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Rapid transit: Pulling a 8,700-lb. load or on the drag strip, Durango SRT hauls

February 16, 2018 GMT

The 2018 Durango SRT is Dodge’s new flagship SUV, but with a scooped and slotted hood, 475-horsepower V8, high-line performance tires and capable of conquering the quarter-mile in under 13 seconds, this is one halo car that has little demon in it, too.

The devilry comes from the 6.4-liter Hemi that distributes 470 lb.-ft. of torque to all four wheels via Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ well sorted out heavy-duty 8-speed automatic transmission and a single-speed electronic transfer case. Apply too heavy a foot and acceleration is more muscle car than three-row utility; Dodge said the Durango SRT will nail 0-60 mph runs in 4.4 seconds.

But the Durango SRT isn’t all play and no work. Equipped with the optional trailering package, it is rated to tow up to 8,700 pounds, thanks to the 392 cu.-in. Hemi’s torque and 3.70 gearing. That’s 1,300 pounds more pull than the next most-capable Durango: the 5.7-liter V8 powered rear-wheel-drive.

Only offered with AWD, the Durango SRT weighs 5,510 pounds, and that’s before driver and any passengers are factored in. So there’s no dodging the elephant in the garage: its 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway EPA fuel economy ratings aren’t numbers Durango SRT owners will crow about.

But if the Durango SRT AWD’s $62,995 MSRP doesn’t cause you to balk, chances are you’ll be equally unfazed at keeping the SUV’s 24.6-gallon tank stocked with the 91 octane gas Dodge recommends.

Of course, many four- or all-wheel-drive SUVs - some larger, some smaller - go for $50,000 and up these days. For a certain niche, the capabilities and accouterments of Dodge’s muscle-bound sport utility offer good value.

For instance, the souped-up Durango holds more and is quicker than its corporate platform cousin, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT, which starts at $67,395, has a maximum tow rating of 7,200 pounds, and takes nearly a second longer to reach 60 mph from a dead stop.

As for the rest of this spicy Durango’s special-duty hardware, the SRT’s iron-block Hemi differs from the 5.7-liter Hemi, running hollow-stem intake valves and sodium-filled exhaust valves to combat heat. The underpinnings are also tuned for performance with hollow front and rear stabilizer bars, Bilstein adaptive damping front and rear, and power steering that’s tailored for track use. You read that correctly. The Durango SRT is at home on a track. And to make sure its buyers are, Dodge throws in a full day’s experience, including car control, lead-follow exercises and hot laps at the SRT High Performance Driving School that was developed with the Bondurant Racing School.

Stopping is assigned to 15.0-inch diameter front rotors and 13.78-inch rear discs that are significantly larger than those used on the 5.7-liter Durango. Brembo six-piston calipers up front and four-piston units at the rear increase the front/rear swept area by 27.5 percent and 22.9 percent, respectively.

The Durango SRT rolls on 20x10 forged wheels and 295/45 Pirelli Scorpion Verde all-season tires or, optionally, Pirelli P-Zero three-season rubber. All factory tires are run-flats.

From the outside, the SRT might be mistaken for a 2018 Durango R/T since both have the same vented hoods and body-colored front fascia. The SRT, however, gets its own body-colored rear fascia, auto on/off headlights with automatic leveling and LED fog lamps.

Inside, the SRT’s supportive performance-styled leather front seats are perforated, heated and ventilated and come with contrasting stitching and embroidered SRT logos. Even fancier seats done up in red “Laguna” leather and black inserts are a $1,595 option. The eight-way power driver and front passenger seats includes memory settings for the driver. Heated fold-and-tumble captain chairs are standard in the second row while the third row 50/50 split seats can be lowered using a switch on the center stack.

On the infotainment front, the SRT gets the best of the best: Uconnect 8.4 NAV with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, BeatsAudio premium audio, a year’s trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio and a trial subscription to SiriusXM traffic information. The Durango SRT supports today’s mobile devices with two media-friendly USB ports, an auxiliary jack and couple of charge-only USB ports.

The Durango SRT has a long list of options, but for our money, the technology group and trailer tow group are the ones that deserve a hard look. The $2,495 technology group is the only way to get today’s cutting-edge safety and driver assistance features that should (and eventually will) be standard on all but the lowest-priced vehicles, let alone flagship family haulers.

The tech bundle includes adaptive cruise control with stop, advanced brake assist, blind spot and rear cross traffic warning, forward collision warning with active braking and a lane-keeping warning system. The cameras and sensors of these systems depend on variables such as lane markings, weather conditions and lighting, so it’s still vital for drivers to keep vigilant.

With the exception of the entry-level SXT trim, all Durango models have standard rear parking sensors and universal garage door opener; front sensors are thrown in on the R/T, Citadel and SRT trims.

All Durangos have keyless entry and pushbutton start and the rear camera that become mandatory on new vehicles after May 1.

The trailer tow group IV ($995) adds a 220-amp alternator, heavy-duty oil cooler, class IV hitch receiver, rear load-leveling shocks, four/seven-pin wiring harness and a full-size spare tire.

The Durango SRT is something of a modern-day sleeper, doing double duty pulling a trailer or boat or picking up bulky items from the home improvement emporium or big box store. If, however, being (relatively) subtle isn’t your thing, Dodge will be more than happy to help you customize your Durango.

Dodge recently announced it will offer dual racing stripes in five colors, an upgraded interior appearance group that features carbon fiber pieces, and exhaust and lowering kits.

The Mopar bolt-on exhaust system is made of 304 stainless steel, has polished four-inch tips and will retail for $1,850 when it hits the market in the second quarter. An exhaust system for Durango R/T and its 5.7-liter V8 is available now.

The lowering kit will drop the Durango SRT about 0.6 inches for a more aggressive stance. Engineered in-house, the springs are said to reduce body roll in cornering, rear-end squat on acceleration and nose-diving during braking.