I wasn’t the greatest driver when I was young. I don’t think my parents ever knew about all my poor driving habits, including a few incidents of being a bit too tipsy to see the lines properly, backing up with the back windshield so fogged that I actually bumped into a parked car, and general vehicular mayhem, including racing other kids and similar. It could have been the car: My hand-me-down car for high school was a Chevy Malibu with air shocks, which meant I could jack up the back (no trailer for this teen!) and – poof! – instant muscle car. Fortunately my driving has improved a bit since those halcyon days of youth, but inside, there’s still a revved up 19yo ready to put the pedal to the metal and see just how fast a car can go.
That’s why when the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT showed up in my driveway, I knew that inner troublemaker was going to be eager to break out. With its beefy 6.4L V8 SRT HEMI MDS engine, the Durango SRT is a beast and with its tuned acoustic exhaust system, it was hard not to grin every time it started up with its low, throaty rumble. Get behind the wheel and, oh man, what a fun vehicle to drive. You can almost forget you’re driving a luxury SUV with three rows of seats, a steering wheel heater and all the safety tech on the market.
With its black racing stripes (Dodge calls the base color “white knuckle”) and red leather seats (they’re called “demonic red”) this was one of the most enjoyable drives I’ve had in quite a while. It’s the kind of vehicle that your inner teenager is going to love as it reminds you of the sheer fun of driving, and driving fast! Practical you will appreciate all the creature comforts and luxuries. After all, at over $71,000, this is a car for people who have come to appreciate the finer and more refined things in life.
But for all of that, the Durango SRT isn’t without some hiccups and problems. My biggest complaint was that I felt that rear visibility was noticeably poor. It might be that the interior cabin is so enormous, but I often had to rely on the electronic systems to ensure that there wasn’t someone in the adjacent lane because I just couldn’t see enough of the road through the rear window.
To understand the issue, consider this photo from the rear hatch looking forward on the Durango:
The rear bench is a 50/50 split, as shown, though I prefer 60/40 for the additional flexibility (which the second row bench offers on the base configuration). Still, look how far away that front dashboard is in the photo. Reverse the view and you can imagine how the rear window and road behind is going to look small and far, far away in the rear view mirror.
Worth noting is that the SRT package added the captain’s seats for the second row, so if you have a really big crew, the standard bench will offer you an additional seat at the cost of being a bit more of a hassle for passengers to get into the very back. Regardless of second row configuration, if you have a big family or lots of stuff to haul, there’s a remarkable amount of interior space. In fact, the Durango features 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the second and third row seats folded down.
The seats are also super comfortable, no complaints on that part. The in-seat warmers proved invaluable on cold mornings when taking my daughter to school, and the remote start gave the vehicle a few minutes to warm up before we even got into the vehicle. One could get used to this sort of luxury!
And yet, it’s still a burly, aggressive performance vehicle. The SRT package (SRT stands for Street & Racing Technology, if you’re curious) offers all sorts of crazy performance options for the suspension, drive train, engine and gear shift points. Here’s one of the SRT Performance Pages that shows the power and torque chart for my driving during the prior 90 seconds:
Whether you understand all the information shown or just think it’s interesting, you’re good. Have another look, though: the top lines are power and torque while the blue line is engine RPMs, so you can see how they relate. Notice the other options here too. Most crazy and fun: G-Force. Turns out that without a track available it’s hard to pull some serious G’s in a vehicle. This information was obtained in a purely, uhm, theoretical manner, of course. 😉
While we’re looking at the in-dash display system, there’s one more thing I wanted to highlight: longer term performance analytics. You might never look at this screen, but then again, if you’re paying for the SRT upgrade, there’s a good chance you’ll want to get the best numbers possible for your 0-60 speed and so on. Without getting any Exhibition of Speed tickets, here’s how I did with a week of driving:
Don’t worry, Dodge, you can see I never got up to 100mph! That’d be tricky to do safely when the highest speed on a Colorado road near me is 75! And yet, driving the Durango SRT made me really yearn to just punch it and go really fast while weaving through traffic. The cost of a speeding ticket is what stopped me from trying, but I suggest that you’ll want to budget for a speeding ticket or two if you’re going to be driving this beast.
While we’re looking at the front dash, check out the main gauge display:
The left side shows speed, suggesting you can get up to 180mph in this SUV! As with most modern cars, the center of the main gauge (it’s currently showing that I am driving at 10mph) can change to display other information on the whim of the driver. After changing it, however, I found the left side speed gauge hard to read so was often unsure of my current speed.
The top left of the gauge area shows the unsurprising reality that the fuel efficiency of this vehicle is pretty miserable. In fact, it’s the same sort of gas mileage you’d expect from a big, heavy pickup truck: 15mpg. The EPA estimates are 13mpg city, 19mpg highway and I averaged between 15-16 mpg myself. Not surprising when you’re driving a tuned performance vehicle, but something to know if you’re planning for a future where gas prices start to rise.
The overall front dash offered a smart and intuitive layout, making it easy to control just about every feature while zipping along:
This also highlights the SRT’s terrific flattened edge steering wheel with paddle shifters. It’s very comfortable to hold and use as you whip around those turns, trying to peg your G-Force indicator. Again, I speak theoretically.
Notice the well positioned cup holders too. Pretty important for a vehicle that’s straddling the line between performance and luxury, as is the excellent Beats premium audio system. It definitely made all our music sound very nice, something enhanced by the active noise cancelling system. Yes, you read that correctly, the SRT includes an interior ANC system to minimize road noise and improve your audio performance, and it works great.
The exterior of the vehicle is no slouch either:
There’s so much to like about the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT. It’s a great mix of performance capabilities and features for your inner 19yo, while richly appointed with luxury and safety features including adaptive cruise control, multistage front airbags, damping suspension and 4-wheel traction control. It also has quite the price tag if you get all the optional gear too, so this is not a 1:1 replacement for your beloved old Subaru Outback! The Durango SRT is also one of the few cars I was sad to see drive away when my evaluation period ended. It’s just a whole lotta fun to drive, and ultimately isn’t that one goal of any vehicle?
CONFIGURATION: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392 with White Knuckle exterior / Black interior. 6.4L SRT HEMI MDS engine with 8-speed automatic transmission. Optional equipment: High Performance Laguna leather seats in “demonic red” (I just love that color name), Customer Preferred Package 27L featuring technology and trailer add-ons, SRT Interior Appearance Group and 295/45ZR20 3-Season Tires. Base Price: $62,995. As Driven: $71,270.
Disclosure: Dodge loaned me this vehicle for a week of driving in return for this writeup. Darn nice of ’em, I say.