THE HELL YOU SAY!
Durango SRT Hellcat delivers 120 HP per seat
DODGE DURANGO JOINS THE HELLCAT PRIDE
It was easy to get star struck at the cinematic landscape provided by Star Hill Ranch. A stage with old-time western architecture, antique pickup trucks used as a backdrop of patina and the welcomed cliché of a steel windmill towering over the 2020 Texas Truck Rodeo, all of it orchestrated by the Texas Auto Writers Association. The event allows auto journalists to test drive various crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks for 2021. Think speed dating, but with auto manufacturers. And instead of comparing zodiac signs we get to see firsthand what the latest vehicles have to offer on the street and off the road.
It was hard to stand out amongst the line-up of disinfected vehicles, but being the only Octane Red SUV sporting a Hellcat badge helped lasso the eye. FCA brought the new 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat to the Texas Truck Rodeo to give us a taste of the latest vehicle to join the Hellcat pride. This supercharged HEMI-powered 7-passenger SUV did not disappoint, living up to the hype of all Hellcat vehicles as being one heck (hell, we can say ‘hell’ – ed.) of a good drive.
Going down the spec list, the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat uses a 6.2-liter HEMI V8 supercharged to crank out 710 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque. Unleashing hell in the Durango SRT means reaching zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds and goes on to a berserker charge to a top speed of 180mph. The Durango’s fury is sent through an all-wheel-drive system that plays favorites with the rear wheels. On its default auto mode, the power distribution is 40/60, with the latter being sent to the rear. That ratio is increased to 35/65 in Sport Mode and 30/70 in Track Mode. Regardless of which driving mode chosen, the 2021 Durango SRT has enough HEMI muscle to deliver a max towing capacity of 8,700 lbs.
Stepping into the Durango SRT’s bolstered suede leather-wrapped buckets is the first of many reminders that you’re sitting inside the vehicular equivalent of Iggy Pop’s “Neighborhood Threat.” Like the song’s killer guitar intro, the biggest clue that you’re in for a wild ride comes a half-second after pressing the red ignition button. The Hellcat HEMI V8 awakens like a pitbull who just heard an unfamiliar noise in the dark.
With a featherweight foot you wouldn’t expect the 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat is packing 710hp. It rides unexpectedly comfortable for a high-performance SUV, and the Hellcat V8 purrs like a house cat when you’re in the flow of traffic or just going around the block. The other side of the coin is revealed on empty stretches of two-lane blacktop or in the passing lane, when the right foot puts the squeeze on the throttle and kicks the Hellcat into gear. What comes next is as advertised.
The Durango SRT throws you back into your seat as the rear-biased AWD system digs in and lifts the front end just enough for you to grip the wheel tighter and hang on. The supercharger whines like Led Zepplin’s Robert Plant vocal solo in “Whole Lotta Love ” as it sucks in air via its functional hood scoop, while cold air intakes are where the fog lights used to be. The Durango runs through its gears like an auctioneer searching for a final bid, making you shift its paddle shifters quicker like you’re playing a video game.
On the twisty two-lanes of the Texas Hill Country, the Durango’s AWD system and Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires came into play. The Durango is still a sizable third row SUV, and there is no escaping its weight. But like Jeep’s Trackhawk, it’s engineered to handle its weight like a WWE pro wrestler. Easing off the throttle before entering the turn and powering out while exiting gives you a real feel for the Durango SRT’s potential if it had a track day or a chance to shine on an autocross circuit. It’s a vehicle that wants to prove it can do more than run a quarter-mile in 11.5 seconds.
The 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat features Launch Control with Launch Assist to make the most of its 645 lb-ft of torque when the light flashes green. Stopping power comes in the form of a set of six-piston Brembo disc brakes in the front and four-piston discs in the rear—the brake rotors in the front measure nearly 16-inches and 13.75-inches at the rear wheels. With pizza-sized brakes, the Durango has no problem shutting the gate on the Hellcat before it has a chance to get away from you.
FACTORY HOT ROD LOOKS
Ever since Dodge dressed the 2015 Charger to look like a Stormtrooper from Star Wars, I have never been able to un-see that in the Dodge Durango’s face. (Whether that is a good or bad thing I’ll leave to you.) The 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat looks like a supercharged Hemi with a wide-body, flared wheel arches, and a bulbous hood that can be admired from the driver seat. When it comes to attitude, the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat’s fascia has it in spades.
SRT PERFORMANCE INTERIOR
Being a top tier model, the Durango SRT Hellcat features FCA’s Uconnect infotainment on a 10.1 touchscreen. The seats are draped in suede, and the second row features captain’s chairs with an entertainment package that includes dual HDMI Blu-Ray screens. These media screens may require the driver to shout in order to warn rear passengers when the mood strikes and he/she decides to live out a Hunter S. Thompson quote: “It will take him a moment to realize that he’s about to make a 180-degree turn at speed, but you will be ready for it. Brace for the g’s!“
THE HELLCAT LIFESTYLE
Looking in the rearview mirror at two rows of seats with the sound of supercharged Hemi in the background made me think of the lifestyle the engineers were envisioning when they built this vehicle. This is a 710hp SUV with a starting price of $80,995, and when you say that out loud, it’s tough to sound sensible when trying to justify it as a family cruiser. Sixty years ago, the Dodge Durango Hellcat would have been a station wagon with a 426 Hemi, muffler-delete, and four-on-the-floor shifter.
With its towing capacity, this sort of vehicle makes me think that it belongs to someone involved in motorsport. I can imagine the SRT Durango parked in front of a garage, home to a machine that runs on methanol or sports a canister of nitrous oxide and at least one Jet-Ski. The SRT Durango’s character speaks of a lifestyle that likes adrenaline but understands that bills need to be paid – somehow.
That work hard, play harder mentality sums up the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat. People can pile into it, attach a tow hitch, and produce smiles just by goosing the throttle while driving to a weekend adventure…or the everyday grind.