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2019 Dodge Durango SRT AWD: It tows, it goes, but it's thirsty

As fastest and most powerful mid-size crossover in North America, the Dodge Durango SRT is a total package. It can serve as a comfy, luxurious hauler for six with plenty of cargo space, or tow up to 8,700 lbs. worth of toys. Or it can tackle back roads at speed with aplomb, accompanied by a muscle car soundtrack.
As fastest and most powerful mid-size crossover in North America, the Dodge Durango SRT is a total package. It can serve as a comfy, luxurious hauler for six with plenty of cargo space, or tow up to 8,700 lbs. worth of toys. Or it can tackle back roads at speed with aplomb, accompanied by a muscle car soundtrack. - Richard Russell

There is nothing environmentally friendly about the Dodge Durango SRT. This hulking, 5,600-lb. beast has a 6.4-litre HEMI V8 pushing 475-horsepower to all four wheels. Natural Resources Canada says it will average 18.3 litres/100 km in the city and 12.2 on the highway — if you drive with a light foot. My best was 16.1 on the highway.

It will seat six occupants and tow up to 8,700 pounds. In both cases those already dismal fuel economy numbers will plummet. It comes with launch control, which helps it reach 100 km/h from rest in less than five seconds and blast through the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds. A cold start will warm the heart of all who cherish the sound of a high output American V8, and bring complaints from neighbours.  

The only thing green about the Durango SRT is the amount of green necessary to buy one. Pricing starts at $74,000 and climbs to $87,000 when equipped like the one I just drove.

The mid-size Durango shares its platform with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The wheelbase of the Dodge version has been lengthened to make room for a third-row of seats. The Durango is getting a bit long in the tooth, having first appeared in 2011. It got a mid-cycle makeover in 2014 and the twisted minds at SRT (Street & Racing Technology) spruced it up with their magic touch in 2018.

The SRT touches are significant and numerous. The emphasis is on driving dynamics, with visual cues a secondary consideration.

It all starts with the engine — as is the case with any serious approach to performance. In this case it is the legendary Hemi, displacing 6.4 litres and producing 475 horsepower. The deep-breathing bent eight is coupled with an upgraded eight-speed automatic transmission and on-demand four-wheel-drive system. The SRT folks specified a launch-control system, to ensure maximum use of the four driven wheels. The result is a brutal launch and a glorious bellow from the big pipes out back and the sound or lots of air being sucked into functional hood scoop up front. The transmission fires off shifts like rifle shots under full throttle. Otherwise it is a smooth and sophisticated entity.

The 2019 Dodge Durango SRT is powered by a 6.4-litre, V8 engine that can generate up to 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. - Richard Russell
The 2019 Dodge Durango SRT is powered by a 6.4-litre, V8 engine that can generate up to 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. - Richard Russell

You can monitor the performance through the “Performance Pages menu” on the big (21-cm) color touchscreen atop the center stack. It will keep you informed of acceleration numbers, g-forces and engine output (horsepower). That same screen display hosts FCA’s user-friendly Uconnect infotainment system. The graphics are clean and crisp and responses immediate. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and navigation are included. 

As I said earlier, the SRT team concentrated on dynamics. In addition to the powertrain, they spent considerable development time on the essentials — steering, brakes and suspension. The adaptive shock absorbers come from Bilstein, the springs are stiffer and the rear anti-roll bar 18 per cent stiffer. Hours and laps at Virginia International Raceway resulted in a fastened down feel, a bit stiff over realty rough stuff, but with enough compliance to make highway hauls more than acceptable. The exhaust can grow a bit tiresome on long journeys at steady throttle. This can be placed in the background, with the exceptional clarity of the 19-speaker $2,000 Harmon Kardon audio system. 

There is plenty of opportunity to tailor the big ute to your liking. An SRT button at the bottom of the infotainment screen reveals a choice of Eco (!), Valet (cuts power to a minimum), Tow, Snow, Track and Sport. Each establishes settings for suspension, stability control, throttle response, steering effort and shift points.   

The brakes are impressive, with six piston Brembos grabbing ventilated 380-mm rotors up front and four pistons working the rears. Hauling this 5,600 lb. beast down from speed is effortless. The steering is sharp, communicative and well weighted. Pushed hard on a twisty road or ramp, there is no doubting this is a large, heavy and tall vehicle. The fact it is so well behaved in such circumstances is a tribute to the SRT team.

As you might expect from a $87,000 Dodge, the interior has been considerably upgraded. From the leather-covered dash and leather/suede heated and cooled seats to the carbon fibre accents, there is a sense of something special — especially if you like black, lots of black. The standard equipment list is extensive and with $14,000 in options, all the bases are covered on the test unit. 

The same folks who perfected the minivan, have obviously been involved here as well. Excellent three-row seating and thoughtful touches abound. Heavily-bolstered “Sport” seats are standard up front, as are the captain’s chairs in the middle row. Third row seating actually accommodates a pair of reasonable-size adults. There is 17.2 cubic feet of space behind the third row, 43.3 with it folded flat.   

The fastest and most powerful mid-size crossover in North America is a total package. It can serve as a comfy, luxurious hauler for six with plenty of cargo space, or tow up to 8,700 lbs. worth of toys. Or it can tackle back roads at speed with aplomb, accompanied by a muscle car soundtrack.

Of course, nobody needs a vehicle like this. But for those who can afford and appreciate it, the Durango SRT is a great combination of family-friendly accommodation and gut-wrenching performance.  

The specs

Model: 2019 Dodge Durango SRT AWD
Engine: 6.4 litre, V8, 475 horsepower, 470 lb.-ft. of torque, premium fuel recommended
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, on-demand 4X4 system
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 18.3/12.2
Length: 5,110 mm
Width: 2,172 mm
Wheelbase: 3,042 mm
Weight: 2,505 kg
Price: $73,895 base, $87,295 as tested, including freight

Standard equipment: leather and suede interior, 20-inch alloy wheels, 4G LTD WiFi hot spot, heated and ventilated front seats, nine-speaker Alpine audio system, 21-cm touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, navigation, wireless connectivity, tri-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, keyless start, remote keyless entry, power liftgate, performance-tuned steering and suspension, front and rear park assist, back-up camera 

Options on test vehicle: Technology group (lane departure warning with lane keep assist, forward collision warning with active braking, advanced brake assist, adaptive cruise control), $950; SRT Interior Appearance Group (carbon fibre accents, leather-wrapped instrument panel, $3,250; high performance brakes, $1,295; bright blue Mopar dual stripes, $1,495; 825-watt, 19-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, $1,995; compact spare tire, $295; three-season tires, $350; blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, $500    

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