Dodge Durango SRT is fast, powerful

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will bow a new sporty 2018 Dodge Durango SRT three-row SUV this week at the Chicago Auto Show, a vehicle it touts as its seven-seat Dodge Charger.

The new high-performance vehicle for the Durango nameplate is due out this summer, said Tim Kuniskis, head of Dodge and SRT for FCA North America.

“This now takes everything that was great about the Durango and everything that was awesome about the Charger SRT and combines it into one badass SUV,” he said.

The Durango SRT is powered by the 392-cubic-inch, 6.4-liter V-8 Hemi engine, cranking out 475 horsepower and 470 foot-pounds of torque. It’s mated to an automatic eight-speed transmission and is outfitted with full-time all-wheel drive.

The SUV is said to trip the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds, and go from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.4 seconds.

Dodge updated the the SRT Durango with an aggressive look, upgraded the interior and put a T-shaped electronic shifter inside it instead of a rotary knob, Kuniskis said. It also features updated ride dynamics and shift feel. The exhaust was tuned to sound like the 392 Charger, said Pete Jacobsen, Dodge Durango vehicle development manager.

While it boasts performance, the Durango SRT also will be used as a family-hauling daily driver, Kuniskis said.

The interior features driver and family comforts such as a hand-wrapped instrument panel, flat-bottom performance steering wheel with paddle shifters, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated second-row captain’s chairs.

The Durango SRT also can tow more than any other three-row SUV and is capable of hauling 8,600 pounds, according to Dodge.

“It’s really a lifestyle enabler,” Jacobsen said. “You can tow a 27-foot boat with this car. You can put three horses on a trailer and tow it. And you can tow a 32-foot travel trailer.”

Dodge will show the new SUV on Thursday during media days at the Chicago Auto Show, a large consumer show.

“The Durango SRT supports the image of Dodge’s performance nature, extending it into the family segment in a thoughtful way. It builds on the image of the high-performance variants of the Challenger and Charger logically and purposefully,” said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst for IHS Markit. “Looking at the market overall, performance variants for SUVs are increasingly common and Dodge has credibility to play this game.”

U.S. Durango sales last year rose 5.8 percent to 68,474. Sales in January, however, were down 21.6 percent compared to 4,707, compared to the same month a year ago.

The new SUV gets a new front fascia, new body-color lower rear fascia with dual round exhaust tips and a new AWD badge on the tailgate. It also features a new functional SRT hood with cold-air ducts and heat extractors to cool the engine. The vehicle also has air intakes above the fog lamps.

The Durango SRT features seven drive modes such as sport mode that cuts shift times by up to 50 percent vs. street mode for everyday driving. A track mode is even quicker in its shifts. Other modes include snow, tow, valet and eco.

Durango SRT also has new displays and graphics, including a customizable digital instrument gauge with 180 mph speedometer. The SUV also features the next-generation Uconnect system and features an 8.4-inch touchscreen.

Dodge would not reveal expected SRT sales volume for the Durango nameplate. Pricing, top speed and fuel economy estimates were not made available. The company does recommend premium fuel be used.

The 2017 Durango R/T, the sportiest Durango available now, starts at more than $42,000 for a rear-wheel drive model. A 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi engine with 360 horsepower is under the hood.

FCA is positioning Dodge as its mainstream performance brand and vehicles with the SRT badge as the ultimate halo performance vehicles inside of Dodge. The Durango SRT will join SRT versions of the Charger, Challenger and Viper. FCA also has a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT that is expected to be phased out as SRT becomes specific to the Dodge brand.

Customers who buy the Durango SRT will receive a one-day professional lesson on performance driving at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Chandler, Ariz.

The Durango SRT will be built at Fiat Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit.

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Twitter: @MBurden_DN