In 2023, Dodge has thrown its hat into the ring of the compact crossover segment with the all-new Hornet. Nestled just below the mid-sized Durango in Dodge’s lineup, the Hornet is set to compete with the likes of the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-50, and the Volkswagen Tiguan. Available in several trims, including the GT AWD ($38,770 CAD), GT Plus AWD ($44,770 CAD), R/T PHEV EAWD ($53,295 CAD), and the R/T Plus PHEV EAWD ($59,295 CAD), there’s a Dodge Hornet to match various budgets and preferences.
Trims and Technology:
The Hornet’s entry into this competitive segment marks a significant step for Dodge. Its GT model, available in both base and GT Plus trims, comes well-equipped with a host of standard features. Among them, a large 10.3-inch infotainment display, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 17-inch aluminum wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and dual-zone automatic climate control set the stage for a tech-rich experience. For those seeking an added touch of comfort, options include heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and a remote start feature.
Engine and Performance:
At the heart of the Hornet lies a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, delivering a punchy 268 horsepower. This power is delivered to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission, offering peppy acceleration from 0 to 96.56 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in an estimated 6.5 seconds. Despite this performance, the Hornet doesn’t sacrifice efficiency, with Environment Canada estimates clocking in at 11.2 L/100 km (21 mpg) city and 8.11 L/100 km (29 mpg) on the highway.
Inside the Hornet, you’ll find a cabin that blends comfort with contemporary design. The front seats provide ample space, while the rear might be snug for some. Black upholstery with red stitching lends a sporty aesthetic, with the option to upgrade to leather or faux-suede for a premium touch. Meanwhile, the infotainment system, powered by the latest Uconnect 5 system, offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Amazon Alexa connectivity.
SafetyFeatures that Inspire Confidence: When it comes to safety, the Hornet doesn’t cut corners. Automated emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and parking sensors all come standard. Adaptive cruise control with a lane-centering feature is available as an optional extra.
Covered by a standard three-year or 60,000 kilometers (36,000-mile) warranty, with an extended five-year or 96,560 kilometers (60,000-mile) power train warranty, the Hornet is a testament to Dodge’s reliability. As such, the Hornet isn’t merely a new entry in Dodge’s lineup; it’s a compelling contender in the compact crossover segment set to make waves in the Canadian automotive market.
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Stellantis, the company most Canadians have never heard of, is planning to build 25 new electric vehicles for North American markets by 2025. For those who don’t follow all things automotive, Amsterdam,…
Stellantis, the company most Canadians have never heard of, is planning to build 25 new electric vehicles for North American markets by 2025.
For those who don’t follow all things automotive, Amsterdam, Netherlands-based Stellantis is the new (as of last year) multinational automotive manufacturing corporation formed to combine all brands from the now dissolved Italian-American conglomerate Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with additional French PSA Group brands under one umbrella. This means that longstanding American brands like Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Mopar auto parts are now part of the same ownership family as 11 European brands including Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Citroën, DS (Citroën’s luxury division), Fiat, Fiat Professional (a commercial division that makes Fiat and Ram vans), Lancia, Maserati, Opel (previously part of General Motors), Peugeot, and Vauxhall (ditto re GM).
Upon the amalgamation of both automakers within the new Stellantis group, all brands were promised the opportunity to shine (a.k.a. become profitable) before potentially being axed, which was a much-welcome lifeline thrown to a few once revered marques, such as Chrysler, Dodge and Lancia, which had been whittled down to just a few models prior to this new lease on life.
While we may never see Lancia return to Canada, or for that matter Citroën, Opel or Vauxhall (that are little more than Opels rebadged for the UK), let alone any 2022 models from Fiat, a Chrysler crossover SUV would certainly bolster that beleaguered brand’s lineup, let alone something new for Dodge. Chrysler deserves kudos for its plug-in hybrid Pacifica minivan, and for its nifty renaming strategy that turned a first-generation Pacifica into a brand-new Grand Caravan, thus providing a third wing-badged model, whereas Dodge has three totally unique models, albeit nothing close to the range of alternatives that Japanese or Korean competitors offer.
