We knew it was only a matter of time before the 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat became a thing. Stellantis has already shoved that ubiquitous supercharged V8 into the engine bays of its sedans, so putting that same motor into Dodge’s largest vehicle was inevitable. Unfortunately, the Durango Hellcat will only last one model year (blame more stringent fuel emissions regulations). But in that one year, this vehicle brings a lot to the table.
With 710-horsepower and 645-pound-foot – a whopping three more horses than the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – the Durango Hellcat is the most powerful SUV on the planet. It will sprint to 60 in a mind-bending 3.5 seconds and go on to a top track speed of 180 miles per hour. And with all that power the Durango Hellcat brings some new technology to the table plus some fresh interior touches. All in all, this is a fantastic SUV for the family that wants to go fast.
A vehicle's ratings are relative only to its own segment and not the new-vehicle market as a whole. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.
“Anonymous” is probably the best way to describe the styling of the Dodge Durango Hellcat. Unless you really know what you're looking for – Hellcat badges, additional cooling vents, and wheels – the average consumer probably wouldn't be able to distinguish the high-performance model from its base sibling, at least not visually. Our tester wears a subtle White Knuckle paint job (which isn't nearly as cool as it sounds) and trim-specific 20-inch wheels that are pretty tame, and that's about it.
That said, anonymity sort of makes sense here. The Durango Hellcat is still a three-row crossover first and foremost, meaning it needs to blend into grocery store parking lots and school pickup lines without looking too outrageous. You can get it with racing stripes if you're feeling especially, um, racy (either $1,195 or $1,295 for the Redline option), but the sleeper look suits the Durango Hellcat well.
The cabin experience doesn't feel all that different from a normal Durango, either. Dodge touts a new driver-centric layout, a nicer 10.1-inch touchscreen, and more solid materials for 2021, like leather and carbon fiber. And all Durangos receive more attractive interior styling as part of a 2021 facelift. Although there are still some obvious cheap pieces, like the knobs and indicator switches, which feel flimsy for a $75,000 SUV.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Dodge Durango
For a 710-hp, track-capable vehicle, the Durango Hellcat has a surprisingly nice ride. This suspension soaks up imperfections well and the cushy sport buckets – wearing $1,595 Laguna leather, in this case – do a good job of buffering your butt and back from any bumps in the road. Engine noise aggressively penetrates the cabin, obviously, but road and tire noise remain at a minimum otherwise.
The Durango has plenty of cabin space, too. The 39.9 inches of front headroom and 40.3 inches of front legroom are solid, and even with the driver-centric layout, the front compartment feels spacious. The Ford Explorer is better with 40.7 inches of headroom and 43.0 inches of legroom, as is the Chevrolet Tahoe with 41.3 inches of headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom. But neither of those alternatives have a 700-horsepower option, so...
Second-row passengers get plenty of space, too. the Durango's 39.8 inches of headroom and 38.6 inches of legroom aren't best-in-class figures, but there’s still more than enough room to get comfy. And the third row is acceptable even for adults, with 37.8 inches of headroom and 33.5 inches of legroom. It does take some manhandling of the second-row captain's chair to access the third row, and there's a bulky center console between the two buckets, which means you can't access the way-back from there.
Dodge upgraded the entire Durango lineup with an available 10.1-inch touchscreen for 2021 utilizing the latest Uconnect 5 infotainment display. That setup comes standard on the Hellcat model, and it's a huge upgrade over last year's 8.4-inch screen with Uconnect 4. The overall layout is cleaner, the graphics are crisper, and the new touchscreen responds with the quickness of a smartphone.
The baked-in navigation is also a huge improvement over what Dodge offered previously. The Durango's maps are nearly as good as what you get from Google or Apple – even though this setup does offer both wireless – with simple search functions and directional cues that are easy to parse.
Those in the second row also have access to the optional rear DVD entertainment system. The $1,995 option puts two touchscreens on the front seatbacks with Blu-Ray compatibility, wireless headphones, and smartphone mirrors, which should keep anyone in the second row entertained on longer trips. And there's an available 19-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system – a $1,085 option.
First and foremost – dat engine. The supercharged 6.2-liter Hellcat V8 in this Durango produces 710 horsepower and 645 pound-feet, which, as we mentioned, makes this the most powerful SUV on the planet (although only just). All-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission manage it all, helping the Durango to 60 in 3.5 seconds and on to a top track speed of 180 miles per hour. And this thing feels as fast as those numbers suggest.
In Sport and Track driving modes, power delivery is brutal – just like in any other Hellcat model. The second you put your foot down the supercharger spools up (with an addictive sound), helping release all seven-hundred-and-ten horses. Mash the gas pedal fully and the Durango Hellcat will shove you and all seven passengers firmly into the seat backs on its way to a supercar-esque, all-out sprint.
And believe it or not, this massive vehicle can handle. Back in November, we took the Durango Hellcat to the Carolina Motorsports Park where it showed off impressive agility, keeping relatively flat and smooth even in the trickiest turns – much credit goes to the adaptive suspension, which does a good job of maintaining composure. That's still true in our most recent test. The Durango Hellcat manages even the most aggressive onramps with finesse and agility.
The steering remains our lone complaint for the Durango Hellcat. Contrary to what you get in the Charger, Challenger, and even TRX, the steering here feels overboosted and too vague with a noticeably dead on-center feel. That can make the Durango feel sloppy when you're really pushing it. But that’s a small price to pay for an engine that is so damn powerful.
Usually, we temper this section of any Hellcat or high-performance vehicle review. But when talking about a three-row SUV, regardless of how much power it may or may not have, safety is crucial – and the Dodge Durango Hellcat has plenty of it. But only if you’re willing to pay extra.
For $2,395, you get adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert, and a lane-departure warning. But our car only has blind-spot monitoring and cross-path detection, which is $495 on its own.
Returning just 12 mpg city, 17 highway, and 13 combined, the hot Durango is handily the least-efficient vehicle in the entire class. Dodge falls behind indirect alternatives like the BMW Alpina XB7 (17 combined) and Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 (16 combined). Unsurprisingly, the Durango is just as inefficient as its cousin, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which also returns 13 mpg combined.
The Dodge Durango Hellcat starts at $80,995, which is reasonable when looking at the short list of alternatives. And the alternatives aren’t even that close of competitors. Luxury options like the GLS 63 and Alpina XB7 ask $132,100 and $141,000 respectively, and even the two-row Jeep Trackhawk starts at $88,445. Our tester does come in at $92,040 post-options, but that still feels like a screaming deal.
The most expensive add-on is the $2,495 Premium Interior package, which adds a suede headliner and forged carbon fiber accents, and the Laguna leather seats are another $1,595 on top of that. The rear entertainment setup is $1,995, the 19-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system is $1,085, and the trailer tow option is another $1,195. Some lesser features hike the price even further, but again, less than $100K for the most powerful SUV in the world doesn’t sound all that bad.
Gallery: 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat: Review
2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat