What Is It?
If we had to name one thing that most gearheads love about Dodge, it’s that the long-running brand injects outrageous performance into what most would consider everyday vehicles — ultimately the definition of a muscle car. And the folks at Dodge have done it again, but this time it’s a muscle SUV. Five years ago Dodge introduced enthusiasts to the Hellcat — a badge worn by Chargers and Challengers sporting a 700-plus horsepower supercharged HEMI V8 engine. Now that badge gets affixed to Dodge’s largest offering, the Durango SRT Hellcat. With 710 horsepower on tap and three rows of seats, the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat becomes the most powerful production SUV on the road.
Dodge provided us with a 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat AWD swathed in Octane Red Pearl paint. As the top-level trim in the Durango lineup, the Hellcat comes fully loaded for bear. The test vehicle had additional options including a Technology Group, a Premium Interior Group, a DVD entertainment system and a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system for a total MSRP of $91,550. Competitors to the Durango SRT Hellcat include the BMW X5 M, Audi RS Q8, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Fast company indeed.
The entire Durango model line gets updated styling for 2021, although the Hellcat stands out via a more aggressive front fascia, LED headlights with signature LED running lights, a new two-piece chin splitter and a unique low-gloss black grille designed for better air intake. This Hellcat’s big V8 engine needs plenty of cold air — provided by the functional hood scoop as well as the deletion of Durango’s fog lights to create additional air intakes in the fascia. Since this Durango is the most powerful SUV on the road, owners have the option to add available dual center racing stripes — unfortunately the racer within us would not be realized — the test vehicle arrived sans stripes.
At the rear of the 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat sits a new spoiler that balances the aero improvements up front by providing up to 140 pounds of downforce at 180 mph. Twin 4.0-inch exhaust outlets add to the SUV’s high-performance looks while delivering a wonderful throaty exhaust note specifically tuned for the Durango Hellcat. This Durango also features 20-inch machined wheels with mid-gloss black pockets, and the SUV wears the largest Hellcat badge in the SRT lineup.
Under the Hood
Powering the Hellcat of SUVs is a 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat HEMI V8 engine producing a prodigious 710 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque. Power gets sent to all four wheels via a TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission. The full-time automatic all-wheel-drive system can vary the torque, sending as much as 50 percent to the front axle for snowy conditions or when towing; conversely, when in Track mode (yes, there is a Track mode) 70 percent of the power gets sent to the rear wheels.
With a curb weight of 5,700 pounds, the Durango is no small or lightweight vehicle although 710 horsepower can overcome a lot of mass. The Durango SRT Hellcat sprints to 60 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds, and the NHRA has certified a time of 11.5 seconds to complete the quarter mile. Top speed is rated at 180 mph — certainly a unique experience from the third row of an SUV. Of course we did not achieve the 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat’s top speed; however, using the onboard telemetry we were able to verify eclipsing 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. But of course there is a cost to running a supercharged V8 engine — while in the Durango Hellcat we averaged around 10 mpg.
Still an SUV
A passing glance at the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat’s performance stats might make one forget that this three-row rocket is also an extremely capable SUV. With seating for up to six occupants and plenty of cargo space, the Durango SRT Hellcat can tow up to 8,700 pounds. Plenty of ground clearance and all-wheel drive mean this SUV can also easily venture off pavement or handle tough wintry conditions.
Not only capable of flying down a dragstrip at high speed, the Durango SRT Hellcat also possesses commendable all-around performance. Suspension upgrades improve responsiveness, offer better stability and provide more grip while reducing understeer. We definitely noticed these improvements during our time behind the wheel — the Durango Hellcat handles much better than one might expect of this large SUV. Thanks to massive Brembo high-performance 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brake calipers — as well as vented rotors at all four wheels — the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat stops from 60 mph in 116 feet.
As with other Hellcat models, the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat allows the driver to customize a variety of attributes individually or by selecting set drive modes. Transmission shifting, all-wheel drive, stability control, suspension and steering can all be set for higher performance or normal driving. Drive modes include Track, Sport, Auto, Snow and Tow — or the driver can create a custom mode by selecting attributes individually.