Stellantis promises new electric crossovers, pickups and even an EV muscle car
Earlier this month, Stellantis’ announced a comprehensive plan that will impact everything from financials to future products right through to 2030, with some of the latter including fully electric models for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram. Where the Ram 1500 EV was merely a graphic teaser designed to show Ford, Chevy, GMC/Hummer, Rivian, Tesla and other EV truck producers that Ram is taking the sector seriously, the bright yellow Jeep EV concept already looks promising.
It would be the go-anywhere division’s first electric vehicle, although take note that Jeep currently offers their plug-in hybrid 4xe powertrain for the new Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, with Hemi V8 performance from an electrified V6 that puts out 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. Such numbers should make any auto enthusiast excited about the Dearborn-based automaker getting hold of a pure electric drivetrain, thanks to a history of cars, SUVs and trucks with tire-scorching straight-line acceleration.
The Jeep EV shown here, which is expected to launch in early 2023, most likely rides on the STLA Small platform, which is capable of accommodating between 37 and 82 kWh of capacity, resulting in as much as 483 km (300 miles) of range. Jeep promises a larger electric “lifestyle family SUV” too, as well as a more off-road capable EV, both for 2024.
Chrysler will get an EV as well. It’s based on the Airflow concept introduced last January at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and sized similarly to Ford’s very popular Mustang Mach-E. Due in 2024 as a 2025 model, the new crossover should be good for up to 644 km (400 miles) of range, while also capable of Level 3 autonomous driving capability.
Stellantis to make up to 75 unique electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles worldwide
Stellantis’ EV push also includes a hydrogen fuel cell contingent, which, together with all of the above and more, combines for a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2038. This means all European vehicle sales and half of U.S. sales (which will likely include Canada) will be electric by 2030, resulting in 75 new electric vehicles in production by the latter year, with at least 25 on their way to North America.
Just ahead of the Ram 1500 EV mentioned a moment ago, which is scheduled to arrive in 2024, Stellantis’ dedicated truck brand will launch a fully electric ProMaster van in 2023, which will simultaneously debut a Fiat Professional version. We’ll also see an electrified Dodge muscle car prototype later this year, all ahead of the aforementioned Airflow hitting the market.
Chrysler will be fully electric by 2028, so therefore all internal combustion engine (ICE) enthusiasts can give a collective sigh of sadness for the fabulous Hemi V8’s demise, while Italian luxury car brands Alfa Romeo and Maserati (also known for their formidable and sonorous ICE’s) will completely change over to electric by 2030.
Stellantis sees a future for hydrogen fuel cell tech in the commercial sector
As for hydrogen fuel cell models, Ram is planning a large, ProMaster hydrogen van for 2025, while the same brand should have its heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks hydrogenized shortly thereafter. Hydrogen offers lighter weight than battery-powered EVs, benefiting ultimate cargo capacities, plus quicker refueling than recharging a battery, so H2 may become a better alternative for commercial vehicles as long as an extensive hydrogen refuelling network is made available to support its plan.
Serving both commercial and consumer markets, Stellantis’ is continuing to work on autonomous driving aids, such as hands-free cruise control, as well. The automaker is lagging behind others in this sector, but, together with strategic partner BMW, plans to introduce an advanced system in 2024 that won’t require a driver to continuously monitor the steering wheel, which is currently the case for most competitive systems.
2022 Chrysler Airflow | Our First Battery-Electric Vehicle (3:16):
2022 CES | Chrysler Airflow Reveal (12:22):
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Stellantis
Is there a meaner looking sports car available anywhere? OK, an argument can be made for some multiple-six-figure sports and supercars, but within the more affordable mainstream volume-branded sector,…
Is there a meaner looking sports car available anywhere? OK, an argument can be made for some multiple-six-figure sports and supercars, but within the more affordable mainstream volume-branded sector, the Challenger is one tough looking customer.
