First Drive Review: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat begs for a new platform to handle power

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is a new addition to the lineup.

This generation of the Dodge Durango has been around a while – it was first introduced in 2011. Though it’s been refreshed a few times along the way, it’s nowhere close to novel. Instead of a complete redesign, we’ve gotten the new 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, an updated stablemate that comes with track-ready equipment, new tech, and a whole heck of a lot of power.

The Durango SRT Hellcat received a cold-air scoop, throaty twin-pipe exhaust, LED headlamps, rear spoiler, and different front end as part of its design process. There’s no question the SUV is a Durango and the modifications give it an even more muscular appearance which is fitting for the model.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

The SUV comes with a host of equipment to make it track-ready.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 6.2-liter HEMI V8 that’s under the hood of the Durango SRT Hellcat produces 710 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque. Though it sounds like a lot – and it is – the power is easily controlled. Dodge has made this an SUV that is as comfortable creeping through city traffic as it is with the pedal to the floor getting up to speed on the highway. Shifts are smooth and so is the acceleration, once you ask the vehicle for it.

Steering is calibrated to allow the driver to feel connected to the car and it inspires confidence. The age of Durango begins to show through when it comes to the frame, whether on the road or track. A drive along rural North and South Carolina roads showed the suspension to be reactionary allowing bumps to be passed on to the cabin with seat bouncing a common occurrence, even at moderate speed. On the track, despite the amount of equipment and technology installed on the SUV to help it attack corners with ease, the tech was fighting the vehicle’s architecture the entire time.

When it comes to stopping power, the Durango has plenty. Even when on the track and after repeated laps, the model’s black Brembo six-piston brakes were up to the task.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

The interior of the Durango SRT Hellcat is appointed with premium products but it isn’t elegant.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The interior of the Durango SRT Hellcat is very similar to the others in the company’s lineup. It continues to have comfortable seating and a reasonable amount of storage space. There’s a 10.1-inch centrally located infotainment screen that runs FCA’s fresh Uconnect 5 operating system. It has pleasing and quick graphics, is responsive to touch, and quickly reacts to reroute navigation when required.

Unfortunately, though premium in price, the cabin of the Durango isn’t particularly elegant. Its finery doesn’t measure up to that offered by the Toyota Highlander and refreshed 2021 Nissan Armada. However, the fit and finish is head and shoulders above what was offered in the Dodge Journey, Grand Caravan, and previous iterations of the Durango.

The Durango also stumbles when it comes to safety features and technology compared to its rivals. Though the Durango SRT Hellcat is meant for the track, it’s likely to spend most of its time on the street where active safety technology can play a big role in helping to keep people safe. It doesn’t have the lane keeping and centering, and surround view cameras that its competition offers.

The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat starts at $80,995. It is here that buyers are paying for the sports-centric equipment under the hood and body of the vehicle in addition to the most premium interior features that Dodge offers. That’s a lot of dough.

But there aren’t too many rivals to the Durango SRT Hellcat, let alone any that are cheaper. To get an engaging SUV with similar prowess you’d have to splurge on a super luxury SUV like the Lamborghini Urus, opt for Maserati Levante Trofeo, or Alpina XB7. In that way, the Durango SRT Hellcat is a bargain.

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