More than the sum of its parts
THE GOOD
  • Strong and sonorous V8
  • Spacious and comfortable
  • The ultimate anti-minivan
THE BAD
  • Sticker shock
  • Thirsty
  • Trying to convince folks this is not just a big dumb truck
2020 Dodge Durango SRT Review

The 2020 Dodge Durango SRT: It’s big, it’s brash, it has stripes, and makes all kinds of fabulous V8 noises. But behind this bluster is a surprisingly civilized, well-sorted, and ultimately luxurious conveyance that expertly blends speed, utility and comfort. Who woulda thought?

Styling: 9/10

I have to give this beast high marks for its badass honesty. The regular Durango is a decent-looking truck on its own, but here in SRT guise it shouts about its Mopar modifications in all the right ways: 20-inch black alloy wheels, big twin exhaust, and a plethora of functional air vents and intakes. Factor in the blue stripes ($1,495) and you’ve got a mighty-imposing family hauler. Yes, that seems like a lot of money for some stick-on bits of blue, but here they set the SRT off perfectly. Dodge, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, has historically given great names to its paint colours – Plum Crazy (purple), Go Mango (orange), Sub-lime, Tor-red. Entering the canon is this Durango’s hue: White Knuckle.

Safety: 7.5/10

Despite the fact that a 2,499-kg (5,509-lb) SUV will likely emerge victorious in just about any collision with another vehicle, the Durango only gets a mediocre rating for its performance in the driver’s side small overlap crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). However, it does well in all other types of collisions the not-for-profit tests for.

The Durango SRT tested here is armed with all the expected safety features and systems, although most have to be picked from the option list – not great for a vehicle with a $74,995 starting price. The $950 Technology Group nets lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, forward collision warning with active braking, advanced brake assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality. Blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic detection adds another $500.

This Durango SRT also has automatic reverse braking that kicks in if it thinks you’re going to mar that White Knuckle paint when backing up. A handy feature in a vehicle of this size, and it did save my bacon while making a tight three-pointer in an alley.

Practicality: 7.5/10

With seating for six – including a third row that’s actually usable for adults – the Durango does quite well for passenger accommodation. However, compared to some competitors, the cargo capacity behind the third row at 487 L is a little stingy. With all seats folded the Durango SRT opens up to 2,392 L, of which I made good use when cleaning out a relative’s garage. Resulting trips to the dump and recycling stations netted some sideways glances from fellow dumpsters. Apparently not many Durango SRTs with Mopar Blue stripes venture this far into the deepest corners of the landfill site.

The $825 Trailer Tow Group nets a trailer brake control, a 20-inch aluminum spare wheel along with the compact spare tire, four- and seven-pin wiring harnesses, and a Class IV hitch receiver. Thus equipped, towing capacity is 3,946 kg (8,700 lb).

User Friendliness: 7.5/10

This is a big vehicle, so it can seem a little unwieldy in the cut-and-thrust of city driving. But beyond that the Durango is a user-friendly piece of kit. Getting in is easy as the step up isn’t too high; and once in the comfortable driver’s chair, occupants are presented with a logical array of controls highlighted by the standard 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system – one of the most intuitive interfaces of this ilk. The graphics are clear, response is fast, and the menu structure is dead easy to navigate. It also gets high marks for having big volume and tuning knobs, along with easily assignable and accessible radio presets.

The HVAC controls live under the screen. While there are no hard controls for the heated steering wheel or for front seat heat and ventilation, touchscreen access is easy enough.

The third-row seatbacks are light and flip up and down with ease. Accessing said row requires a bit of manoeuvring, however, including folding and flipping forward the second-row captain’s chairs and crawling in behind.

Features: 8/10

Along with the 20-inch wheels and its thunderous 6.4L Hemi V8, the SRT ups the game with standard heated and ventilated front sport seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, and a meaty flat-bottomed steering wheel with metal paddle shifters. All SRT models get the Performance Pages menu in the infotainment system that brings up all kinds of go-fast monitoring screens like cornering g-force, power output, and acceleration times.

Dive into the info screen that lives between the tachometer and speedometer and you can monitor such things as oil temperature, oil pressure, transmission temp, and air intake temperature. Available drive modes – auto, sport, track, tow, custom, and valet – tailor the parameters of eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, stability control, steering feel, throttle response, and suspension stiffness. Valet mode prevents any tire spinning while also limiting the power and torque curve to that of a V6.

Along with the aforementioned $950 Technology Group that adds a number of safety and assist systems, this tester was also fitted with the $3,250 SRT Interior Appearance Group that includes a suede headliner, carbon-fibre interior accents, and a leather-wrapped instrument panel. The nifty red seats belts cost $95 and the excellent 19-speaker audio system is $1,995 well spent.

Power: 9/10

Ah, yes – power. Plenty of that here. Sure, you might wish for Dodge’s 717-hp supercharged 6.2L Hellcat engine that would give this brute real wings [And, indeed, it’s coming for 2021. – Ed.]; but in the grand scheme of the things, 475 naturally aspirated stallions along with 470 lb-ft of twist is plenty, thank you. It’s a smooth and tractable engine that works in perfect harmony with the eight-speed auto, expertly tuned by SRT to slur the gears comfortably when puttering around, then slam them home with speed and authority when in sport or track modes.