Of course, Dodge follows up the Challenger’s menacing appearance with a range of powertrains that borders on the otherworldly. There’s nothing particularly exciting about its base 3.6-litre V6, except for the ability of a budget-conscious buyer being able to get into this fabulous looking car for just $36,265 (plus freight and fees), the SXT and GT models’ 303 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque just barely capable of making their respective 1,750-kilo (3,858-lb) and 1,772-kg (3,907-lb) curb weights feel sporty. It gets even more challenging to do so when all-wheel drive is added to the mix, due to the just-noted models’ curb weights bumped up to 1,840 kg (4,057 lbs) and 1,847 kg (4,072 lbs) apiece, but muscle car fans wanting more get-up-and-go can always opt for a V8.
RT trim is the most affordable way to get into Dodge’s 5.7-litre Hemi, which is good for a healthy 372 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque through the rear wheels, while only adding 117 kg (258 lbs) to the rear-wheel drive GT. The mind-blowing SRT Hellcat, on the other hand, and downright insane Hellcat Redeye make concerns about mass less of an issue, at least in a straight line. The former makes a sensational 717 horsepower and 656 lb-ft of torque from a 6.2-litre supercharged Hemi V8, while the latter puts out an absolutely outrageous 797 horsepower and 707 lb-ft of torque from a higher output version of the same engine, both of which are available in either the Challenger’s regular body style or the Widebody design introduced for 2018.
The R/T Scat Pack 392, also available in both body styles, splits the difference between the regular R/T and Hellcat with a 6.4-litre supercharged Hemi V8 making 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque, an engine that adequately compensates for the car’s 1,924 kg (4,242 lb) curb weight by launching it from standstill to 100 km/h in about four seconds before attaining a top track speed of 273 km/h (170 mph). My Scat Pack 392 Widebody tester adds a bit more mass, 33 kg (73 lbs) to be exact, resulting in 1,957 kg (4,314 lb), but once again this additional weight more than makes up for itself in handling performance, thanks to meatier 305/35 ZR-rated Pirelli P Zero rubber on 20×11-inch Devil’s Rim forged aluminum wheels, which compare well against the regular Scat Pack 392’s 245/45ZR20 performance tires.
To be clear, Widebody Challengers only add a competition suspension with active damping, plus fender flares to allow for beefier tires, which means the track of both body styles maintains a sizeable 1,610 mm (63 in) up front and 1,621 mm (64 in) in back. All that extra rubber combines ideally with the 392’s well-sorted independent short/long arm front and multi-link rear suspension setup, making for mostly confidence-inspiring stability through fast-paced corners.
Mostly? I won’t lie, this isn’t a car for the faint of heart. What I mean is, you’ll be able to feel the Challenger’s transitional weight when flinging it through sharp curves, and while much of that mass is up front, therefore causing a tendency for the car to understeer, or push out at the front, unless getting too hard on the throttle mid-corner and breaking rear grip, it’s the exact opposite of the performance spectrum than something extremely lightweight, like the Alfa Romeo 4C (also under the Stellantis group umbrella).
This said, I pushed my Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody tester hard around some very tight sets of mountainside curbs and never had an issue. It actually feels pretty well balanced, with that just-mentioned slight tendency to push out at the front wheels in fact confidence-inspiring, as it informs a driver of its breaking point before it’s too late, and due to this feedback, much attributed to the car’s electrically-assisted rack and pinion steering system, I was able to instantly compensate by applying a bit of input at the wheel to make the rear step out ever so slightly. So, it’s not that this car can’t perform with the best in this pony car crowd, but instead it comes down to the sensation of its mass transitioning from side-to-side so obviously, that might make some drivers feel a bit uneasy.
Of course, Dodge provides all of the latest traction and stability control functions, which help to keep the rear end in check if it were to suddenly let go, while the big fat Brembos at each corner provide plenty of stopping power with very little fade, so my only advice to new owners would be to keep the traction and stability control systems on as you gradually get familiar with those breaking points, and then when finally ready to test its boundaries, make sure it’s not on a circuitous canyon road with a rock wall on one side and cliff on the other. A local autocross course in a parking lot, where you’ll only be destroying orange cones might be a better idea, but I digress.