Along with the rest of the Durango lineup, the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat gets an updated interior look inspired by its Challenger sibling. A large 10.1-inch display screen angles toward the driver and simulates the feeling of a high-tech cockpit. Forged carbon fiber trim and stitched suede trim, red-accented gauges and a new flat-bottom performance steering wheel with paddle shifters also add to the cockpit aura.
The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat features the latest infotainment system from FCA — Uconnect 5. With a 10.1-inch touchscreen display, Uconnect5 is five times faster than the previous version and possesses a long list of innovations. The system can be customized for up to six user profiles and includes not only music preferences but also preloads temperature settings, seating position and mirror placement. With card-based screens, each user can also create a custom home screen that highlights preferred features. Wireless connection for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included, and the Uconnect5 system can manage two Bluetooth phone connections simultaneously.
All Charged Up
The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat provides plenty of ways for occupants to keep devices charged. Two USB-A and two USB-C ports are easily accessible in the center console. In addition, a wireless charging pad does a fine job holding a phone in place even during spirited driving, as we soon discovered.
Underscoring the high-performance nature of the Durango Hellcat, the front sport seats get trimmed in Nappa leather with suede inserts and an embroidered Hellcat logo. Not only stylish, the seats also offer considerable comfort and have excellent support for long trips.
The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat comes with six-occupant seating featuring second-row “fold-and-tumble” captain’s chairs. The roomy second row has a large center console and cupholders between the seats. Two USB ports are available for rear-seat passengers, as well as a 115-volt power outlet.
The Durango we tested came equipped with an optional rear-seat entertainment system that plays Blu-Rays or DVDs, or takes display video from seat-mounted RCA or HDMI plugs.
Access to the third row of the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is easy thanks to second-row seats that fold completely out of the way. Providing seating for two, the third tier does not feel cramped at all — in fact, two adults could easily sit back there without too many complaints about being relegated to the rearmost row.
As with many three-row SUVs, the cargo space of the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is somewhat limited. That being said, with all seats in place there is still enough space for a few small suitcases or a decent number of grocery bags. The third row easily folds flat from the rear to provide plenty of cargo-carrying capacity — a bit more than 43 cubic feet. Additional storage can be found beneath the cargo floor.
On the Road
Driving the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is a full-on experience. The SUV has a wonderfully low rumble at idle, but when a traffic light turns green and the right foot goes down — look out. The scream of the supercharger swirled with the roaring V8 engine creates a visceral experience enhanced by outrageous acceleration that should not be possible in a three-row SUV. With SRT Performance Pages the system can display real-time telemetry data that revealed we were able to accelerate to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds — supercar territory.
As exciting as the Durango Hellcat becomes when launching from a standstill, this big three-row SUV is just as fun on winding backroads. Steering is precise and the SRT-tuned suspension keeps the prodigious Durango stable and relatively flat through curves. In Sport Mode the AWD system remains rear-biased for better performance, and the stability control keeps things tidy without being overly intrusive. Granted the Durango is no sports car — yet it comes pretty close.
Without question the Durango Hellcat is a beast on the road, although like other Hellcats we’ve driven the SUV is perfectly capable and comfortable as an everyday driver. Whether puttering through the neighborhood or cruising down the highway, the Durango remains comfortable and composed — aside from its rumbling exhaust system and aggressive looks it functions with the normalcy of a typical family SUV.
In the Snow
We had the good fortune to experience a rare snowstorm in Western Washington during our time with the Durango Hellcat, and the conditions further proved this SUV’s broad capabilities. With good ground clearance and Pirelli Verde Zero high-performance all-season tires, the Durango easily handled eight inches of snow as well as icy roads. We selected Snow Mode which locks 50 percent of the power to each axle, keeping our ride extremely stable and confident. That said, we may or may not have put the Hellcat in Track mode for a few exciting donuts in a large, deserted parking lot.
The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is unlike any other three-row SUV on the road. With 710 horsepower on tap, this beast concocts an incredible mix of impressive utility and giggle-inducing acceleration. It may be extremely pricey and gulps fuel at an alarming rate, but with incredible performance and capability the Durango Hellcat would certainly elicit smiles every day. Unfortunately due to changing emission requirements the Durango Hellcat will only be built for the 2021 model year. Hopefully in the future Dodge finds a way to make this Durango SRT Hellcat howl once again.