Once “up on the cam” (4,000 rpm and higher), this big-displacement V8 does a stellar job of overcoming the 2,499 kg working against it, blasting this behemoth furiously forward with the exhaust spitting venomous bursts on upshifts. Yes, this is why you spent almost $90,000 for this truck, and it delivers with unbridled ebullience.

Comfort: 9/10

With all this talk of blistering performance, one might assume the 2020 Durango SRT to be a one-trick rhino. Surprisingly no. The engineers should get as much credit for the Dodge’s civility and comfort as they do for its impressive performance. On start-up, the SRT defaults to auto mode, which puts the suspension and steering to comfort settings and adjusts shift times for longer, more relaxed driving conditions. Even with these 20-inch wheels shod in 295-mm wide performance tires, the ride is impressively compliant. Yes, it’s firm, but it’s also well controlled and there’s no untoward crashing or jarring over bad surfaces.

The front sport seats are supremely comfortable and supportive. The reclining second-row seats are also well contoured, and, as would be expected, there’s no lack of head- or legroom. Factor in a quiet cabin and such niceties as ventilated seats and top-shelf audio, and you have a long-distance runner par excellence. When motoring responsibly, the only real giveaway to the SRT’s alter ego is the distant rumble of the exhaust.

Driving Feel: 8/10

For such a large vehicle, the Durango SRT is surprisingly agile, impressing with taut body control and a helm that is both well-weighted and natural. With those sport seats hugging in a firm embrace, this big three-row SUV drives smaller than it really is. Of course, those who spend the coin for this muscle-bound hauler will no doubt be wanting to exercise its Mr. Hyde side, and the SRT does not disappoint. Switch to sport mode and it bristles with aggression, both dynamically and sonically. Strafing on-ramps seems to be its speciality – hammer down, exhaust bellowing, cutting an accurate path through the sweeper. Then it’s time to work those optional high-performance brakes ($1,295) that offer excellent pedal feel and haul the whole thing back to legal speeds pronto.

The expertly honed chassis has no problem keeping up with the engine thanks to its adaptive Bilstein shocks, stiffer springs, and an 18 per cent stiffer rear anti-roll bar. In sport mode, the all-wheel drive system sends 70 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels. If you want to play with the gears yourself, the eight-speed auto responds instantly to requests from the well-damped metal shift paddles.

Fuel Economy: 5/10

No one buys a rig like this to save fuel, and it is thirsty, rated at a rather dismal 18.3 L/100 km city, 12.2 highway, and 15.6 combined despite being equipped with cylinder deactivation that has the 6.4L V8 running on four pots while coasting and under light load. If the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is any indication, expect the upcoming Hellcat-powered Durango to do even worse at the pumps, with the former consuming a combined 17.7 L/100 km, according to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

There is an eco mode that maximizes fuel economy with a revised shift schedule, second-gear starts, and other fuel saving measures, but it’s fair to assume that mode won’t see much action. Dodge does have a much better fuel-saving strategy for the Durango: it’s called a V6 engine. It’s probably not applicable for this demographic, however.

Value: 9/10

I know what you’re thinking: this guy has lost it. How can a $90,000 as-tested Dodge truck be good value? Well, in the rarefied air of hyperformance full-sized SUVs (and the air is mighty thin up here), this 2020 Durango SRT with its $74,995 starting price could be considered a steal when compared to the competition. Granted, the name Dodge doesn’t echo with the upscale resonance of Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover, or Maserati; nor does the SRT have the posh interior appointments or gimmicky tech of those offshore specials; but it does stand proudly on its own as a very quick, comfortable, practical, and impressively well-sorted vehicle. And don’t forget that immensely charismatic hair-trigger V8.

The Verdict

As much as stupid-fast SUVs can be framed as nothing more than head-scratching vehicular contradictions, we must salute Dodge for building this well-engineered offering that waves its American blue-collar Mopar colours with pride while livening up our automotive landscape at a time when vehicles with real character are few and far between. There will come a time when bellowing naturally aspirated V8s will be but a distant memory. Think of the 2020 Dodge Durango SRT as the ultimate antidote to terminal minivan uncoolness. School runs will never be the same. Actually, the SRT doesn’t so much shun the minivan as take it behind the gym, head-butt it, and steal its lunch money.

More than the sum of its parts 8/18/2020 6:30:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 6.4L   Model Tested 2020 Dodge Durango SRT AWD
Engine Cylinders V8   Base Price $74,995
Peak Horsepower 475 hp @ 6,000 rpm   A/C Tax $100 + Federal Green Levy, $1,000
Peak Torque 470 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm   Destination Fee $1,895
Fuel Economy 18.3 / 12.2 / 15.6 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $90,795
Cargo Space 487 / 2,392 L seats down  
Optional Equipment
$12,805 – Technology Group, $950; rear seat entertainment package, $2,150; tow package, $825; SRT Interior Appearance Group, $3,250; high performance brakes, $1,295; red seat belts, $95; second row console with storage; USB, $250; Mopar duel stripes, $1,495; 825-watt 19-speaker Harman Kardon, $1,995; blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, $500