I’ve delved pretty deep into this review without mentioning anything about the Challenger’s transmission choices, so here goes: all V6-powered Challengers are only available with an eight-speed automatic dubbed TorqueFlite, a name that’s been used for branding all of Chrysler group’s in-house autoboxes since 1956 (when it replaced the two-speed PowerFlite), but this unit, and all eight-speeds currently available from Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, or Ram, are in fact rebranded versions of the ZF 8HP, albeit built under licence at Chrysler’s Kokomo, Indiana casting plant since 2013.
Incidentally, the first vehicle in the four-brand lineup to receive ZF’s 8HP was the 2011 Chrysler 300, but it soon expanded to the 2012 Dodge Charger, 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2013 Ram 1500, and now encompasses all vehicles in the four brands’ ranges using longitudinally-mounted V6 or V8 engines in RWD and AWD applications (hybrid transmissions included).
To say this was a good decision would be a massive understatement, as most familiar with the multitude of multi-speed automatic gearboxes on the market would claim ZF’s 8HP as the best compromise between quick-shifting performance and overall smooth-operating civility, not to mention superb reliability. The aforementioned four brands have sold well over one million vehicles equipped with the TorqueFlite eight-speed, and thanks to said dependability and just how thoroughly engaging it is use, especially when employing its Sport mode along with manual mode and its steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, I can attest that it’s a key reason you should consider the Challenger over its competitors. Then again, you might want to opt for the available six-speed manual, a gearbox I thoroughly enjoyed in a 2015 Challenger R/T 392 Scat Pack Shaker, way back in the day.
As yet one more side-note, I can’t just mention Sport mode without adding that it turns off the traction control (and includes a warning in the gauge cluster), so those who aren’t accredited professional drivers may want to put some track or autocross time into learning the car’s boundaries before doing so (as noted a few minutes ago). This said, you can modify Sport mode from the infotainment system, by entering the Apps page, then the Drive Mode Set-Up button, then Sport-Mode Set-Up, at which point you can reconfigure Sport mode to include traction control. This means you can use most of the power without constantly lighting up the rear tires at takeoff, or overcooking them when applying too much throttle in tight corners.
You can do the same to decrease engine response and the transmission’s high-performance shifting mode, but I can’t think of many applications I’d want to do that, or for that matter disengage the paddles, which is also possible. Likewise, you can make Sport mode’s more direct steering-feel less engaging via either Normal or Comfort modes, which hardly makes sense either, but I suppose it’s nice to have the option. These features are helpful in default mode, however, where you can leave engine/transmission in normal mode while making sure the paddles are still working, plus leave traction control on, and steering in mid-range Normal mode.
You can quickly review your personalized setup on the Performance Control page within the infotainment system’s Performance Pages section, the latter being a real bonus as it’s filled with active graphical info designed to get the most out of your driving experience, including digital coolant temp, oil temp, and oil pressure gauges on page one, boost pressure, air fuel ratio, intercooler coolant temp, and intake air temp gauges (plus battery voltage and trans temperature for the automatic) on page two, a timer page for keeping track of your reaction time off the line, as well as lap times and more (you can save this info to a USB to review on another device later), a g-force page for graphically displaying the amount of lateral and longitudinal force (current and best) your car is experiencing through curves, and an engine page for horsepower, torque and engine related info.
Right next to the Drive Mode button is one for “LAUNCH” control, a feature that’ll make sure driver error doesn’t impede any future drag races. After setting it up in the infotainment system by going to the same Performance Control page used for reviewing your personalized driving mode setup, go to the Launch RPM Set-Up page, set your launch revs between 1,500 and 3,500 rpm (you can also set the Shift Light rpm on this page), and then activate the Launch mode. Next, press your left foot hard on the brake to hold the car in place, floor the throttle with your right foot, and then release the brake, after which Launch control takes care of the rest, automatically optimizing traction and wheel spin balance along the way.
