The lure of a supercar is that even sitting still it looks fast and sexy. Then there are the more pedestrian vehicles that look like they’re parked even when they’re zipping down the highway. The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat I was loaned by Dodge lands somewhere in the middle: In fact, it’s the Clark Kent of cars. From the outside, it’s a rather mild-mannered SUV with very little exceptional about its design, but under the hood is a monster of an engine, a 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat V8 with a ridiculous 710 horsepower through a quick-shift 8-speed automatic transmission.
Honestly, though, looking at this vehicle, would you imagine it has a 710hp engine?
As I’ve raced, err, driven this SUV around Colorado, I’ve kept trying to understand the target audience. It’s someone who wants the convenience of a sports utility vehicle with three rows of seats while still offering a classic American muscle car driving experience. With a $93k price tag. I will say that it’s a fantastic drive experience, the SRT Hellcat offers so much flexibility on shift points, launch mode and a bewildering variety of additional features, options, and settings.
Heck, there’s an Eco mode too, though as I’ll discuss in a bit, the fuel efficiency is definitely not efficient even in this “green eco mode”:
You can see from this expansive 10.1-inch Uconnect 5.0 infotainment screen above, there’s wireless Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto), along with all the other features modern drivers expect. Like SUVs that never go offroad, it’s hard not to suspect that SRT Hellcat owners never go to “Track” mode and use features like “Launch Mode” a few times when first purchased, then never again. This isn’t to say that it’s not worth including, because it really is quite fun to jam from a stop and leave everyone in the dust!
While we’re inside the vehicle, let’s have a look at the overall dashboard and driver cockpit layout:
The SRT medallion is definitely front-and-center. SRT stands for Street and Racing Technology, if you’re curious. The black and “demonic red” interior is striking and very stylish, as you can see. Also notice the classic shifter in the center console, which makes it really easy to change gears. But then again, it’s an automatic, so once you move into drive, do you ever need to change it again? If you are, you can use the paddle shifters to get more of that racing experience than letting the 8-speed automatic step through its gears.
Either way, one of the best aspects of the Hellcat is the sound of the engine. Even starting it produces a deep, throaty rumble and even as you slowly and safely drive through a suburban neighborhood, you’ll definitely be turning heads.
While the Durango SRT Hellcat has a lot of great safety features, including front collision warning system, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection and more, it also features the same confusing dual cruise control that I found puzzling with the Chrysler Pacifica earlier [read my review of the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica LTD AWD to see what I mean]. You can see it here:
The button in the middle of the square on the right is the non-adaptive cruise control, while the button on the lower left is the adaptive cruise control. Both are controlled with the SET+ and SET- buttons, but pick the wrong one and your vehicle will get really, really close to the car in front of you before you realize you choose the non-adaptive option. So why have both?
On the flip side, check out the stunning main gauge layout on the dash:
The red accents on the dash coupled really well with the red and black interior, making a bold and exciting interior that’s completely hidden by the Durango’s exterior design. Notice that the half-circle speedometer on the left goes up to 200mph. I have no doubt that if it can’t peg 200mph it can sure come close with that monster Hellcat under the hood.
And so there’s the fuel efficiency. People don’t buy an SRT Hellcat vehicle for fuel efficiency, but it was still rather surprising to find that even with a stint driving in “Eco” mode the best I could achieve was 12.4mpg. By comparison, a U.S. Army Humvee with full armor gets 10-14mpg. It’s worth noting that the non-SRT Dodge Durango averages 19mpg/26mpg meaning drivers probably see 25mpg or so. That’s double the SRT Hellcat. But do owners car? Of course not. The Durango SRT is all about that roar when the vehicle starts and about that push-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration from a stop. Just be aware that if this is going to be your car of choice for road trips, you’ll be spending a lot of money at the pump en route.
It does have a lot of room, though, if you have little ones and need the cargo space, as is obvious from this shot from the back cargo space:
And then this photo from behind the vehicle, with a few seats folded down to really highlight the storage capacity:
Notice that while you can fold down the middle row captain’s chairs in this configuration, they don’t sink into the floor like a Pacifica or other minivan, so to some extent, it’s more about allowing people to easily access the third row than to create a big area for larger cargo like a bicycle. Then again, the Durango I drove had quite a tow package, so maybe you’d just toss the bikes into the trailer? The new-for-2021 Tow N Go Package features an impressive 8,700 pound towing capacity. You could even tow a trailer full of racing motorcycles or a classic Harley Cruiser with plenty of power to make it up even the steepest hills.
Closing the hatch, we’re back to the mild-mannered Durango design:
If Clark Kent can turn into Superman at the closest phone booth, it’s only fair that this Durango can turn into a Hellcat with the click of a button or push of a pedal. Then again, savvy car enthusiasts will recognize the medallion on the back:
In fact, I had just that happen when someone honked at me at a red light. I rolled down my window and he laughed and said “Is that the hellcat?” When I said yes, he grinned and honked again as I rumbled away from the stop.
All great fun but… for a vehicle designed for a family and sporting a third-row seat, the legroom for passengers was surprisingly mediocre. Yes, I’m a tall driver, but would you want to sit in this back seat for a few hundred mile road trip?
You would at least have the distraction of your own entertainment screen, offering a nice way to enjoy a Blu-Ray movie or whatever other source the passenger plugged into the ports on the side of the seat. And where’s that Blu-Ray player? Tucked neatly into the front armrest:
With the magic of backward compatibility, this will also play regular DVDs too, in case your family kid film library is more focused on cost than resolution. Those 9″ screens are definitely a big improvement over having your kids stare at tiny phone screens, and with both HDMI and Component Video input, the flexibility’s there to plug in a Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Xbox S, or even a Sony PlayStation-5 as needed. If you’re not careful, you could end up with your front passenger in the back enjoying this on the next long haul drive!
And so, let’s talk about the price tag. The 2021 Dodge Durango non-SRT has a base MSRP of $32,570 without any fancy features, options or upgrades. The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, by comparison, starts with a base price of $80,995 and once you add the $1595 leather seats, $2395 tech group package, $1995 rear Blu-Ray player, $2495 premium interior, and $1085 Harmon Kardon Amped Speaker system with 825-watt amplifier, the vehicle as driven sported a heft price tag of $93,240.
Is it worth $90k? If you’re a driver who has to get an SUV for business or personal reasons but is loathe to give up your muscle car and a top-notch drive experience, yes, it might well be. The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is really fun to drive and it’s impossible not to punch it at every stop sign, every red light, every crosswalk. I had a blast driving this and the fact that it’s so humble on the outside but striking and luxurious on the inside was part of the fun. Unlike a Challenger, people really don’t have a clue that the SUV next to them has plenty of power to spare and a drive system ready to utilize it.
Disclosure: Dodge loaned me the Durango SRT Hellcat for a week to drive and enjoy, and enjoy it I did. Thanks, Dodge!