In September, we compared the hottest assuming SUVs from BMW, Maserati, Mercedes, and Porsche, the champ of which becoming a atom in our 2021 Best Driver’s Car competition. Sadly, the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is accession aloof a few months too backward to bazaar to accept abutting that competition, so we’ll accept to delay addition year or so to apprentice whether it can advance on the fifth-of-five finishing adjustment its Hellcat-powered Jeep accessory accomplished in 2018’s Best Driver’s Car SUV play-in. The three-row Durango weighs some 200 pounds added than the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, but it makes a blow added ability and allowances from three years of development and improvements. To advice us abode the new Durango SRT Hellcat aural the pantheon of über-utes, I ventured to Charlotte, North Carolina, to choke several out on the 14-turn alley advance at Carolina Motorsports Park.
2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat
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By affective the ability aiguille up from the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk’s 6,000 rpm to that of the newer Hellcat fitments’ 6,100 rpm, Dodge increases the engine’s ability from 707 to 710 hp. And although the Durango affability lowers aiguille torque to 640 lb-ft from the Jeep’s 645 lb-ft (and the Ram 1500 TRX’s 650), the agent dispatch at which it occurs drops from 4,800 rpm on those applications to 4,300 rpm. Of course, these decimal allotment changes in achievement are absolutely ephemeral from abaft the caster of any of these explosively able vehicles. I best absolutely did feel the 235-hp and 170-lb-ft torque bang about to the artlessly aspirated Durango SRT 392 (475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque) that was on duke for back-to-back drives at CMP. It charge be noted, however, that the 392 generates a added adorable agent agenda than the Hellcat and its supercharger’s whine.
All that torque is baffled through about the aforementioned 8HP95 TorqueFlite eight-speed automated manual acclimated by all the Hellcat applications rated to tow. Speaking of which, the Durango is the champ at 8,700 pounds (the TRX tows 8,100; the Trackhawk, 7,200). The Durango employs a single-speed Magna MP3010 all-wheel-drive alteration case that’s carefully accompanying to the Jeep’s MP3015C Quadra-Trac assemblage (the TRX gets a two-speed Borg-Warner four-wheel-drive case). As in the Jeep, the automated drive approach splits torque 40:60 front-to-rear, alteration to 50:50 in Snow mode, 35:65 in Sport, and 30:70 in Track. Towing approach differentiates the Dodge and Jeep, with the above agreeable things 50:50 and the closing dialing up 60:40 (mode settings are actual altered on the off-road-oriented TRX, with the truck’s Baja approach alms a 25:75 split). Suffice to say that alike in Clue approach the Durango Hellcat’s corner-exit anchor beneath abounding burke is so ballsy that drifts are difficult to abet with the accelerator; rather, it takes an brusque lift off the appropriate pedal in aloof the appropriate bend to get the appendage out.
Sharing of genitalia beyond brands is what helps accomplish the business cases pencil out for all these disparate SRT vehicles, so it’s not hasty that abounding of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk’s underpinnings are aggregate with the Durango Hellcat. This includes the SRT-branded Brembo brakes with six-piston calipers and 15.7-inch slotted blended (aluminum “hat”) rotors in advanced and four-piston calipers anchor 13.8-inch rotors at the rear. For 2021, the top Durangos get new copper-free anchor pads that afresh fabricated their FCA admission on the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. SRT engineers affirmation the Durango Hellcat will stop from 60 mph in 114 anxiety (our aftermost Durango SRT 392 bare 110 feet, with the Trackhawk defective aloof 108).
We actually lit our aftermost Grand Cherokee Trackhawk’s brakes on blaze block its antagonism up and bottomward Angeles Crest Highway in 2018, and abundant braking on abrupt grades assuredly burdened the best able (by 132 hp) and about heaviest agent in that test. We begin it “severely under-braked for an article as fast and abundant as it is.” Maybe afresh slowing from triple-digit speeds on the carefully spaced corners of a collapsed clue is artlessly a accomplished lot beneath demanding than announcement bottomward the Crest, or maybe that new copper-free anchor pad actual has convalescent these ills because I was never acquainted of any achromatize and never detected a aroma of anchor smoke in the Durango Hellcat.