Just be smart about launching your Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 on public roads. It’s a sure-fire way to get a ticket or worse, and remember, if the steering wheel isn’t straight, or you don’t completely floor the throttle, it’ll automatically kick out of launch mode and you’ll be on your own. If you want to deactivate the program manually, you can do so within the same performance page, and it goes without saying you should be in Sport mode to get the most out of Launch mode. Just in case you’re sitting in a six-speed manual-equipped car while reading this review, launch mode works the same, but instead of releasing the brake pedal you’ll be releasing the clutch. The only difference is in setup, where you’ll be setting your engine revs between 2,000 and 4,500 rpm.
As far as non-performance equipment goes, all Challengers come well-equipped with items like automatic halogen headlamps featuring halo LED accent lighting, LED taillights, proximity access and pushbutton ignition, a 7.0-inch full-colour customizable in-cluster driving display (set between two gorgeous analog dials), a tire pressure monitoring display, a centre touchscreen (7.0 inches for the base model and 8.4 inches for all other trims), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, two USB ports, six-speaker audio, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (flat-bottomed in the Widebody) and shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with four-way lumbar adjust, and much more.
Moving up through the trims will provide exterior upgrades like larger wheels and tires, an SRT front splitter, fog lamps, a functional hood scoop (or performance hood with dual heat extractors for the 392), active exhaust (V8 only), remote start (with the automatic), paddle shifters, bright metal foot pedals, heated front seats and steering wheel rim (that get quite toasty), cooled seats, navigation, a 276-watt amplifier (in the 392), satellite radio, and more, while options include a powered glass sunroof, Harman Kardon or Alpine audio, etcetera, plus loads of packages.
My Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 tester reached near-premium levels of interior finishing too, with soft-touch surfaces almost everywhere. Even the front roof pillars are wrapped in plush Alcantara-like pseudo-suede, the same as used for the perforated seat inserts. This came as part of the Carbon & Suede Interior Package, the psuede also covering the roof liner, while the carbon fibre trim looks fabulous.
Those seats are wonderfully comfortable, with excellent side bolstering. The driver’s seat has superb adjustability, including the four-way power lumbar support noted above, which is highly unusual in this class, and not even available in some entry-level luxury models from brands like Lexus. The driver’s position is excellent too, with generous reach from the upgraded powered tilt and telescopic steering wheel, plus there’s plenty of room for larger drivers.
Rear spaciousness isn’t quite as good as the four-door Charger sedan, but there’s not all that much difference between the two cars. Headroom is actually better than you might expect, despite the narrow side windows, although rear passengers might feel a bit claustrophobic due to small rear quarter windows, but they won’t be uncomfortable. Dodge includes a flip-down centre armrest with dual cupholders, standard across the line, while the trunk is fairly large, but access is not all that easy due to a high lift-over. The rear seats fold down in the usual 60/40 configuration, making the near full-size coupe quite practical.
Yes, there are a lot of reasons to love the Challenger, especially when putting out the kind of power my tester came with. It might be big, bold, brash and some might say brutish looking, but it’s wonderfully refined inside and surprisingly easy to live with.
Sure, it’s a glutton on fuel, although its eight-speed auto helps reduce its claimed 15.9-L/100km city rating to a pretty decent 9.6 on the highway, leaving its combined rating at an estimated 13.1 L/100km. With fuel prices rising that might matter to some, but most buyers nevertheless love their Challengers. In fact, the Challenger won its “Sports/Sporty Car” category in AutoPacific’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards, which recognize vehicles that best meet owners’ expectations. It also achieved runner-up status alongside the Mustang in the Canadian Black Book’s 2020 Best Retained Value Awards, so you’ll be able to hold on to more of your money when it’s time to sell.
