We’re gathered along with other members of the media at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to drive a trio of new vehicles from Dodge’s performance arm. Alongside a pair of SRT Challengers – the Demon and the Hellcat Widebody – the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT towers over the coupes, and is surprisingly menacing to behold. Its proportions may be relatively simple, but its hood scoop, air vents, and aero features let us know that this car is built for performance.
Our first stint in the Durango SRT takes place on the infield road course at Indy. We had just gotten out of the Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody, driving the same circuit, and we expected the Durango to seem tame by comparison. We were mistaken, mostly.
The Durango SRT’s seating position feels very upright, particularly due to a helmet that kept us from settling into the headrest. Still, we make ourselves comfortable, able to adjust the steering wheel right where we want it. Everything is in Track Mode – transmission, AWD, suspension, and steering – except for stability control, which is still set to Street.
Taking off from behind Indy’s famous bricks, throttle tip-in is quick, and the Durango SRT springs to life. The Durango feels fast under wide-open throttle in a straight line, which is impressive consider we had just gotten out of a louder, faster coupe. Dodge claims a 0-60 time of just 4.4 seconds, and it’s that kind of acceleration that makes us agree with Dodge’s boastful claim that the Durango SRT is a “three-row Charger.”
If you need a vehicle to check three seemingly disparate boxes, the Dodge Durango SRT makes a lot of sense. A third row and solid towing capability can be found in lots of competing vehicles. But if you need that car to be really entertaining when you’re not hauling your kids and boat somewhere – and a second vehicle is out of the question – the Durango SRT is a prime candidate. It’s capable of carrying you and five passengers when you need it, but after you drop the kids off at school you can take the long way to work and wring out the V8 to get your blood pumping. (Your kids will likely also enjoy being thrown back in their seats with the easy-to-use and impressively smooth launch control feature.)
Then, there’s the added benefit of the price. The Durango SRT starts at $64,090. That’s not chump change, but in the small microcosm of the performance SUV, it’s a bargain. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT costs $3,900 more than the Durango. The two utes share the same 6.4-liter V8, but the Durango SRT brings with it an extra seat, 16 extra cubic feet of storage space, and an extra 1,500 pounds of towing capacity. The Jeep brand may carry a premium in the minds of a lot of buyers, but practicality favors the Dodge.
As an added bonus, buyers of the Durango SRT – just as with the Grand Cherokee SRT – get a free day at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. It’ll come in handy if you get the chance to take your ute to the track, which you definitely should. We certainly enjoyed it.