Proffit at The Wheel: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Four days are definitely not enough time to comprehend, enjoy and savor the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat SUV with all-wheel-drive. But we take what we’ve got, make the most of it and hope, at some other time, the chance will arrive to fully partake of the joys of driving this vehicle.

The occasion was the 2021 Dodge//SRT NHRA Mile-High Nationals held as ever at Bandimere Speedway, located at the base of the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. Stellantis, the new name for what was once known as FiatChrysler, was kind enough to loan this machine for review purposes. We took possession of the billet gray on black/demonic red leather-equipped machine at Denver’s airport and headed to Monument to visit friends before racing began.

It was fortunate that said friends were equipped with a nice stepladder as, when it was time to take pictures of what’s under the hood, well, this writer was too short to both see and shoot the 6.2L OHV pushrod HEMI V8 equipped with intercooled supercharger, one that sports a conventional iron block, aluminum heads and port injection. Still, it produces a massive 710 horsepower at 6,100rpm and 640 lb-ft of torque at 4,300. Redline’s at 6,000rpm.

Dodge has given the Durango SRT Hellcat AWD an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel and excellent gear ratios that allow full-throated motoring or grandma put-puts around town. Suspension is by short/long arms at the front and multilinks at the rear. Rack and pinion electric power assisted steering is exceptionally precise, as are SRT’s red Brembo brakes with two-piece front rotors. This Durango stays firmly planted with its 295/45/ZR Pirelli fun-flat Scorpion Zero rubber mounted on twinned, five-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels.

The exterior of the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat in a neutral gray color like this one, looks benign until one lights it up and those two enclosed big-ol’ exhausts at the rear start to howl. Of course anyone following this three-row beast knows it’s trouble, just by seeing the SRT and Hellcat logos at the back, front and sides. The hood’s intake and elevation , as well as the SRT/Hellcat logos and this SUV’s running lights, well, they all look menacing. The amount of air intake in the front splitter, together with the updated oil cooler duct, connotes the need and the desire to run and run hard.

This Durango model is only available in 2021 and all 2,000 models have been allocated to buyers. I can understand why. It’ll surely be a collector’s item, but one any driver should want to take on a grocery run or a trip to the nearby Rocky Mountains, thanks to the all-wheel-drive. 

The cockpit – let’s just call it an office – on this Durango has been upgraded and sports a best-in-class 10.1-inch touchscreen that can handle all infotainment and driving programs, including launch control. Since this was a quick trip and a very busy one at Bandimere Speedway, there was only a single opportunity to check out launch control, which occurred shortly after leaving our friends’ home on Friday morning, on a deserted road with not even a house around. Revs up, we put it in launch and went off fairly kindly. With launch off, it was another story (but a lot of fun).

The seats, in their bright red coloring, were exceptionally comfortable and capable of superb control. Both driver and front seat passenger have identical, full power controls. Everything necessary for proper forward motion is directly in front of the driver or accessed with simplicity at arm’s reach. And, of course the steering wheel has information about the vehicle and phone controls on the left, while the right houses cruise control and following distance. The gauge cluster is rimmed in red.

This particular 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat has a final cost of $93,240, starting from a base of $82,490 including freight. Options include the high performance laguna leather seats ($1,595), “Customer preferred package ZXV” at $2,395, which includes a technology group of advanced brake-assist, lane-departure warning plus, full-speed forward-collision warning plus (don’t follow too closely) and adaptive cruise control with stop. 

The rear DVD entertainment center at $1,995 looks like a hoot and made me wish I’d brought along a Blu-Ray disc for the rear seat video system. There are headsets for two in the rear. The premier interior group ($2,495) adds suede headliner, premium instrument panel, forged carbon fiber interior accents, while there’s a $95 uncharged for red seat belts. The 2nd row console with armrest and storage includes illuminated rear cupholders, 12-volt, auxiliary power outlet in the console, along with a USB port for $595. The 19 Harman Kardon amped speakers with subwoofer and 825-watt amplifier go for $1,085 (yes, there’s SiriusXM, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and the list closes with blind-spot and cross-path detection for $495.

Is it worth it? Well, if you enjoy driving a powerful 5,710-pound vehicle quickly, appreciate a superb suspension and braking system, expect steering to be precise and want to have all the interior fun possible, yeah, this is your ticket. The chassis is tight, the seams and closures are precise, the interior allows those in the rear to be entertained, cooled and heated to their heart’s content through roof-mounted outlets. As a motorist who travels with plenty of technology, I appreciated the phone charger at the base of the central stack, along with a pair of USB plugs and seat heater controls. Everything was easy to access.

The third row takes up some luggage area and can be lowered for added space. Cargo space begins at17.2-cubic-feet and can go to a maximum of 85.1 cubes. Of course, one can also mount a carrier atop the roof rails for extra cargo space. There is no sunroof. Access to the rear hatch was done through the fob and the hatch is powered.

The biggest drawback to a vehicle so powerful is one’s need to have plenty of money for fuel. The 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat AWD is rated at 12/17/13 mpg from its 24.6-gallon tank and premium fuel is necessary. Because this driver never returns a vehicle on fumes, a refill was necessary and, even with testing launch control and hauling to and from our hotel, the verdict was 15.7-mpg. Which is impressive for an SUV with 9,000 miles on the clock. 

No doubt, when the next exciting Dodge product comes along in a few years, a 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat AWD like this one could become available for resale. If it does, don’t pass it up.

story and photos by Anne Proffit

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