The SRT 392 and Hellcat about allotment the three-position Bilstein adaptive damping abeyance acclimated by its animated Grand Cherokee kin. But back our barbarous acknowledgment that “the Trackhawk’s administration achievement is conceivably best attentive declared as ‘sharp as a hammer,'” the SRT assemblage has added centralized backlash springs to the dampers for 2021. This change allows the main-spring ante to appear bottomward hardly to advance the ride frequency. And because these backlash springs advice the shocks absolute anatomy cycle after accretion the anti-roll bar stiffness, annoy acquaintance with the pavement and single-bump head-toss are added in the bargain. Addition baby change for Hellcat duty: The Durango’s high rear damper mounts are stiffened by 18 percent.
Having absent all our contempo BDC SUV play-in contests, I abridgement absolute contextual acquaintance of active the hot-shoe European achievement SUVs in anger, but this Durango Hellcat afflicted me by how thoroughly it conceals its 5,700-pound mass. It manages to jink through alley advance kinks with the cartoonish activity of Mr. Incredible while abutting corners as bound as his son Dash. In 2018, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk’s abridgement of braking ability and bereft body-motion ascendancy prompted Collin Woodard to say: “I ran out of admiration to go faster connected afore I ran out of grip.” By contrast, in this setting, the Durango Hellcat’s anatomy accord and braking ability connected to bolster my aplomb with every lapping session, such that my admiration to go faster never plateaued.
I assuredly apparent aloof how fast the Durango Hellcat can broadcast this clue at the end of the day back I climbed in for a affair with SRT agent dynamics authority Erich Heuschele at the wheel. Understanding the Durango Hellcat’s capabilities as able-bodied as he does, Heuschele larboard his braking until way after in anniversary corner, entering at alike college speeds. We both agreed that activity the g armament this barter is able of breeding aloof never gets old.
On the face of it, the Hellcat’s a agreeable deal, carrying 49 percent added ability and 36 percent added torque (good for a quarter-mile achievement advance of about 13 percent) for abandoned 28 percent added money than the SRT 392 (which starts at $64,490). Then again, the SRT 392 sounds nicer, it’s about 10 to 15 percent added fuel-efficient, and it appealing abundant shares the Hellcat’s suspension, tires, and optionally (for $1,295) its brakes. The SRT 392 I hot-lapped lacked the alternative two-piece advanced rotors, and as such, I never begin the aplomb to dive acutely into turns. Its lighter-duty 8HP70 manual additionally confused beneath firmly, inducing a slight convulse to the agent on anniversary upshift. We’re told the Hellcat is about 1.5 abnormal quicker about a 2.5-mile alley circuit.
Left in its absence Auto drive mode, the Hellcat doesn’t assume abundant added acute than the SRT 392 we afresh compared with an Explorer ST. The ride is absolutely crisper than that of the abiding Durango R/T I chaperoned for a year, authoritative occupants added acquainted of alley apparent irregularities. Of course, this is amplified in Sport mode. The Hellcat’s bankrupt agenda gets a little abhorrent back canoeing in any accessory at agent speeds about 1,500 rpm, and drivers charge adapt their accelerator ankle, as abstinent dispatch from a stop in a about-face can abet acceptable annoy blemish to draw attention. Ever the accommodating accomplice, the Durango Hellcat’s manual will instantly about-face to its Sport algorithm alike in Auto approach if the disciplinarian aback makes adventurous ascendancy inputs.
Interior upgrades for 2021, accent by FCA’s Uconnect 5 arrangement and a bigger 10.1-inch touchscreen, accomplish this a abundant nicer circadian driver. A new, added accumbent birr architecture shares added of a ancestors affinity with those of the Dodge Charger and Challenger while still attention the bendable and sewn abstracts we accepted in accomplished Durangos. The 200-mph speedometer with its 180-degree ambit is laughably cacographic (you’ll be ecology the agenda dispatch readout up to its 180-mph claimed top speed), and the wireless charging tray needs abundant taller angry to accumulate a buzz corralled alike during abstinent acceleration, braking, or cornering.
How would the 5,700-pound, 710-hp, $82,490 Durango SRT Hellcat accept fared adjoin our contempo allegory test’s acreage of hot utes, which averaged 5,180 pounds, 571 hp, and $132,000? I apperceive bigger than to brainstorm annihilation this big could bear an all-embracing bigger active acquaintance than the agile Antagonism versions of the BMW X3 M and X6 M we tested, let abandoned the Cayenne Turbo Coupe. But I’ll bet it’d accept muscled advanced of the crumbling Maserati Levante and the analgesic Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S. Let’s aloof achievement that by the time we date our abutting BDC play-in for SUVs, the Durango Hellcat will still be in production. This accurate agent and vehicle-class fitment faces evaporative emissions adjustment troubles that will absolute it to a distinct archetypal year. Get one while it lasts.