2021 Dodge Durango Review

2021 Dodge Durango - For the soccer moms and dads with some attitude.


The Dodge Durango first came to market for 1998 and has seen three generations. The current third generation model first debuted for 2011 and hasn't changed much aesthetically since then.  Dodge has however, continued to keep the Durango relevant by keeping up with the technology updates and offering special versions of it such as the SRT Hellcat model that was added to the lineup for 2021. The Durango is currently Dodge's only available three-row SUV and it tends to wear the "performance" badge in a very full segment of competition. They are built alongside the Jeep Grand Cherokee in Detroit and share some powertrains, chassis parts, and running gear.  Competition is mixed for a vehicle like the Durango as there are no other real "muscle car" type of three row SUVs. The typical three-row mid-size SUV line up consists of vehicles such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer (Explorer ST is performance oriented), Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Kia Telluride, or the Volkswagen Atlas among others. 

There are eight different trim levels available with starting prices ranging from $32,570 up to $80,995. Trim levels include SXT, GT, R/T, Citadel, SRT 392, and SRT Hellcat. Each model offers a slightly different Durango experience, but all of them cater to the driver & passengers with up to three rows of seats and plenty of horsepower. Citadel models are the luxury version with many premium features such as Nappa Leather and platinum chrome accents (starting at $48,420) while the two SRT models cater more to the horsepower, muscle car crowd (starting at $64,570). SRT models include features such as a "smoke show" start-up animation in the digital cluster, unique sporty serpentine font throughout the digital gauges, SRT logos, and performance features like race options, launch control, and shift light features. The SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat are truly built to be three-row muscle cars.

The sharp-eyed followers will notice that Dodge gave 2021 models some updated exterior styling. All Durangos now share a wider upper grille with a slimmer headlight shape. The LED daytime running light signature has also been modified along with a new sculpted hood and rear spoiler. The lower fascia has been restyled with a raised fog light placement (when applicable) giving it an even more aggressive and mean looking front end. Dodge offers a wide range of new wheel options (varying with each trim level) throughout the lineup, most of which are 20-inch in size.  Wheel finishes include a fine silver, satin carbon, machine-faced, and black. Eleven colors are available across the lineup including some very catchy ones such as F8 Green, In-Violet, Octane Red, and Reactor Blue. The overall look of the Durango will vary based on trim level but it's fair to say that regardless of trim, this SUV has a muscle car vibe.

While my F8 Green SRT test model garnered more than a few looks while parked, it was the rumbling HEMI that had the neighbors peering over the fence as I pulled in the driveway after a week of silently driving the Jeep Wrangler 4xe.  Under the hood are four different powertrains that deliver more horsepower than ever across the Durango lineup that all mate to standard eight-speed automatic transmission. SXT, GT, and Citadel models come standard with the 3.6L Pentastar V6 that delivers 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Step up to the R/T trim and the standard powertrain is a 5.7L HEMI V8 with 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, this is also an optional upgrade on Citadel models.  SRT 392 models come with the 392-cubic-inch HEMI V8 the churns 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. And new for 2021, Dodge gave the Durango a 710-horsepower supercharged 6.2L HEMI Hellcat V8... which will likely be the coolest three row SUV in the school pick up lines.

Having driven the SRT 392 I can assure you that it not only looks and sounds the part, but it performs as well. 0-60 time is an impressive 4.4 seconds and it has an NHRA-certified 12.9 second quarter-mile time. Upon starting it up, you have a choice of drive modes including track, sport, auto, snow, tow or a custom mode you can calibrate.  Performance and vehicle specs can be seen in the infotainment system so that you can see what components are active within each drive mode. Track mode will optimize the performance and let an even deeper rumble from the SRT-performance exhaust that was music to my ears.  Track mode will also turn the traction control off so it's wise to keep both hands on the steering wheel and make sure (as a driver) that you can handle the 5,378-pound SUV.

Straight highway driving is blast in this SUV, especially when you can hit the gas off an entrance ramp.  Its heavy weight keeps the Durango grounded, but be wary of cornering or sharp turns as the taller roofline gives it a lot of lean. Dodge has given it larger Brembo brakes so that can it can come to stop smoothly and quickly.  Overall road noise was minimal outside that soft rumble that you'll enjoy hearing. From a standstill, acceleration is impressive and the eight-speed transmission navigates the gears appropriately. Steering-mounted paddle shifters are available if you'd like to control the gears yourself. A driver-oriented electronic T-shifter is in the center stack to that also offers an auto stick selector gate if the paddles aren't your thing. Since Dodge treats this like another muscle car, it comes with a fairly stiff suspension that differs from many class competitors. You may feel more of the road inconsistencies, but you'll be having a good time while you do it. Steering is tighter than other SUVS, but with the weight and size of the Durango, it's not nearly as nimble as a traditional sports car.  Overall, handling can get out of control on a curvy stretch of road so pay close attention to your throttle to maintain control.

Many three-row family haulers pull double duty on the weekends and the Durango leads the class in towing by offering up to 8,700 pounds of towing capacity where most vehicles in the segment only offer 5,000 pounds. SRT models come standard with All Wheel Drive and a low range offers off-road capabilities and trailer towing needs. Durangos come with 8.1-inches of ground clearance which is comparable to a Kia Telluride but less than the 8.6-inches found in a Grand Cherokee. If you're thinking about taking the Durango off-road, note that the SRT 392 had 295/45ZR20 tires which are better suited for the pavement than an off-road trail so you may want to invest in a separate set of all-season or off-road type of tires for those types of adventures.... Or consider a non-SRT version of the Durango.

As you might suspect with any kind of V8, the Durango SRT 392 is a thirsty vehicle. When it arrived with a full 24.6-gallon tank, it offered up 365 miles of range. EPA ratings are 13/19/15 MPG city/highway/combined and after a week of driving, I averaged 15.6 MPG on a mix of suburban roads. Premium fuel is recommended on the SRT models while regular grade is acceptable on other trims.

The interior of the Durango has also been updated for 2021 with a more driver-centric focus. Drivers will face traditional clusters behind the steering wheel with a sporty look that illuminates with red/white gauges. They overall layout is pretty traditional and functional which was a breath of fresh air from some more complicated high-tech digital trends we've seen. Technology has been updated with the all-new Uconnect 5 system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and the available Amazon Alexa integration will allow you to ask Alexa to do things such as start the car, lock/unlock the doors and more via Uconnect. An 8.4-inch touchscreen is standard on SXT and GT models, but a larger 10.1- inch touchscreen is standard on the rest of the Durango lineup. The screen has a slight angle towards the driver and is within arms reach for easy controls.  The touchscreen controls just about everything including vehicle information such as drive modes, drive timers, G-force, and vehicle dynamics on SRT models. The available Harmon Kardon sound system sounds amazing with 19 amped speakers and a subwoofer.

Below the touchscreen are familiar knobs and buttons for climate controls, volume, and tuning. And just below that are toggle switches that have a retro-modern feel to them. The toggle switches include an SRT and Launch Control switch on SRT models and the rest control driver assistance features and the hazard lights.  The center console also features a wireless phone charger, two couple holders, and traditional (and sporty) T-shaped gear selector. The materials are soft to the touch and accent-stitching is featured throughout the Durango lineup. Dodge has also given the Durango a variety of new interior colors and finishes that vary with each trim level. New for 2021 are supernova applique (SXT), apex applique (GT), Vitra Grey interior, apex applique, and forged carbon fiber (R/T), and Ebony Red, crypto sweep laser-etched, gloss black applique on Citadel models. Overall, I was very impressed with how luxurious and sporty the inside felt. The simple layout with sporty accents and updated technology works really well in this one.

Seating configurations vary with the trim level. Three rows of seats are standard on the Citadel and SRT models. My test SRT 392 featured captain's chairs in the second row making access to the third row relatively easy. When the kids sat in the back third row, all were comfortable. As an adult, the third row was average compared to others in this class.  Note that the third row accommodates two passengers and not three like some of the competition (Telluride and Palisade). With such a variety of trim levels, Dodge says there are over 50 different ways to configure a Durango between five, six, or seven passengers. The SRT 392 came with high performance leather/suede seats that were very comfortable and look great inside. An optional high performance laguna leather is also available on the SRT 392 for an additional $1,595.  Also available to tie it all together is a premium suede headliner that you're just going to want to touch every time you get in.  

There is 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seats which is average for the segment. With the third-row folded it offers 43.3 cubic feet and with all seats down, 85.1 cubic feet. The power liftgate and wide opening make load-in and out easy.

Standard safety features on the base models are limited to things such as electronic stability control, LED lighting, hill-start assist, park view back up camera, trailer sway damping, and airbags. Stepping up with each trim level will add more features as there are more than 60 available. Other available driver-assist features include forward collision warning with crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control with stop, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, digital rearview mirror, head-up display, and more.

The Durango SRT 392 was certainly the most fun family hauler I've had the chance to drive to date. There was plenty of room for everyone, access to the third row was easy, and the technology inside was current and easy to use. The 475 horsepower under the hood with that tough sounding exhaust note had me wanting to take the kids everywhere. It's as bad ass to drive as it is to look at, especially the F8 Green one I had with the Mopar dual racing stripes... it certainly turned some heads.

First Impression Summary:

Test Vehicle:
2021 Dodge Durango SRT 392 AWD
Exterior Color: F8 Green
Interior Color: Black High-Performance Leather / Suede
Notable Options: Technology Preferred Package 29L ($2,395), Trailer-Tow Group Iv ($1,195), Premium Interior Group ($2,495), 19 Harmon Kardon Sound ($995), Pirelli P Zero 3-Season tires ($595), and Blind-Spot and Cross-Oath Detection ($495)
MSRP as tested: $72,660

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.