Mopar shakes up a three-row sport utility

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

“Our job at Mopar is to help customers enhance their current rides, but also inspire our sister brands and customers to have fun, push boundaries and imagine new customization possibilities,” Pietro Gorlier, head of FCA’s global parts and service division, explained as he prepared to unveil a half dozen Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep vehicles his team displayed at the recent SEMA Show.

Mopar customizes products from those brands to show what can be done, and after the vehicles are unveiled, Gorlier’s team listens closely to showgoers’ feedback about what they like best. For example, he said, the current Ram Rebel special off-road pickup went into production after it first appeared as a concept on the Mopar stand at SEMA.

Of the six vehicles Mopar tweaked for the 2016 SEMA Show, Gorlier seemed particularly eager to hear the feedback on perhaps the most unlikely of those builds, the Dodge Durango Shaker. The auto executive always seems to effuse enthusiasm, but he had a particular twinkle in his eye when he talked about this souped-up SUV.

Might such a thing go actually into production? Well, considering that FCA does Hellcats and rebellious pickups, would it really be a huge stretch to see a hot-rodded Durango on the road?

Durango, of course, is Dodge’s three-row sport utility vehicle, nominally powered by a 290-horsepower V-6 with the option of a 360-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. But Mopar took it another step and found a way to fit a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 into the engine bay, then used a cold-air intake and a cat-back exhaust system to extract even more than the usual 485 horsepower from the big engine.

To indicate there is something special beneath the hood, and to justify the car’s name, Mopar custom-fabricated a black, matte-finish Shaker Hood for the Durango, which wears a paint color called B5 Blue.

The Mopar crew also created an open grille and front splitter to keep that big Hemi V-8 running cool, and added a rear spoiler.

To enhance handling, the SUV was lowered 3 inches closer to the pavement and six-piston brakes were installed, (cooled up front by special ducting) along with 22-inch satin black wheels. For good measure, a Dodge Challenger fuel filler door was customized for use on the SUV.

Inside, instead of three rows of SUV seats, Mopar installed three pairs of Katzkin leather-covered Dodge Viper seats, as well as the flat-bottomed steering wheel from a Scat-Pack Dodge Charger, Bright pedals and other Mopar accessories, from a vehicle-tracking system to all-weather floor mats and a wireless charging pad. The usual rotary knob gear-selector was replaced with a console-mounted shifter.

Depending on the feedback Mopar got at the SEMA Show, you might see this one-off Durango Shaker on the roads in the Auburn Hills area, where we suspect Gorlier might be using it for his commute to and from work. Or, who knows, if the feedback about the vehicle was as effusive as Gorlier was about the souped-up SUV, next fall you might see something very similar on the showroom floor of your local Dodge dealership.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer