Although many of us had initially assumed when Dodge was unveiling its 2021 performance lineup an all-new Durango was on the horizon, the brand chose to instead unleash a mildly face lifted version onto the world. This is not necessarily a bad thing considering that the Durango is still a strong seller for Dodge, and it does have a commendable amount of driving poise baked into its DNA already. However, the big news here is Dodge is finally giving the Durango the Hellcat treatment — and boy has it been a long time coming.
While the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 in the standard SRT is nothing to sneeze at, Dodge knows that there is just no beating the fun, sound, and bragging rights that only a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 can provide. Here in the Durango it produces an outright insane 710 horsepower as well as 645 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to launch the three row Dodge to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and a top speed of 180 mph if you’re brave enough to reach that lofty figure.
When you factor in the quiet and welcome departures of the Dodge Grand Caravan and the distinctively not fun Journey models, the Durango helps ensure for 2020 every single one of their offerings has a Hellcat-powered option. An eight-speed automatic transmission lifted from the Trackhawk is responsible for sending all the power to all four corners, with Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires coming as standard equipment (buyers can opt for optional Pirelli P-Zero summer tires too.)
But like other things in life, there is more going on here than just the engineers sticking a very powerful V-8 under the hood. Dodge designers had to do a lot of work with the Durango’s bodywork to help it cope with all the things that the Hellcat engine brings to the table. The Durango was always one of the portlier members of the SUV ranks, so Dodge engineers took the SUV to the gym, and set to work cleaving pounds of unnecessary flab from its flanks.
The front fascia, for example, features an all-new front grille that is supposed to be reminiscent of the Charger sedan, while slimmer LED headlights give the nose more of a sinister air. The quest to shave weight caused the Durango Hellcat to go without fog lamps, with engineers using the spaces as extra sir vents to help feed cool air to the engine. A bigger front splitter reduces lift at high speeds, while the rear features a roof mounted spoiler that actually delivers 400 pounds of downforce to the rear wheels when the Durango is cruising along at 180 mph.
A set of 20×10 inch wheels are standard, but an optional Black package replaces them with different rims that retain the same size specs.
Meanwhile the rear lighting is largely unchanged from other Durango models, with the Durango Hellcat retaining the “race track” style LED taillights that have come to be come a signature hallmark for the majority of Dodge’s recent products. While the look might not quite have the levels of polish that we have seen in recent AMG and M branded rivals, the Durango still projects a very intimidating presence, and look for the Durango Hellcat to be the figurative exclamation point when it comes to reaching the Durango’s full performance potential.
That focus on smashing through limitations can be seen with the suspension which has been revised to provide greater comfort and handling. While it is based on the standard SRT Durango, the Durango Hellcat benefits from a 20% increase in total rebound control depending on the drive mode selected. Dodge did reveal that the standard SRT model will also receive some suspension tweaks, but look for the Durango Hellcat to be the top dog when it comes to dogfights at the local race track.
Braking is handled by 15.8-inch slotted two piece Brembo brakes up front, and 13.8-inch slotted rear rotors with six-piston front and two-piston calipers providing healthy amounts of stopping power. Dodge claims that stops from 60 mph can be done in 116 feet, which is a figure that even bests a few high performance sports cars.
The interior is arguably where the Durango Hellcat will share the most in common with its lesser siblings. All 2021 Durangos receive a revised interior that also benefits from a well deserved restyling. A larger center console, revised center stack, and a traditional gear shift lever lead the way, while a 10.1-inch infotainment system also comes along for the ride. Not only is it the largest in the segment, but it is also powered by the all new Uconnect 5 system that boasts improved load times and sharper graphics.
Buyers that get the Durango Hellcat will have access to the Performance Pages App, which allows buyers to have greater control over certain aspects of the driving experience. This includes how aggressive the shifts from the eight speed transmission are, as well as tailoring the engine, suspension, and steering to their liking.
Both the SRT 392 and the Hellcat get a flat-bottomed steering wheel that features integrated shift paddles, as well as a backlit SRT logo that is mounted on the center spoke. Red trimmed gauges help add some visceral flair to the cabin, while the standard Nappa leather seats coddle occupants with built in seat heat and cooling, as well as grippy suede inserts. Laguna leather seats are optional, with the uplevel thrones trading the stitched in Hellcat logo on the seat backs for an embossed one.
As for the rest of the Durango lineup, they also receive a fair share of changes that are certainly worth mentioning, too. The Durango R/T for example can now pull 8,700 pounds with its 5.7-liter V-8. This is thanks to the all new Tow N Go package which provides a 1,300-pound increase in capacity versus the out going model. This is equal to the ritzier Lincoln Navigator, and the package bestows the Durango with several SRT features including more aggressive bodywork, fender flares, 20 inch wheels, as well as braking and suspension upgrades. An SRT adaptive suspension and a limited slip differential are also included. The base SXT model now comes with an 8.4-inch infotainment system which is pretty good for an entry level three row SUV.
Ordering for the 2021 Dodge Durango will open up soon, with pricing expected to not deviate too much from the $30,795 base sticker wielded by the 2020 model. As for the Durango Hellcat, that particular model has not been priced either, but using the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and its spicier Trackhawk variant as a rough guide, we can safely assume that it will be about $20,000 more than the base SRT. That means a projected MSRP of $83,000 — though don’t be surprised if some FCA dealers choose to add markups that could push the price past $90,000.
Unlike the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, the Durango Hellcat will also be a rare beast, with Dodge only offering it for the 2021 model year before it ends production. Look for the first 2021 Durangos to begine making their way to showrooms early next year, with pricing information hopefully being released closer to its official launch date.