The name Hellcat instills fear in just about anyone, even more so when you pull up at the lights alongside a family of six in the ultimate muscle machine: the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat. Buyers in search of the best tow vehicle (that isn't a pickup truck) have long turned to the standard Durango. Although it hasn't received a major update since the 2014 model year, Dodge continually updated the powertrains, culminating in the V8 HEMI-powered SRT model. But in typical Dodge fashion, even the 475-horsepower SRT model wasn't potent enough. That's why for 2021, the Dodge Durango has spawned its own Hellcat variant.
The 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat arrives as a specialty model for just a single model year. It packs the same 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine found in other Hellcat models, tuned to produce 710 horsepower. For those keeping track, the Durango Hellcat is now the most powerful SUV in the world, with even luxury performance machines like the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 failing to match its might. Along with the massive power increase, the entire Durango lineup sees the most significant interior update since the third-generation model arrived in 2010. Dodge sent us to North Carolina to experience the new Durango Hellcat on and off the race track.
The Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is a new arrival for the 2021 model year and becomes what the brand claims is the most powerful SUV ever. It uses a 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat supercharged engine that is good for 710 horsepower, propelling this three-row super SUV to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. The V8 is paired with an eight-speed automatic, while this hot SUV also gets launch control, a Brembo braking system, and an upgraded suspension. A low-gloss black grille and a unique chin splitter set apart this Durango from less powerful versions, while inside, an upgraded 10.1-inch touchscreen takes care of infotainment duties. The Durango SRT Hellcat will only be built for the 2021 model year.
See trim levels and configurations:
6.2L Supercharged V8 Gas
Dodge's Hellcat models have always been characterized by huge power that's tricky to put down without a perfectly straight road and ideal weather conditions. Driving one of these cars on a race track or in the rain can be risky business, but the Durango Hellcat completely eliminates the terror associated with over 700 horsepower going to the rear wheels. This is the first Hellcat model with all-wheel-drive (not counting the Jeep Trackhawk), and it makes us wonder why Dodge didn't implement it sooner. It doesn't matter if the road is soaked, this Hellcat is still capable of putting down its power on-demand. Having this level of access to over 700 horsepower without the fear of spinning the rear tires gives the drive somewhat of a God complex. We will warn not to get too confident in the AWD system, though, because the Durango Hellcat is so powerful, it can still light up all four wheels in the wet.
Should the Durango Hellcat find itself on a dry section of road, it blasts away like a school bus strapped to the Falcon 9 rocket. We had a chance to experience the Hellcat at the Carolina Motorsports Park, in a situation that few Durango owners will ever experience. While it's not an ideal track vehicle, the Durango handled itself better than we anticipated. Dodge paid special attention to the suspension, adding Bilstein rebound springs and stiffening the rear end to provide more grip and eliminate understeer. Despite its massive size and curb weight, the Durango feels easier to pilot around a track than other Hellcat models thanks to its inclusion of AWD. Just get it around a corner, plant the throttle, and let the supercharged HEMI take care of the rest.
As a cruiser, the Durango Hellcat suffers from some drawbacks associated with its increased performance. The adaptive suspension, while comfy on smooth roads, can bounce occupants around over torn up pavement. Kids in the back may end up car sick, especially if mom or dad decides to put it in Sport or Race mode on a bumpy back road. Speaking of the kids in the back, they may want to bring a good set of noise-canceling headphones because the Hellcat's exhaust isn't really capable of shutting up. Hopefully, the kids enjoy sleeping with a V8 rumble and supercharger whine in the background, but in case they don't, it's a good thing the Durango Hellcat has a rear-seat entertainment system on offer to drown out the noise.
The terms "family car" and "supercharged V8" probably shouldn't go together, but in the world of Dodge lunacy, the Durango Hellcat pairs these in the most hilarious way possible. Justifying the Durango Hellcat to a spouse might be tricky, especially after the fuel economy figures are revealed, but after all, this is still a vehicle that can carry up to six people with a boat or trailer in tow while still packing enough power to scare a Nissan GT-R at the drag strip. You can't say that about many muscle cars, let alone SUVs. Think of it this way; a Dodge Charger Hellcat has five seats, but it wouldn't be able to take the kids to school in the snow, whereas the Durango Hellcat isn't flummoxed by the weather; it spits in the face of Mother Nature.
Aside from the similarly powered (but more expensive and less practical) Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, there are no SUVs that can match the Durango Hellcat in straight-line performance. Even the Alpina XB7 and AMG GLS63 (both of which cost well over $100,000) lack the Hellcat's massive power. In many ways then, this is not simply the ultimate Hellcat model or muscle car on the market, it's also the coolest SUV on the planet. Yes, the standard Durango models are just as practical, but for the ultimate family thrill ride, the Durango Hellcat can not be beaten.
Another hot SUV from within the Fiat Chrysler stable, the Jeep Grand Cherokee begins at around 10 grand less although its 6.4-liter Hemi V8 isn't as powerful, making "only" 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. It takes 4.3 seconds to hit 60 mph, nearly a second off the pace of the supercharged Durango SRT Hellcat. However, at an even more expensive price of over $85,000, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a better match for the hottest Durango in terms of straight-line pace. That said, the Grand Cherokee only seats five people, can only tow up to 7,200 lbs (compared to the Durango's 8,700 lbs), and doesn't have as much cargo space. In the unlikely case that you intend to take these high-performance SUVs off-road, the Jeep will be a better bet for the job with its superior approach/departure angles. For its sheer audacity to brandish 710 horses in an SUV that can seat six, we'll take the manic Durango SRT Hellcat.
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