Mountain Wheels: Family-friendly drag-racing: the absurd Durango SRT (column) |

Mountain Wheels: Family-friendly drag-racing: the absurd Durango SRT (column)

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels
2018 Dodge Durango SRT

2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392

MSRP: $62,995; As tested: $71,270

Powertrain: 475-HP 6.4-liter V8 with eight-speed manual transmission

EPA figures: 15 combined (13 city/19 highway)

I’ve recently gushed at length about a bunch of speed machines popular among those sneering young men in their oversized, slightly sideways baseball caps. But what about the old guys, or people with families? Don’t they also deserve the right to drive like a bat out of hell?

Dodge, of course, has heard your calling — those of you who want to experience drag strip-styled acceleration, with three rows of passenger space. And cruise with all-wheel drive, making it an unlikely winter contender, as well.

Though the Durango SRT is not yet been gifted with the face-ripping 707- or 800-plus horsepower boost of the company’s Hellcat or Demon engines (you’ll have to go to the obscenely powerful Grand Cherokee Trackhawk to get into that territory), let us say that the Dodge’s 475 horsepower will still impress your friends and neighbors.

Given that the Durango is already a pretty decently sized and solid overall contender, featuring a somewhat subdued interpretation of the Grand Cherokee experience but more room, the decision to tighten up the suspension, add Brembo brakes and throw a monster engine under the hood is not that insane.

Durango SRT receives a 392-cubic-inch (6.4-liter) V8, a massive powerplant that allows the big SUV to do 0-60 times in about 4.4 seconds — at slightly less than Colorado-styled elevation, and with its Track Mode shifting system hitting the sweet spots on the eight-speed transmission, in milliseconds.

The most common complaint (for the first few seconds, at least) among my intrigued but skeptical passengers, was that the pull at a mile high (or more) was not that earth shattering, as terrifically noisy and uber-macho as the Durango might be in looks and presence.

But once we got the SRT above 60, the magic really started to happen, and the pure thrust and overwhelming power changed folks’ minds.

Don’t get me wrong: This is still a fast and furious, full-sized machine, and given the truck’s weight (5,510 pounds) and its overall signature, the difference between the SRT edition and the Durango’s non-superhero engine is quite tangible.

More than just raw speed, the SRT variation — which starts at just under $63,000 and came to me as a $71,270 machine with additional sport-styled, Demonic Red leather seats, lane-keep and blind spot systems, 20-inch low-gloss black wheels and a trailer towing package — really pushes boundaries in terms of looks. And, as you might guess, extremely macho-looking trailer-hauling prowess.

Given that the Durango has been adopted by many law enforcement jurisdictions, anyone who sees the menacing profile of the SRT in their rear-view mirror may be compelled to get out of the way, especially with its air-breathing SRT hood vents.

This of course would be the time to gun the engine and let that burbling roar of exhaust go into full cannon mode. I would advise that on pretty much every outing.

With the trailer package, all that enhanced engine output also means the Durango SRT will haul up to 8,700 pounds of trailer, though your 0-60 times will clearly drop a bit with a boat behind you, en route to Lake Powell.

Settle inside and you’ll probably dig the leathery, oversized ambience — including an absolutely gigantic-gauge steering wheel, oversized shift paddles and aluminum pedals apparently designed for nothing but being fully planted to the floor.

There’s a little extra pizzazz but the SRT is still oddly plain indoors beyond the leather; two captains chairs in the middle and another two third-row seats do enhance the people-hauling properties.

Downsides? It’s about the worst fuel mileage machine on the market — 13 MPG in the city, a rather hopeful 19 on the highway, and maybe 15 overall, depending on how many burnout starts you want to do.

You (or a spouse) may also tire of the vehicle’s high-profile groove and its very noisy character, but if you’re those kind of people, you won’t even get near the Durango SRT at the dealer. Think of it instead as a high-output Challenger or Charger that’s family friendly and has some winter chops, provided you get some very large, winter-appropriate tires to swap out with the 295/45ZR20 Pirelli Scorpion Verde race tires or marginally three-season P-Zero tires that come as standard issue.

Those tires are so giant they stick out of the wheel wells and off the chassis, and the width means you can get a little sucked into rutted out pavement, so be vigilant.

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