Dodge Durango SRT moves families fast

GERRY MILES/Staff PhotoWith three rows of seats and all-wheel drive, the 2020 Dodge Durango SRT fulfills all the requirements of a family transporter, while fulfilling anybody’s boy racer need for speed.

When you see the letters SRT attached to a Dodge vehicle, prepare for speed. The letters stand for Street and Racing Technology, a program within Dodge that outfits selected models for exhilarating driving. The current Challenger SRT, Charger SRT, and Durango SRT have high-output engines, modifications of their steering, suspension and braking to handle speeds that may get extreme, and upgrades in appearance to advertise that the model has an aggressive temperament.

The Challenger is a slinky, low-rolling two-door coupe with the throw-back appearance of a muscle car from the 1960s or ‘70s. The Challenger SRT Hellcat version carries an enormous V8 engine that puts out 717 horsepower, well over twice the power provided by the motor in a standard Challenger without the SRT label.

The Dodge Charger is a four-door sedan with a wide stance and a curvaceous profile. The V6 engine in a standard-version Charger produces 300 horsepower. In the Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody, a big V8 delivers 135 percent more power. It propels Charger’s SRT variation to a top speed of 196 miles per hour.

The Dodge Durango ... wait a minute. The Durango? It’s a family-sized sport-utility wagon that can carry seven riders in its three rows of seats, which is pretty much a child’s entire soccer team. Why make an SRT version of Durango?

“Dad drives it. It’s his car,” explained Kevin Bihl, manager of the business development center for Bill DeLuca Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Haverhill. “When he needs to pick up three kids at soccer, he has room for them. But, he can still have his thrills when he’s zipping around alone.”

The Dodge Durango SRT certainly delivers thrills. Ordinary Durango variations use a 3.6-liter V6 engine with a very adequate 293 horsepower. By contrast, the 6.4-liter V8 in Durango SRT produces 475 horsepower. The SRT also includes big, fast-stopping Brembo-brand brakes, steering specially tuned for quick reflexes, a suspension configured to hold tight around the turns and adapt automatically to driving conditions, and all-wheel drive tuned to enhance road grip during quick maneuvers.

The hood of the Durango SRT has a big center air intake flanked by two recessed heat vents. The model’s grille is a black mesh that suggests a serious mood. Seriousness also describes its boldly shaped nose surfaces, which are colored the same as the SRT’s body to make the model look like a menacing monolith. Its exhaust is tuned to rumble and roar.

Special treatments inside the Durango SRT include seats upholstered in perforated suede and leather-like Nappa, outlined with silver accent stitching – with heated and ventilated front seats and heated second-row captain chairs. The SRT has lush, black velour floor mats, leather wrapped arm rest and center console, and suede wrapping the ceiling. Conspicuous “SRT” logos are embroidered on the seats and floor mats.

Of course, the elevated appearance and the go-fast features of the Durango SRT come at a cost. An ordinary 2020 Durango starts at a list price of $31,840. The SRT variation more than doubles that, with a 2020 Dodge Durango SRT listing at $64,640.

Like the Challenger and Charger SRT variants, the Durango SRT isn’t meant to appeal to hordes of people.

“They’re going after a niche customer who wants a high performance car,” said Kevin Bihl of DeLuca Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. “Your average person doesn’t want it. We have some customers who have the money and who want a third car – more often than not it’s a third car.”

Thus a Dodge SRT model, whether it’s a version of the Challenger, Charger or Durango, typically is an extra family vehicle that serves as a plaything capable of extreme speed.

“The people who buy them, love them. They’re not sacrificing any amenities. They can deck it out with navigation and a moon roof and nice speakers, and still have a street-legal race car,” said Bihl.

The Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership is part of the DeLuca family of Merrimack Valley dealerships. The group also includes Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC in Haverhill, and Woodworth Chevrolet and Woodworth Cadillac in Andover.

Although the Durango is a spacious family hauler that can meet a soccer mom’s needs, buyers of the SRT variation are primarily men, Bihl explained.

“This is dad’s car. He wants something that looks sharp and has the performance,” said the manager. “If he’s on the highway doing 80 and he wants to pass someone who’s doing 90, he can downshift and crank right past them. They’ll say, ‘what was that?’”

My speeds didn’t match his examples, but I experienced similar passing prowess while driving the Durango SRT on a two-lane state highway in central Massachusetts. With many climbs, dips, bends and curves, the road presented few opportunities for passing. I was stuck behind a car that really wasn’t moving too slowly – about 45 miles per hour, which was pretty reasonable for the undulating road. Still, the SRT begged for more. When a short passing zone opened, even though an oncoming car approached ahead of us, I kicked the Durango’s accelerator and swung rapidly into the opposing lane. I would never have even considered the maneuver in another car. The Durango SRT dashed past the leading car and tucked back into its travel lane before my passengers grasped what was happening.

Meanwhile, that two-hour trip into central Mass in a racer filled with two adults, two grade-school kids and one teenager highlighted another unique aspect of the Durango SRT: it is a high-capacity passenger hauler.

Speaking of unique, the SRT let me take speed bumps on a university campus in that central Mass locale like a carnival ride that entertained everyone on board. I kept my speed legal. But when only a car length or two from each speed bump, I goosed the gas pedal for an instant surge of speed. The Durango robustly jounced over each bump and the teen rider in back pretended to bounce so high that his head hit the ceiling, delighting the two younger children we rode with.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

Vehicle type: 4-door, 6-passenger, all-wheel-drive full-size high-performance SUV

Starting price: $64,640 (plus options)

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty

Engine: 6.4-liter V8

Power: 475 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 470 lb.-ft. torque at 4,300 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 120 inches

Length: 201 inches

Width: 76 inches

Height: 71 inches

Weight: 5,510 pounds

Fuel capacity: 24.6 gallons

Turning circle: 41.0 ft.

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