Wild growls and snarls don’t typically accompany bulky slate-gray SUVs.
That sort of asphalt-jungle noise generally tumbles from outlaw Challengers and Mustangs and Camaros, but civility really doesn’t matter much to Dodge, the heavy-metal hooligans at Fiat Chrysler who build tire-melting, 707-horsepower Hellcats just for fun.
Now they’ve put some of their unique fire under the hood of a 5,400-pound SUV – the angry-looking 2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392.
Oddly, it works pretty darn well, even with four-wheel drive and three rows of seating.
Just don’t try to convince anyone at your kid’s soccer game that the deranged Durango is mostly a big people-mover.
Yeah, right, and pizza’s a health food.
As you may know, this is the first year that SRT – Street and Racing Technologies, Dodge’s high-performance division – got its wooly hands on a full-size Durango.
They treated the bruiser to SRT’s standout 6.4-liter, 475-horsepower Hemi V-8, an 8-speed automatic, Brembo brakes and much stiffer suspension.
The 2018 Dodge Durango SRT can tow up to 8,700 pounds.
The dark-gray Durango I had recently sat lower, its wheel-wells stuffed with meaty 295/45 tires wrapped around black 20-inch wheels.
Beefy, bright-red brake calipers clearly visible from behind the wheels further confirm your suspicions.
Up front, in a welcome departure from all those exaggerated, toothy grilles, the Durango scowled at the world through sleek headlamps squeezing a spare, blacked-out grille. A sculpted hood, meanwhile, bristled with SRT’s signature scoop flanked by heat exhaust vents recessed into the hood.
Even the sides scoffed at traditional board-flat SUV styling, flowing with subtly muscular surfaces etched by a couple of character lines – including one above the rear door-handle that formed a nifty shoulder over the rear wheel.
Find outr, clean, high-mounted tail lamps would almost look conventional if not for the twin four-inch-diameter exhaust pipes burbling from beneath the bumper.
It all made me want to haul something – and I wasn’t thinking groceries or kids.
I always found a willing accomplice in the shuddering, gas-swilling Hemi (13 mpg), which I think may be the best engine Chrysler builds.
Though Hellcats will flatten your retinas with acceleration, the 392 – available also in SRT Chargers and Challengers – is a bit more civilized. 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody, 2018 Dodge Durango SRT and 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon.
You might not notice at first. The 392 fires off with a healthy bark, settling into a great old-school cammy shudder at idle.
Despite the weight of the Durango, the engine’s 470 lb.-ft. of torque seems to be everywhere, giving the Durango a neck-stretching, almost explosive feel. Hit the Durango’s loud-pedal hard and the big truck leaps forward, pulling like a bellowing runaway train to 6,000 rpm.
Get this, kids: Zero-to-60 takes 4.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver, which would seriously rattle some Mustangs and Camaros.
Find outpressive still, Big Foot dances pretty well, muscling through corners with little body lean and good grip.
In fact, I bet the Durango can conquer hard corners more gracefully than many smaller, softer crossovers, its moves orchestrated nicely by quick steering with good heft and decent feel.
Of course, much of that surprising agility can be attributed to a stiffer suspension, including springs and the rear anti-sway bar.
As a result, the Durango rides like a, well, truck, moving around constantly over changes in the street’s surface and occasionally bouncing some.
While I could live with it, I might first consider a Durango 392 in two-wheel-drive, avoiding the extra weight, stiffness, and complexity of four-wheel-drive.
Just for the record: The ride improves considerably over 70 mph, not that I’m encouraging any anti-social behavior out there.
With a lofty window-sticker of $72,000, the Durango easily qualifies as a near-luxury vehicle, but I’m not sure the interior designers got that memo.
While functional and decent looking, the black interior in my Durango didn’t convey high-end.
2018 Dodge Durango SRT.
A flat, relatively trim plastic dashboard, for example, included a modest hood over the instrument panel and eased around Fiat Chrysler’s over-sized 8.4-inch display screen.
Although the system offered Apple CarPlay and Google Android capabilities, distracting touchpads on the screen had to be used for tuning the stereo. Fortunately, far more friendly buttons and knobs controlled the volume and climate systems.
Likewise, black plastic covered the door-panels, though it was smooth and fairly attractive like the dashboard.
The best features inside, I thought, were the sports seats, which featured large, supportive bolsters, grippy suede centers and white stitching on their edges.
Even the third-row of seats had reasonable leg- and head-room, making them viable in short trips for mid-size adults.
The main options on my well-equipped Durango included the technology package with its emphasis on safety features ($2,495); rear DVD entertainment center ($1,995); and SRT interior appearance group ($1,500).
Look, trucks don’t pop my bacon.
If I absolutely had to own a big SUV, the Durango SRT would be my first choice with its distinctive blend of performance, handling, utility, towing capability, people-moving abilities and even styling.
Now, that’s my kind of disruptor.
2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392
- What I liked most: The Durango’s thrilling performance and handling, as well as most of the utility of a full-size SUV.
- What I would change: The interior needs to be as appealing as the truck’s exterior and performance.
- MSRP: Base price, $62,995; as equipped, $72,265.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 13 miles per gallon in town, 19 on the highway and 15 mpg overall with filler on the left.
- Official color: Bruiser Gray.
- Odometer reading when tested: 7,538 miles.
- Weight: 5,369 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 201.2 inches long/77.1 inches wide/71.9 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 24.6 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Up to 8,700 pounds.
- Spare tire: Full-sized.
- 2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392 in a few words: The most unique full-size SUV on the market this side of the German blue-bloods.
- Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty, and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection
- Final assembly location: Detroit.
- Manufacturer’s website:
- E-mail me at [email protected]
New dual-center exterior stripes are tailored to emphasize the functional yet aggressive exterior designs of the 2018 Dodge Durango R/T and SRT models