Dodge put a Hellcat engine in a Durango. Finally.
Even with stricter fuel economy regulations and the onset of electrification, Dodge and FCA (er, Stellantis) continue building high-powered vehicles with Hellcat engines for one simple reason: People keep buying them. Fans can't get enough of these monstrous sedans, trucks, or SUVs. So we have no doubt that customers will meet the latest addition to the range – the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat – with the same ravenous enthusiasm.
Like all the other supercharged FCA products before it, the Durango SRT Hellcat gets a ridiculous amount of power: 710 horses. But what the Durango does better than its predecessors is pair that extra oomph and aggressive looks with a truly usable package. Horsepower notwithstanding, this is still a capable, comfortable, and spacious three-row. Though it may sound silly, shoving a supercharged V8 under the hood of a family-friendly SUV absolutely works.
At first glance, the Hellcat looks almost identical to other Durangos – unless you opt for $1,195 racing stripes, which we highly suggest. All versions of the 2021 Durango sport a slight facelift that includes new headlights, a sharper grille design, and some additional cues out back. But look closer at the details on the front end of the Hellcat specifically. There’s a larger grille opening and additional vents that funnel more air into the engine bay, as does the now-larger hood scoop. The Durango Hellcat also ditches fog lights for the sake of aerodynamics and gets unique 20-inch wheels.
The inside of the Durango is totally updated, too, and much-improved. Dodge's new “driver-focused” layout feels better thought-out; the dash is wider and offers nicer styling, the center console is cleaner, and materials like leather and soft-touch plastic line the door panels and center console. But the piece de resistance is a brand-new 10.1-inch touchscreen, an improvement over last year's 8.4-inch screen.
Even with a Hellcat engine underhood, this is still a genuine three-row SUV.
The new screen runs Uconnect 5, which we gushed over in our Chrysler Pacifica AWD review. The Durango is the first Dodge product to use the updated infotainment system, and it works just as well here. The home screen layout is clean and easy to navigate, the graphics are crisp, the screen responds quicker, and the navigation is seamless and precise. Unlike our hit-and-miss experience with Uconnect 4 in the Charger Redeye, this system is much better.
And even with a Hellcat engine underhood, this is still a genuine three-row SUV. You can haul up to six passengers comfortably, each with their rumps on available Nappa leather and Alcantara seating surfaces, and tow a solid 8,700 pounds. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk with the same engine tugs just 7,200 pounds, comparatively.
Powerful People Mover
Power, though, is the biggest selling point of the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat – and this three-row has plenty of it. The same supercharged 6.2-liter V8 from the Charger, Challenger, TRX, and Trackhawk carries over. So if you've driven any of those models, the Durango Hellcat should feel very familiar. Here that supercharged engine produces 710 hp and 645 pound-feet (three more horses than what you get on the Trackhawk), which is routed through a slick eight-speed automatic and sent to all four wheels. Flat out, the Durango Hellcat will hit 60 in an absurdly quick 3.5 seconds – same as the Charger Hellcat.
To put all that power to the test, we hit the roads of rural North Carolina and hammered the Durango Hellcat between stop lights and on long, empty straights – all within legal limits, of course. What’s obvious is that the Durango Hellcat is a genuine performer, not some uncouth muscle car on stilts.
The supercharged V8 routes power effortlessly to all four wheels appropriately, and the same adaptive suspension we liked so much in the Charger Hellcat Redeye carries over. That advanced suspension setup helps keep the massive Durango relatively flat and easy to manage in the corners, while the super-wide (optional) summer tires mean you absolutely can fling this thing around with confidence.
Our only real issue is the electric power steering. This is the same setup you get in the Charger Hellcat and Redeye – and works well in those applications – but it’s dulled here. Even in the most aggressive Track mode, the steering feels overboosted and lacks feedback, which makes it hard to decipher exactly what the Durango is doing at all times.
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When you're not gunning it, the Durango is a composed and comfortable road companion as well. Keep it in Street mode and the Hellcat feels no more raucous than any other three-row SUV. Throttle response is linear and smooth, but not as neck-breaking as its supercharged V8 might suggest. The overboosted steering is light and acceptable for non-spirited driving, and that adaptive suspension soaks up all imperfections. The big 20-inch wheels and rubber band–thin Pirelli P Zero summer tires do produce a lot of road noise, but it feels like a minor inconvenience, all things considered.
Track It If You Got It
North Carolina's public roads afforded us just a small taste of what the Durango Hellcat is capable of. To really put this performance SUV to the test we made our way to the Carolina Motorsports Park, as we did with the Charger Redeye, to see what this SUV can do when it’s unleashed.
Ticking all the drive mode settings to Track (via the Performance Pages screen) guarantees throttle response, steering, and suspension feedback are all at their most capable. With that, we headed onto the track and throttled the Durango Hellcat down the first long straight. This is a fast vehicle, not just a fast SUV. In Track mode specifically, the supercharged V8 produces power with obvious purpose, propelling the Durango to three-digit speeds post-haste. And at the end of the straightaway, we careened into a sharp right-hander, revealing the drama-free power of the Hellcat's big, six-piston Brembo stoppers.
This is a fast vehicle, not just a fast SUV.
Even with all these performance upgrades, though, the Durango’s immense mass makes itself more known on the track. The adaptive suspension does its best to keep the largest Hellcat model (so far) as flat and smooth as physically possible, but there is still a lot of roll and some off-putting body movements. And that overboosted steering doesn't feel any better on the track; the lightness and vague nature doesn't jive with the otherwise highly active suspension.
But we know most of you won’t take your Durango Hellcat to the track anyway. And for the few brave souls that do, this SUV does just enough to keep up (by design?). It was built for on-road performance first, and even though you won't be able to appreciate the full breadth of its supercharged V8 in most public instances, the super-powerful Hellcat engine still makes this crossover a ton of fun to drive around.
One And Done
Unlike other Hellcat-powered models, the Durango Hellcat is a one-year-only vehicle. Due to stricter emissions standards coming in 2022, Dodge says that it will only produce the Durango Hellcat for the 2021 model year. So if you want one, you better move quickly.
The cost to get into a Dodge Durango Hellcat costs $80,995. That’s a relative bargain compared to the $87,670 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and way more affordable than some comparable luxury alternatives. The Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 costs $132,100 and the BMW Alpina XB7 asks $141,300, both of which are less powerful than the Durango Hellcat.
While it may not be the most ferocious thing we’ve ever driven on a track, the Dodge Durango Hellcat is awesome on the road. Pairing a Hellcat V8 with all the capability of a traditional three-row crossover means you don’t have to compromise. It also means you’ll handily beat all other parents from a stoplight, your children screaming with delight in the back seat all the while.
Durango SRT Hellcat Competitors:
If you are interested in a 7-Seater SUVs, see our complete list of 3-row SUVs.
Gallery: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat: First Drive
2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat