hemi V8 slings the three-row Durango to 60 in 4.4 seconds.

That a hotted-up Dodge Durango was on the way was hardly a secret. Dodge had shown off a Durango Shaker concept, and spy photographers had snapped the Durango SRT prototype countless times during its development process. Now the model makes its debut at the Chicago Auto Show, before going on sale by the end of this year as America’s quickest three-row vehicle.

The SRT badge signifies that this Durango packs the same 6.4-liter Hemi V8 as other Dodge SRT models, with 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. The eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive enable a 0-to-60 sprint of just 4.4 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 12.9 seconds. That’s quicker than the $97,200 Porsche Cayenne GTS, for just one point of reference.

Dodge is still certifying the top speed for the Durango SRT and will announce it later.

The engine breathes through functional air intakes in the hood and the front fascia, including a cold-air inlet above the foglight that vehicle development manager Pete Jacobsen drops intake air intake temperatures by 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Big exhausts (2.75 inches in diameter) are “tuned to sound a lot like the 392 Charger,” he says.

2018 Dodge Durango SRT
2018 Dodge Durango SRT

Adaptive suspension comes standard, as do 20x10 wheels wrapped in all-season rubber as standard or Pirelli P Zeros as an option. Compared to the regular Durango, the SRT’s rear springs are 15 percent stiffer and the fronts are 4 percent stiffer. Combined with a 52:48 front-rear weight balance, “that makes a really neutral-handling car,” Jacobsen says. “You can get some throttle-lift oversteer.”

Those big wheels are necessary, in part, to fit enormous brakes; the Durango SRT tips the scales at a not-insignificant 5,510 pounds. Up front, they’re six-piston calipers grabbing 15.0-inch rotors; in back, look for four-piston calipers and 13.8-inch rotors.

The full-time all-wheel-drive system has varying torque distributions depending on which of the car’s seven drive modes is selected. In the default Street mode, it’s split 40:60 front/rear. Moving to Sport stiffens the dampers and loosens the stability-control parameters, and shifts the torque bias to 35:65. In Track, which has the most lenient stability-control programming, 70 percent of torque goes to the rear wheels. There’s also a 50:50 lock mode for improved winter or off-road traction.

But making the Durango SRT the quickest three-row vehicle around wasn’t enough, says FCA North America head of passenger car brands Tim Kuniskis. “We needed to make sure it was the most capable as well.” So the SRT keeps a hidden tow hitch between its dual exhaust and can tow 8,600 pounds – up from a maximum of 7,400 in the 5.7-liter Durango. That’s not just a theoretical number, either; Dodge certified that rating to the grueling SAE J2807 towing tests. “We passed those with flying colors,” Jacobsen says.

The Durango SRT also receives active noise cancellation which is active during cylinder deactivation, when the V8 runs on four cylinders, and full-time in tow mode to make hauling trailers a little less strenuous on the ears.

The SRT Pages app for the built-in 8.4-inch touchscreen has been redesigned, and now features more readouts for vehicle performance data. It allows for picking the various drive modes, as well as for setting features like launch control (with a drag strip-style Christmas tree graphic in the cluster) or shift lights.

2018 Dodge Durango SRT
2018 Dodge Durango SRT

Visual enhancements include the 20-inch wheels with a  “Black Noise” finish, a new body kit, the Viper-inspired hood scoop and vents, big dual exhaust tips, red-painted Brembo brake calipers, new rocker panels, and various 392 badges. Inside, look for three rows of performance bucket seats, a hand-stitched dashboard, suede-wrapped pillars and headliner, a 180-mph speedometer, a T-handle shifter instead of the usual rotary shifter, big shift paddles, and real carbon fiber trim. The SRT badge on the steering wheel also glows faintly at night; Dodge designers call that the “Lit DAB badge,” a name which will surely amuse teenagers.

In all, the Durango SRT lives up to the path laid by other SRT models powered by the 392-cubic-inch, 6.4-liter Hemi V8. In fact, Kuniskis says his only real regret is that it took so long to get the model to market: “This is the one that I really wanted us to launch” back in 2014, he says.

 

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