Despite its powerful good looks, the Dodge Durango has mostly flown under the radar since its introduction in 2011. This despite offering a powerful selection of engines, handsome design, and a size that straddles crossover SUVs like the Honda Pilot and full-size models like the Chevrolet Tahoe, both of which are competitors. It's found about 65,000 homes each year for the past few years, and while that's nothing to sneeze at, it's not a particularly high volume seller. That's probably why the Durango hasn't gotten the kind of attention from the company's high-performance SRT division that its Dodge Challenger, Charger, and even Jeep Grand Cherokee siblings have gotten.

But at long last, there's the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT, a car we knew all along just had to be kicking around somewhere in the company's toy box. We've seen this formula before with the Grand Cherokee: Take an SUV, pull the big 475-horsepower 6.4-liter V8 from the SRT shelf and pop it under the hood, make the proper go-fast suspension adjustments and look-mean styling enhancements. Voila, instant badass family hauler. It's a recipe as familiar as the one for grandma's cookies.

And, just like how grandma's cookies always taste great, the SRT formula just works. The Durango is already a solid family hauler, and the R/T models have demonstrated that there was some serious potential under its skin. SRT exploits that to the maximum. There's the engine, of course, a brutishly powerful V8 that gleefully converts hydrocarbons to forward motion, all with the kind of glorious V8 roar at full throttle that will make NASCAR fans weep with joy. Dodge says it'll hit 60 mph in about 4.4 seconds, and get through the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds.

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Power and torque everywhere

There's power and torque everywhere, but it's most fun to wind it out and hear it scream. Manually controlling the 8-speed automatic transmission with the steering wheel paddles is the best way to do that, but the transmission's Track mode programming (yes, there's a Track mode in the Durango SRT, in addition to normal and sport) admirably downshifts and holds the proper gear for you. The 3-mode suspension does a surprisingly good job of controlling the bulk of this big 6-passenger SUV around hard corners, keeping it planted through high-speed sweepers and managing the weight well in left-right transitions. Still, even SRT has to obey the fundamental laws of physics, and the Durango plays best with a steady and smooth hand; try to manhandle it, and it understeers heavily.

But that's at the track. Out on the street, the Durango SRT is just what you'd hope for: A really fast Durango. Put it in its normal mode and you're left with the Durango's usual goodness, like a roomy and comfortable interior, high-tech features like Uconnect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, active cruise control, lane keeping assist, rear seat entertainment, and so on. Take the kids to school, soccer, baseball, karting practice, track days, whatever. They'll dig it, and so will you.

Downsides? We wish you could order the Durango SRT with a second-row bench, because although the second-row captain's chairs are cool, that extra seat would be more useful. Fuel economy isn't great, at 13 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway, but did you really expect it to be a fuel sipper? We're not griping about the $64,000 price though, or even the $73,360 as-tested price. While that's not cheap, it's about the same price as a Chevy Tahoe, and the Durango is more maneuverable, way more fun to drive, offers equitable third-row legroom, and can tow 8,700 pounds thanks to the monster V8. Besides, if you want a three-row, 6-passenger SUV with this much or more power, you're looking at things like the Mercedes-AMG GLS63, which costs roughly twice the Dodge.

The Durango SRT goes on sale this fall, so if you're dying to know if a 475 horsepower, track-capable, 6-passenger family hauler that can also tow nearly 9,000 pounds is worth your $64,000, you don't have long to wait. 


 

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