The super sport utility to beat
THE GOOD
  • Fastest three-row SUV extant
  • Likes corners too
  • Roomy and comfortable
  • Lots of supercharger whine
THE BAD
  • Horrendous thirst for fuel
  • Expensive
  • Lots of supercharger whine

If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

That seems to be Mopar’s mandate when it comes to its monstrous 6.2L supercharged V8 that’s been dropped into a three-row SUV. Say hello to the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat. With 710 hp and a starting price approaching $120,000, this bellowing brute is here to terrorize suburbia and traumatize your kids. Don’t try to make sense of it – just enjoy. It’s not some muscle-bound bully, either; there’s some sophistication below decks that makes it manageable, too.

Styling: 8.5/10

A younger colleague of mine opined that he hoped the Hellcat-powered Durango “would look a little more badass than this.” It looks pretty badass to me. Granted, without the nasty kitty badges on its fenders and hatch, the Hellcat could be mistaken for the (yawn) Durango SRT that gets by with a mere 475 hp. Still, with its dark 20-inch wheels, blackout appearance package ($495), vented and scooped hood, gaping air intakes, and here dressed up with racing stripes ($1,495), the Durango SRT Hellcat looks mighty formidable. The aptly named Destroyer Grey paint, meanwhile, adds menace and class in equal measure.

Safety: 8.5/10

Our Durango Hellcat tester came fully armed with today’s expected safety systems and driver aids, but what might not be expected is the need to pay for all this stuff when reeling from the lofty base price. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert run $500. You’ll also want the $950 Technology Group that adds lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise with stop-and-go functionality.

Practicality: 8.5/10

Despite the Durango Hellcat’s nutty power surplus, this remains a roomy and practical three-row SUV that can carry six people. The 487 L of cargo room behind the third row is a bit stingy compared to some competitors, but flipping down the rear perches is effortless and opens up a useful 1,226 L. With all seats folded the Durango will swallow 2,392 L of stuff.

The $950 tow package nets a trailer brake controller, along with a four- and seven-pin wiring harness, and Class IV hitch receiver. Thus equipped, towing capacity is 3,946 kg (8,700 lb), making this the quickest way to get the Chris-Craft to the cottage.

User Friendliness: 8/10

With its 2021 refresh, the Dodge Durango gets updated infotainment, and in the Hellcat we see a new 10.1-inch touch display. As far as touchscreen interfaces go, this automaker’s is among the most complete and user-friendly around. The menu system is logical and touch-points large. Kudos for having big volume and tuning knobs, along with easily assignable and accessible radio presets on the screen. Below is an array of analog HVAC controls.

The gear selector on the centre console adheres to the classic P-R-N-D-L format. An SRT button calls up a screen for selecting and tailoring drive modes, and the adjacent launch control button enables one to justify this Hellcat’s price tag.

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

Features: 8/10

Dodge seems to be adhering to European methodology when it comes to features. Despite the Durango Hellcat’s withering $119,010 sticker price before tax but including a non-negotiable freight charge of $2,695, getting all the real goods requires a deep dive into the options and package list.

But let’s look at the standard kit first: all the go-fast bits; LED headlights; proximity key with push-button start; front and rear parking sensors; cruise control; that 10.1-inch infotainment system with navigation, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections; wireless charging; a power tailgate; and remote start. This tester came in just shy of $138,000, and for that added ventilated front performance seats, upgraded leather upholstery, a rear-seat entertainment unit, all the safety systems, a sunroof, upgraded stereo, carbon-fibre interior trim, the tow package, exterior styling upgrades, and more.

Power: 11/10

Can we go to 11 here? Dodge’s heroic 6.2L supercharged Hellcat V8 makes 710 hp at 6,100 rpm and 640 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. ’Nuff said.

Thrust is instantaneous and linear, and when doing its thing this V8 creates two simultaneously terrifying soundtracks: a harrowing bellow overlaid with screaming supercharger whine. Using launch control, this 2,500-kg (5,512-lb) three-row mauler will reach 100 km/h in a claimed 3.6 seconds and run a 11.7-second quarter-mile at 188.8 km/h. That’s equally absurd and subversively glorious. The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission plays along perfectly; it’s quick, smooth and intuitive.

