Performance SUVs and crossovers from non-luxury brands are still in a nascent stage of development. Models like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW X5 M and others are on subsequent generations of their high-performance high-riding machines. Meanwhile, the 2019 Dodge Durango SRT is still refreshingly new. It’s also about as American as it gets. Dodge shoehorned in the 6.4-liter V8 and gave it an exhaust system that screams ‘Murica at anyone who strays too close. It makes a glorious 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, completing the sprint to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. An eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels, which means you have traction — something the Challengers and Chargers with this engine could use a bit more of.
Despite the Dodge being far cheaper than other big, high performance luxury SUVs out there, it still isn’t cheap. The SRT has a base price of $64,490. Ours stickers for a much higher $78,235. Unsurprisingly, Dodge makes you pay the big bucks for most of the luxury features and customization options. A $2,395 Technology Group adds adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and forward collision avoidance systems. Fancy interior materials like a suede headliner, nicer materials on the instrument panel and carbon fiber inserts can be had in a $2,495 package. The stripes are $1,295, and the 20-inch wheels cost $995. To get the second row console with an armrest and storage, you’ll have to pay an extra $595. A $78,235 Durango might sound like a completely egregious amount of money, but it’s still far below what you’ll pay for a BMW X7 or Mercedes-Benz GLS that goes just as fast. It’s no muscle SUV for the people, but it is a muscle SUV for more people than could afford one previously.
Assistant Editor Zac Palmer: An American SUV with a giant V8 feels like a superior descendant of muscle cars than most other “muscle cars” on sale today. Both the Mustang and Camaro slant toward the sports car side of things, leaving FCA to carry on the muscle car tradition. And man, Dodge carries it on well.
FCA could slot its 6.4-liter V8 into nearly anything and I’d love it, so it was no surprise that I enjoyed it thrashing it about in this behemoth of an SUV. Traction off the line was one major benefit in the Durango over the Charger and Challenger. Matt the throttle and it just leaps forward, similar to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Squirming about with glee is great fun in the rear-wheel drive Dodges, but being able to translate all that power into forward momentum with all-wheel drive is also a riot. Each shift of the ZF eight-speed is like a small firecracker going off with nary a break in forward thrust. It doesn’t feel as brutally quick as a Challenger or Charger Scat Pack, but it’s mighty fast for the size of vehicle. All the Germans are allowed to have hilariously quick SUVs, and there’s no reason why America shouldn’t have them, too. Just like muscle cars of old, putting big engines in cars that aren’t necessarily supposed to have them is a wonderful idea.
Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: Besides a great-sounding and powerful engine, the Durango SRT is a great highway cruiser. I spent a few hours on the interstate to drop off my dog with my parents, and I was supremely comfy. The front seats are like big cushy living room recliners. There's plenty of support for your thighs, and the seats are so big, its easy to shift around until you find the most comfortable spot. The ride is good, too, soaking up bumps but not feeling floaty. There isn't much road or wind noise. There is a low burble that works its way in from the exhaust, but it's not bothersome.
One slightly frustrating thing about the Durango we had, though, was the addition of a second-row center console. While it might be nice for human passengers, it sits high enough that my dog didn't fit comfortably back there. She likes to have space to lie down. As a result, I ended up creating a little extended platform in front of one of the seats with some blankets so she had a comfortable spot for the ride. So if you're carrying medium to large dogs on a semi-regular basis, you might want to skip that console option.
Associate Producer Alex Malburg: Walking up to Zac, I asked, "What will be the coolest car in our fleet the week after my wedding?" By some perfect timing, we were getting a Dodge Durango SRT, which was described as "the most American thing" by my friends visiting from Germany. They were not wrong. I'm 6-foot-4, so this might be the most comfortable muscle car I've ever driven. I never had an issue with the headroom or legroom, and the seats were firm and supportive without feeling like a rock. The interior easily won me over with black and red accents on just about everything. I could see myself owning one of these — that is, if my wallet could ever produce $78,000.
When anyone asks what the Dodge Durango SRT is, I casually explain that it's an SUV but feels like driving a lifted Challenger. This three-row beast with all of our luggage in the back handled surprisingly well on the curvy back roads of Traverse City. With Sport mode engaged, the steering, suspension, and exhaust was just right. Speaking of the exhaust, we made a point to keep the music off the first 30 minutes of our road trip. The pipes were the perfect rumbling soundtrack.