“Performance” SUVs are not a new concept, but FCA’s Dodge brand opens a new niche-within-a-niche with the unveiling of the 2018 Durango SRT at the 2017 Chicago auto show, calling it “the fastest SUV in its class.”
Dodge officials didn’t directly say just who’s asking for a grocery-getter SUV with 475 hp and 470 lb·ft (637 N·m) from a 6.4-liter (or, more historically relevant, 392-cu. in) V8 that enables cutting a 12.9-s quarter mile time, but the Durango SRT will be in showrooms for that buyer starting in the fourth quarter. Some of the work of adapting the 6.4-liter Hemi for the Durango already was done: it is the same iron-block, pushrod V8 with a 10.9:1 compression ratio that appears in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, which shares its architecture with the Durango.
The 2018 Durango SRT gets its share of special engineering, though: Dodge said the standard 8-speed automatic transmission has specifically-tailored shift points and when driven in Sport mode, shift times are cut by up to 50%. Using Sport mode also commands the all-wheel-drive’s single-speed electronic transfer case to apportion 65% of drive torque to the rear axle; change to Track mode and up to 70% of drive torque can be sent to the rear axle, while transmission shift times are cut to 160 milliseconds.
A new-design T-shift handle couples with steering-wheel paddles to encourage manual sequential gearshifting and the Sport shift mode can be used without any change to suspension, stability-control or drive-split parameters.
Dodge said the Durango SRT’s suspension—a short-long-arm arrangement in front and an independent multilink at the rear—uses specially-tuned adaptive dampers supplied by Bilstein and has 3% stiffer front springs, 16% stiffer rear springs and an 18% stiffer rear anti-sway bar. The entire setup’s reactions are controlled through a seven-position drive mode selector that includes snow, towing and valet settings. Brakes are upgraded at each corner with Brembo six-piston front and four-piston calipers gripping 15-in slotted front rotors and 13.8-in rear slotted rotors.
Riding on the same 119.8-in (3043 mm) wheelbase as conventional Durangos, the SRT has widened bodywork to accompany the go-fast hardware, while a functional cold-air intake and heat extractors serve to reduce intake-air temperatures by up to 18º, Dodge claims. Apart from the obvious exterior differentiation from standard-issue Durangos, the SRT model also includes special AWD badging and even “392” badges to pay homage to the engine’s displacement.
Pricing for the Durango SRT was not detailed, but in keeping with the SRT unit’s practice, all buyers of the Durango SRT are entitled to a one-day performance-driving course at the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving in Chandler, AZ.