For over a decade, Dodge has been building this three-row version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee with steady, if unspectacular sales achieved (Dodge sold over 67,000 versions last year, more than all of Porsche). Spacious inside, very comfortable to use and access, and quieter than several rivals, the third generation of the Durango delivers balanced road manners and all-season performance at levels above other brand’s compromised offerings.

Add an excellent 8-speed automatic used in all models, plus the uncompromising efficiency of the 8.4-inch U-Connect screen and system, and Dodge has many winning points in a product that utilizes all of the established chassis and construction benefits of the Grand Cherokee—with more cargo and passenger space inside. Owner loyalty levels are high, with many buyers repeating the process when it is time to buy new again.

So, how do you keep Durango fans interested, even as the platform ages very gracefully? As we have seen with numerous Dodge products of late, you opt for a high-performance package, something really zesty, extra spicy, and extra powerful.

The majority of Durango buyers will find motoring bliss with the base 3.6-liter, 295-hp V-6 engine. Drivers wishing for a bit more verve, or the momentum provided by a V-8 engine, can check the box for the 5.7-liter, 360-hp Hemi engine.

But buyers looking for that hair-on-fire option, for the driver who needs to be a bit more extroverted and needs to tickle the nerve-endings at the base of the spine with a bit more frequency than 99% of other drivers, there is a Durango option to satisfy these needs—the Durango SRT.

Unlike the Grand Cherokee SRT, which uses the Hellcat’s supercharged Hemi engine for 707-hp, the current Durango SRT borrows the naturally-aspirated 6.4-liter Hemi from the Ram 2500-series to produce 475-hp and 475-pound/feet of four-wheel drive, tire-smoking torque. Add an expressive, burbling exhaust note, with ripping high-rpm shifts, wide 20-inch wheels with Scorpion Zero rubber, hood intakes and cooling vents, Brembo brake calipers, plus the thickest steering wheel rim recently sampled, and, well,  this six-passenger wagon becomes much more than a commuter car.

In early July, Dodge announced that the 2021 version of the Durango SRT will be available with a 710-hp Hellcat supercharged Hemi. Hide the children.

With mental images of football possibly returning, thoughts detoured to which player would best represent the Durango SRT and the in-escapable conclusion became James Devlin, the all-star fullback for the New England Patriots. Like Devlin, the Durango SRT is muscular, tough, brutish even, and ready to do the gritty, dirty work necessary for success of the team. The full-time four-wheel drive handles every season’s elements, just like in a meaning-full late season game, while the Durango can also tow more than rivals, which Devlin’s absence proved last year as the Patriot’s un-fulfilled goals were realized. Well-rounded, comfortable in its role, and explosive when requested, or necessary, Devlin should be driving a Durango SRT as they mirror each other.

Just like in GT, R/T, and SXT Durango trims (base models start at $30,195), the SRT model provides excellent seat support—heated and cooled suede and leather here, while front and rear parking assist, rear DVD entertainment, plus a host of other options pushed the SRT price from $59,000 to a cool $76,000—right up there close to a Grand Cherokee SRT. Without any doubt, Dodge and Jeep are making nice money on these offerings, as buyers seek niche products like the SRT to practice responsible driving chores for the majority of life, while flirting with exciting driving to make the daily grind more bearable.

A full-day in the saddle pushing east out Route 9, the Airline Road, to Calais allowed the Durango SRT to stretch its legs. With remnants of the old, twisting, rolling Airline being slowly reclaimed by time and nature, and with giant wind towers filling the windshield at the end of the Whalesback esker, the new road has become the de facto East/West highway so badly needed for Canadian commerce as well as Maine’s economy. The current sections of Route 9 are wide-open—and capable of supporting fast travel.

As with all driving requests, the SRT shined—just more so here. The ride is plush, but nuanced enough to handle the vulgarities of Maine’s tortured surfaces. The Durango also handles curves that often embarrass several rivals, producing amazing grip, while the cabin supports life on the road with a grace that fans appreciate. The Durango SRT likes to run, hard, with a cabin that coddles occupants.

The market is gearing towards more innovative SUV’s in the years ahead, more expressive offerings that consumers will embrace as they seek to define their driving personality. Some will be electric-powered, most will not. Let’s hope there remains space for vehicles like the Durango SRT.


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