2018 Dodge Durango Review

2018 Dodge Durango - Dodge sprinkles SRT dust upon Durango


 Running late for soccer practice?  Dodge introduces the speediest means to make up for lost time with a gaggle of kids and all their gear in tow.

The quickest solution: an all-new 2018 Durango SRT; a performance variant of Dodge's three-row, full-size crossover.

The SRT (Street and Racing Technology) moniker denotes the ultimate performance offerings at Dodge and select other Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) products.

The folks at FCA unleashed the ultra-powerful Durango SRT at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show, with purchasable variants reaching dealers at the tail end of 2017. Dodge denotes Durango SRT as, 'The most powerful three row SUV/crossover in its class.'

Dodge introduced the full-size three-row Durango in 1998 with a second-generation effort coming aboard in 2004. The first two generations incorporated body-on-frame, truck-like underpinnings, significantly different than the third-generation effort arriving in 2010.  A unibody construction took hold then, sending Durango into a new orbit with a more car-like ride experience.

Our current SRT tester is based off the Gen Three experience, but remains surprisingly relevant, with major updates (including a revised interior and eight-speed automatic transmission) added along during the past eight years. Other non-SRT Durango trims include SXT, GT, R/T and Citadel.

Durango SRT comes as a six-seater with a pair of second-row captain's chairs standard, the only trim with this middle row configuration. Other Durango trims offer a seven-seat option with a bench-like middle row.

Three engines are available across the Durango 2018 spectrum.  A returning 3.6-liter V-6 delivers 293 horses while a familiar 5.7-liter V-8 cranks out 360 horses.  New for 2018 and available solely in SRT: a heart-pumping 6.4-liter V-8 offering 475 horsepower. Sporty two-door Dodge Challenger SRT sedans and four-door Charger SRT coupes boast this same thrill-seeking motivation, conveniently utilizing regular, 87-octane fuel rather than a more expensive premium grade. 

This engine promises a zero-to-60 acceleration time in a scant 4.4 seconds of time with a speedometer reaching 180 miles per hour. The 475 horsepower coupled with 470 lb.-ft. of low-end torque allows for a class-leading towing capacity of 8,700 pounds with optional tow package ($995), a notable accomplishment for a uni-body (car-like) structure. Optional ($595) three-season Pirelli tires emphasize on-road performance, so Durango SRT desires pavement underfoot rather than a half-foot of mud.

Other nuances unique to the Durango SRT: performance-tuned steering along with adaptive damping suspension.  Also onboard, Quadra-Trac, on-demand four-wheel drive with an electronic limited-slip rear differential and single speed active transfer case.  Basically, this system selects optimal four-wheel distribution, with little driver input or worries.

As an extra high-octane incentive, all purchasers of 2018 SRTs receive one full-day session at the highly-regarded Bob Bondurant School of high-performance Driving. The only caveat being one must plan their own itinerary to reach the Chandler, Arizona campus.

The contoured SRT's hood differs from plebian Durango counterparts thanks to a trio of engine cooling ebony air vents. An 18-inch wide and narrow nose-like cold air inlet gets flanked by a pair of flat, leaf-shaped, honeycomb-filled heat extractors. The SRT front grille is also honeycomb heavy.  At the other end dual exhausts create a throaty note and audible idle rumble. Larger-sized 20-inch wheels include a multi-spoke hub center with SRT-specific, bright-red Brembo-branded disc rotor housing with six grab calipers up front and four rear.

Pricing for the all-new 2018 Durango SRT checks in at $62,995. With a $1,095 destination charge and a large assortment of stand-alone and package options, the bottom line ended at $75,550.

A notable and recommended package includes the $2,495 technology group with blind spot and cross-path alerts (welcome in a full-size crossover) and adaptive cruise control, automatically slowing and speeding Durango when on the highway based on radar detection of the vehicle ahead.  Others like the $1,995 rear DVD package with Blu-Ray flip-up screens built into headrests and SRT interior appearance package ($1,500) are worth considering if budgets allow.

The $62,000 starting price includes a number of luxury-type nuances standard including heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats (leather and microsuede resides as the upholstery of choice), heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and eight-way power settings for both front captain's chairs.

Third-row accessibility and comfort receive increased scrutiny in today's three-row crossovers and Durango delivers exceptionally well. 

Second-row captain chair backs easily folded flat, with the entire unit manually tumbling forward with the gentle yank of a highly visible red strap, opening up a generous aisle to the two-seat third row.  Dedicated third-row circular ceiling vents keep occupants cool while head room, often problematic, is plentiful for six-foot two-inch frames.  Durango's relatively flat roof design pays off inside. Adequate leg room allows two averaged-size adults to actually enjoy the ride.

Row two occupants enjoy three ceiling bound, thick, tactile ventilation dials to better monitor their own zone.

The SRT's standard power-operated rear hatch opens bottom up with the key fob, a touch of an electronic touch plate under the hatch window or an interior button near the rear-view mirror.  A left side-panel button also powers the door down. Head clearance is not as generous as other recently tested crossovers.  Those with six-feet or more of verticality may have to duck slightly to avoid knocking the noggin. The 50/50-split rear third-row seats manually fold forward and then pull back up with the assist of simple, old-school strap.

The stubby T-Bar electronic shifter, located between front buckets, shifts forward and back.  Illuminating PRNDM indicators atop help visualize the current gear setting. The M setting allows for manual shifting of forward gears sans a foot clutch contributing to the driving thrill.

The good-sized 8.4-inch in-dash color screen works in tandem with extra-large, tactile ventilation and audio controls below.  Along the bottom of the bright screen, well-marked icons with accompanying words, help speed decision making.  The system incorporates the latest edition of FCA's UConnect software including Apple Car Play and Android Auto, allowing Smartphone interaction through the color touchscreen.

Another user-friendly technology aide borrowed from FCA family vehicles; secondary volume and station preset tactile tabs mounted on the steering wheel's back side, allowing finger tips to do searches while in a natural drive-ready grip.

Technically speaking, Durango introduces yet another new trim in 2018. Taking another page out of the Dodge Charger playbook, Durango now offers a "Pursuit" variant, a specialized tactile and technology version marketed specifically for law enforcement agencies. The Pursuit Durango comes standard with all-wheel drive and the choice of a six-cylinder or V-8 engine (although not the SRT V-8 as of yet).  Also standard, flashing 'Mars' lights and audio piercing  alerts warning licensed drivers that law enforcement lurks nearby. 

2018 Dodge Durango

Price as tested: $75,550

Wheelbase: 119.8 inches

Length:   201.2 inches

Width: 75.8 inches

Height:  70.9 inches

Engine: 6.2-liter V-8

Horsepower: 475

Powertrain warranty:  Five years/60,000-mile

City/Highway economy:  13 mpg/ 19mpg

Built: Detroit, Michigan

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.