2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat: The muscle car of SUVs
Can an affordable three-row SUV ever be considered collectible? Yes, if it is the SRT Hellcat version of the 2021 Dodge Durango. The one-year only model has been outfitted with all the factory high-performance options the manufacturer has to offer, including a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that produces 710-horsepower, a beefier suspension, huge Brembo brakes with red calipers, aggressive exterior trim, a free-flowing exhaust and seven electronically controlled drive modes that range from Eco to Sport, Track and Custom.
The result is a seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive vehicle that is faster than most sports cars but can tow up to 8,700 pounds, which is great for any SUV. And, because it will only be offered in 2021, the future value is likely to increase.
Of course, with all the in-house Street and Racing Technology performance upgrades, the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is not exactly affordable. The base SXT with a V6 starts at around $35,000, while the base SRT Hellcat is more than twice that at $80,995. Our tester was priced at $91,550 because it included a premium and technology option package.
But consider this — the Durango SRT Hellcat with hit 60 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds. To get that kind of performance in any other three-row SUV, you have to step up to such factory-modified luxury vehicles as the Mercedes AMG GLS63, which costs more than twice as much.
Dodge had sold a lot of outrageously fast vehicles over the years that have become collectible. They include the most powerful versions of the Challenger pony car, the Charger muscle car and the Viper sports car. Hellcat versions of the current retro Challenger and Charger sedan are also available. None of them are only going to be produced for a single year, however.
The truth is, Dodge has been pushing the boundaries of the Durango for years. It competes against vehicles like the Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander, which start with four-cylinder engines and offer V6 options. The Durango has always been more muscular. The base 3,6-liter V6 produces a respectable 295 horsepower. The optional 5.7-liter V8 in the R/T version produces a healthier 360 horsepower. And the normally-aspirated 6.4-liter V8 in the non-Hellcat SRT version produces 475 horsepower, which should be more than enough for most enthusiasts.
But Dodge isn't known for subtlety. It is the only company embracing performance across its entire lineup.
Inside, the Durango SRT Hellcat feels more like a muscle car than an SUV. The driver and front seat passenger look out across a long hood, separated in the cabin by a high console that includes a genuine shifter instead of a dial or set of buttons to select the gears. As expected, the front bucket seats are deeply sculpted and supportive, but comfortable enough for long trips. The second row of seats are divided by a useful console. The third row is best reserved for children or teenagers, but that's typical of all three-row SUVs these days.
The Durango SRT Hellcat doesn't skimp on technology, either, It includes advanced safety systems and the SRT package of performance displays, beginning with a complete gauge package screen and continuing with driver-operator adjustments for the transmission, paddle shifters, all-wheel-drive system, stability control, suspension and steering.
In a week of testing, the Durango SRT Hellcat was surprisingly easy to drive around town. Although the exhaust was a constant drone that some drivers might eventually tire of, it could be driven smoothly off the line and through traffic. That's largely because the eight-speed automatic transmission is tuned to keep everything under control at low RPMs. The power doesn't really come on unless the driver mashes the pedal — and then it comes on in a rush with the exhaust blasting loudly and the whine of the supercharger clearly audible in the cabin.
At that point, you'd better make sure the road is straight and clear. It's hard to believe that a street legal 5,710 pound vehicle can go so fast. Fortunately, the brakes are up to the task of slowing down and stopping. And, when only driven energetically, the big vehicle goes through turns and corners surprisingly well, with little body roll.
Calling the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat over the top is an understatement. It is a ridiculously entertaining exercise in excess that is nevertheless practical. Production will end later this year, so if you want one, get down to your nearest Dodge dealer and place your order now. Just be prepared for puzzled looks from your neighbors when they hear coming home with it.
2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat
Base price: $80,995
Price as tested: $91,550
Type: Mid-size SUV
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8 (710 hp, 645 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Modes: Eco, Auto, Tow, Snow, Sport, Track, Custom
EPA estimated mileage: 12/17
Overall length: 201 inches
Curb weight: 5,710 pounds
Final assembly: Detroit, Michigan
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.