by David Zatz
Meet the fastest and most powerful Dodge SUV ever to be built. With 475 horsepower coming from the 392 cubic inch Hemi V8, the Durango SRT has been timed at 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds, with a quarter mile time of 12.9 seconds — certified by the NHRA. Dodge claims it’s “the fastest, most powerful and most capable three-row SUV.”
That’s not all, not by a long shot. The Durango was engineered to be more user-friendly than past muscle cars (and muscle SUVs).
So how’d they do it?
The zero to sixty and quarter miles were no doubt aided by the all wheel drive system, putting power through double the contact patch of a rear drive car.
Heat extractors on the hood flank functional air-inlet ducts take hot air from the engine bay; and engineers added a cold air duct to drop the intake air temperature by 18°F, keeping power high even when the Durango is being heavily used-and-abused. That prevents embarassing power drops afflicting some competitors, and likely came about as a result of SRT’s 24-hour track durability testing.
The 2018 Dodge Durango SRT’s TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission is roughly the same design as normal Durangos have, but with a different calibration; it can be manually shifted using steering wheel paddles on the SRT-lit flat-bottom steering wheel. The computer shifts based on engine torque gradients, pedal position, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, grade changes, tire slip, cruise control, electronic stability control status, temperature, and the steering-wheel paddles.
When the driver downshifts manually, the “rev match” function uses the engine controller to blip the throttle, for better performance and stability when shifting at the traction limit. In addition, when the driver chooses “Sport Mode,” the transmission cuts shift times by up to 50% and delivers 65% of torque to the rear wheels. (That torque is 470 lb-ft at 4,300 rpm).
The AWD system includes transfer case proportioning and dynamic controls when in Track Mode; the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT boasts 160-millisecond shifts, with up to 70% of torque delivered to the rear wheels, for ideal responsiveness from mid-corner to exit.
The new T-shifter has an Auto Stick selector gate for added control, as an alternative to the paddles. Drive and Sport shifting can be selected with no effect on the chosen suspension, stability control, and driveline torque split settings. The 2018 Dodge Durango SRT’s Launch Control system brings all controls together for ideal launches and consistent straight-line acceleration.
The exhaust was tuned for SRT’s “deep, high-performance note;” that included replaced the rear mufflers with resonators in the 2.75-inch dual exhaust system.
Braking is excellent, especially for a three-row SUV: the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT comes to a full stop from 60 mph in around 115 feet, thanks to massive Brembo six-piston (front) and four-piston (rear) calipers, with vented rotors at all four corners measuring 15 inches (front-slotted) and 13.8 inches (rear).
The Dodge Durango SRT uses a short- and long-arm (SLA) independent front suspension with coil springs, Bilstein adaptive damping (ADS), upper- and lower-control arms (“A” arms), and a stabilizer bar; to turn the standard Durango into an SRT, the team used 3% stiffer front springs, 16% stiffer rear springs, and an 18% stiffer rear sway. The rear multi-link suspension design has coil springs, Bilstein ADS, an aluminum lower control arm, independent upper links (tension and camber), a separate toe link, and a stabilizer bar.
The 2018 Dodge Durango SRT has SRT’s seven-mode drive system, which controls the suspension, torque distribution, shift points, stability control, and engine mapping; the Bilstein Active Damping System opens and closes damper valves to match the chosen drive mode. Choices are:
Standard shoes are five-spoke “Goliath” 20-inch wheels with a new “Black Noise” finish ride on Pirelli 295/45ZR20 Scorpion Verde all-season tires; Pirelli P Zero three-season tires are optional, as are 20-inch forged aluminum wheels with a new split five-spoke design in the “Black Noise” finish.
The cabin includes a hand-wrapped dashboard with live silver accent stitching, flat-bottom steering wheel, heated and ventilated front and heated second-row chairs; Nappa leather with suede inserts and silver-stitched SRT logos are standard. The Demonic Red Laguna leather interior shown here is optional.
This is the first Durango with the “Light Black Chrome” bezels, with two choices of decorative bezels. The standard finish is Matte Reverse Chain, and a true carbon-fiber instrument panel and door bezels will be optional (late availability). Velour-bound floor mats with embroidered SRT logos are standard; the headliner and A pillars can be wrapped in Dynamica suede (optional).
The 7-inch customizable digital instrument gauge cluster has been redesgined, with a new 180-mph speedometer. The 8.4-inch touchscreen media center houses new SRT Performance Pages, navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD radio, downloadable apps, and a 5-year trial of SiriusXM Travel Link and Traffic. The standard BeatsAudio premium sound system uses eight speakers, a subwoofer, and a 506-watt amplifier.
The designers also used integrated wheel flares and body-color side rocker panels to make the stance more aggressive; put “392” badges onto each fender; and surrounded the four-inch dual round Nickel Chrome exhaust tips with a rear body-color lower fascia, accented in gloss black. Dodge created a new logo for “high performance Dodge AWD,” with the two red stripes and the number 4.
Colors will be (clear coat unless specified) Billet, Blu by Yu Pearl Coat, Bruiser Grey, black, Granite, Ocean Blue Pearl Coat, Octane Red Pearl Coat, Redline Pearl Coat, Sangria Metallica, White Knuckle, and Vice White.
The Dodge Durango SRT’s basic powertrain was pioneered in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, so why did it take so long to get it? Well, the Jefferson Avenue plant was at full capacity already, and SRT engineers’ time was used in creating Hellcats and the Challenger Demon. What’s more, until the Wagoneer was firmly planted on the Ram chassis (rather than that of the Grand Cherokee), there may have been some question as to whether the Durango would continue in its current form.
The Durango SRT scores some “biggests and bests,” always good for SRT, fills a unique sales slot, and keeps the Durango name in mind. What’s more, it makes it clear that the Durango is a “true Dodge” — a fire-breathing rear-wheel-drive-based beast of a car.
In addition to features listed, the Durango SRT will have, standard or optional, forward collision warning with braking, adaptive cruise control with full stop, 9-1-1 calls and roadside assistance, blind-spot monitoring, and Rear Cross Path detection. Standard safety features include front-row active head restraints, full-length three-row side-curtain air bags, and standard front-seat-mounted side thorax air bags.
The 2018 Dodge Durango SRT is built in Detroit, at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant (JNAP).
All buyers of a new SRT get one full-day session of high-performance driving with professional instruction.
1998-2003 Dodge Durango • 2004-2009 • 2014-17 • Durango review
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