It seems that the old adage ‘There is no replacement for displacement’ has been going by the wayside in recent years. Every manufacturer under the sun has managed to produce fuel efficient, compact and lightweight turbocharged engines that wipe the floor with V8 engines that would have once occupied the engine bay. Dodge hasn’t gotten on that train at all, as evidenced by the hefty chunk of metal under the hood of this 2020 Dodge Durango SRT.
Other than SRT badges all around and some optional red seatbelts, the interior is the same as lower trimmed Durango models, with a lot of the typically optional items coming standard. Seating is provided comfortably for six, as the middle row is equipped with captains chairs on SRT models. Unlike other three-row vehicles trying hard to cram in the last row, the Durango has the length and the girth to accommodate for them properly, and as such they are decently useable.
The interior is otherwise fairly subdued, with the comfortable seats covered in a mix of leather and suede, and a personal favourite, the black suede headliner. The dash is the standard mix of buttons and a big Uconnect 8.4-inch screen found on most other FCA-family products. Everything is perfectly functional and leaves nothing to complain about, save for maybe the lack of physical buttons for first-row seat heat and ventilation. Second-row passengers are treated to heated seats as well, along with a nice centre console that folds open when a flat load floor is needed.
Doused in White Knuckle paint and wearing an obnoxious Bright Blue stripes costing $1,495, the Durango SRT attracts attention wherever it goes. With a starting price of $74,995 in Canada, our tester was optioned up with the SRT Interior Appearance Package ($3,250), Technology Group ($950), rear entertainment ($2,150), and Harman/Kardon sound system ($1,995) for an as-tested price of $88,900 before fees, taxes and incentives.
For a family vehicle, the Durango SRT ticks all the boxes. It has lots of room, lots of seats, a dark coloured interior to hide messes.. Built into the back of the first-row seats are flip up screens with HDMI inputs to entertain kids with movies or video games. There are even wireless headphones so they can hear the noise while you listen to some classic rock up front. The ride comfort of the SRT model is probably the one thing that is not perfectly family friendly, but it certainly makes the driver happy. Performance-tuned suspension comes standard, and it makes the suspension go over bumps and through turns tighter and more engaging than most passenger cars.
That feeling carries right through to the 2020 Dodge Durango SRT’s steering input and powertrain response, at least with most systems set to ‘Sport’ in the customisable drive mode. There is not a drop of lag anywhere in the powertrain, thanks to a performance-tuned eight-speed transmission that clearly was calibrated with this engine in mind. Touch the throttle and the Durango replies with the feeling of an unstoppable freight train, hustling with ferocity. Gear shifts are fast, deliberate and well timed, even in “Comfort” mode. The bright red Brembo brakes bring the freight train to a stop just as effortlessly, here again better than most passenger cars.
Despite being on a platform that is getting long in the tooth and due for a replacement; a platform that dates back to the Daimler-Chrysler days, the Durango SRT still feels modern and is unexpectedly a delight to drive. A good amount of this can be attributed to the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 up front. Pushing out 475 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 470 lb-ft. of torque at 4,300RPM, it is quite the monster. If that is just not enough power for you, 2021 models will have the Hellcat engine as an option, which will have horsepower ratings north of 700.
All of that power, braking and tight shifting comes along with another really great benefit; towing power. Besting every other vehicle in its size class and lower, the Durango SRT has a towing capacity of 3,946kg (8,700-pounds). That kind of capacity is unheard of outside of larger, pickup-truck based vehicles such as the GMC Yukon (reviewed here), Ford Expedition and the Nissan Armada.
The 6.4-liter V8 engine does come at a price right where it hurts; the pumps. Rated fuel economy numbers are higher, but not astronomically so versus the smaller 5.7-liter. What really kicks is that unlike all other engine options, this one recommends premium fuel on top of the higher ratings. Expect that under your best behaviour you will achieve ratings of 18.3L/100km city, 12.2L/100km highway, and a combined 15.6L/100km. The Durango SRT is so much fun to drive and toss through the gears, that real world fuel economy will be notably worse. Under almost entirely highway and back country driving covering over 600km our observed fuel economy was 15.3L/100km.
Saying farewell to the 2020 Dodge Durango SRT was not easy after a week with it, an unexpected favorite that will not disappoint in your stable. There are not many three row SUVs that are anywhere near as capable, cavernous, or fun to drive, at least in this price range. This is one that has the classic looks and driving dynamics like the muscle car SUV that it’s trying so hard to be. Here’s an underdog if there ever was one.