Comfort: 8/10

One might expect the Durango Hellcat to be a one-trick pony, its only raison d’etre being to terrify passengers and deplete the world of its oil reserves. Not so. In comfort mode, and driven with reservation, the Hellcat settles into a convincing luxury conveyance. Yes, the ride is firm, but never harsh or crashy, and equipped as this tester is, occupants are treated to fine leather and an excellent sound system. The front chairs are well contoured, as are the second-row captain’s chairs, and those in the third-row fare quite nicely, too.

The one caveat that might keep the Hellcat from qualifying as a true long-distance comfort machine is the constant exhaust rumble and supercharger whine when even gently dipping into the go-pedal.

Driving Feel: 8.5/10

Another surprise: the Dodge Durango Hellcat handles really well. The suspension engineers deserve knighthood for the way they have expertly honed this chassis. Steering is accurate and naturally weighted, and body control impressive. I’m not sure how something this big, tall, and heavy can have such an easy, natural flow on a backroad, but yes, indeed, the old cliche about a vehicle shrinking around you applies here.

New internal rebound springs in the dampers, which limit body roll without stiffer anti-roll bars, surely help. This chassis has no problem keeping up with the engine, which is saying something. The massive Brembo brakes show fine pedal feel, hauling you back to legal speeds pronto.

If you want to play with the gears yourself, the eight-speed responds instantly to requests from the well-damped metal shift paddles. Something as massive and crazy powerful as the Durango Hellcat has no right feeling this agile.

Fuel Economy: 4/10

The only thing more shocking than the Durango SRT Hellcat’s straight-line acceleration is its thirst for fuel. And that $3,000 gas-guzzler tax. Don’t think for a minute the power needed to launch this SUV into the middle of next week comes cheap. While official fuel economy numbers are 20.5 L/100 km in the city, 13.8 on the highway, and 17.4 combined, my week concluded at a rather sobering 22.8 L/100 km. And I wasn’t exactly driving like a lunatic either.

Value: 6.5/10

It’s hard to place “value” and “$138,000 Durango” in the same sentence. Then again, maybe this is a steal for the world’s fastest, noisiest, and just plain baddest three-row SUV out there. Yes, just that seems dumb. I’m sure the handful of folks nutty enough to join this party will feel the Durango SRT Hellcat is money well spent – except for knowing our neighbours to the south can get in one for US$82,490, or about $102,000.

The Verdict

If the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat wasn’t such a great drive, it would be easy to dismiss it as an overpriced, over-the-top exercise in flagrant excess. But here’s the rub: the engineers behind this bellowing behemoth made sure they had it all covered. It works well as a settled, luxurious family hauler, yet mash the throttle and that 6.2L supercharged Hellcat engine has you laughing all the way to the lock-up.

And the Hellcat’s chassis plays both sides of this equation expertly. This is my favourite super SUV, hands down. It’s friendly, addictive, comfortable, and super fun in a way the very serious European rivals can’t match. Or catch. The Durango SRT Hellcat is perfectly ridiculous, and for that I tip my hat to Dodge.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 6.2L   Model Tested 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat
Engine Cylinders Supercharged V8   Base Price $116,315
Peak Horsepower 710 hp @ 6,100 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 640 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm   Destination Fee $2,695
Fuel Economy 20.5 / 13.8 / 17.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $137,610
Cargo Space 487 / 1,226 / 2,393 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row  
Optional Equipment
$18,500 – SRT Interior Appearance Group, $3,250; Federal Green Levy, $3,000; Rear-Seat Entertainment System, $2,150; Harman Kardon Stereo, $1,995; Laguna Leather Performance Seats, $1,500; Mopar Stripes, $1,495; Power Sunroof, $1,425; Technology Group, $950; Trailer Tow Group, $950; Second-Row Console Bin, $695; Blind-Spot Monitoring, $500; Black Package, $495; Red Seat Belts, $95