While the base model starts at just over $36k, as noted earlier in this review, the Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 will set you back $54,465 (plus freight and fees), a very reasonable price considering all the performance and refinement included. My R/T Scat Pack 392 Widebody pushed the price up to $62,465, still a good deal for such an impressive car, and significantly less than the $79,215 Hellcat. The top-line Hellcat Redeye Widebody costs a cool $105,215, incidentally, but once again, for a muscle car that’ll take off like a supercar, it’s hard to beat both literally and from a value perspective.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
Dodge is the Jolt Cola of the auto sector, or for those not old enough to remember that once revered albeit politically incorrect Coke and Tab alternative that went by the motto, “All the sugar, twice…
Dodge is the Jolt Cola of the auto sector, or for those not old enough to remember that once revered albeit politically incorrect Coke and Tab alternative that went by the motto, “All the sugar, twice the caffeine!”, consider the domestic brand the automotive equivalent of an adrenaline-stoking energy drink (which the resuscitated Jolt Energy now is) amongst healthy, organic, fruity, detoxifying beverages, and then also mull over the thought (this one for the execs that eventually occupy the FCA/PSA boardroom in Amsterdam, London, Turin, Paris, Auburn Hills or wherever else they decide to meet) that if its parent automaker ever strays from this bad boy brand’s anti-establishmentarian mission it’ll be game over.
Why the concern? Dodge’s current parent, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), appears to be merging with France’s PSA Group that includes Peugeot, Citroën, DS Automobiles (a relatively new luxury brand that pulls heritage from the highly advanced and iconic 1955–1975 Citroën DS) and even General Motors’ recently sold Opel and Vauxhall brands, the twosome currently rebadged versions of North American/Chinese Buick models and vice versa. If this happens it would become one of the largest auto groups in the world, including all the brands FCA currently controls, such as Fiat, Abarth (Fiat’s performance-oriented sub-brand), Fiat Professional (the vans sold under the Ram banner here), Lancia (at least what’s left of it, this once great Italian marque sadly down to one “fashion” city car now), Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari (from a distance), Ram (a.k.a. Dodge trucks for those who missed that spin-off), Chrysler (which is now down to just two models, one of which will soon be discontinued), and lastly the always profitable Jeep line here at home and abroad (that’s 16 separate brands, incidentally). Let’s just hope Dodge doesn’t get pulled into a global homogenization program that waters down its entries to the point of irrelevance (taking advantage of economies of scale being a key driver behind automakers merging).
Nothing quite like the big seven-passenger Durango SRT exists outside of Dodge; even Jeep’s outrageously quick 707 horsepower Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk is a smaller two-row mid-size model. The Durango SRT is motivated by the same comparatively tame 475 horsepower version of FCA’s 6.4-litre (392 cubic inch) Hemi V8 that powers the regular Grand Cherokee SRT, but I promise you it’s no lightweight performer. Its 470 lb-ft of torque launches the 2,499-kilo (5,510-lb) brute from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds, its SRT Torqueflite eight-speed automatic performing quick shifts whether prompted by steering wheel-mounted paddles, the shift lever, or left to its own devices. It’ll continue on with a 12.9-second quarter mile, and tops out at an incredible 290 km/h (180 mph), which is the same top track speed as the Jeep Trackhawk, and otherworldly compared to most SUVs.
All this from a family hauler that can seat seven actual adults in complete comfort while stowing their gear in a 487-litre (17.2 cubic-foot) dedicated luggage compartment behind the third row, and towing a 3,946-kg (8,700-lb) trailer behind (which is 1,500 lbs more capable than the 5.7-litre V8-powered Durango and 2,500 lbs more than with the V6). The only knock against the Durango SRT is fuel-efficiency, which is thirsty at 18.3 L/100km in the city, 12.2 on the highway, and 15.6 combined, plus a bit less off-road capability due to slightly less ground clearance, but this said who’d want to risk ruining its low-hanging bodywork or black-painted 20-inch twinned five-spoke alloys on rocks or stumps anyway, while the three-season Pirelli Scorpion 295/45 ZRs they’re wrapped in are better suited for gripping pavement than anything too slippery.
The SRT’s frowning black mesh grille, multi-vented hood, more aggressive lower fascia, side skirts, and unique rear bumper with fat chromed tailpipes poking through each side makes a strong visual statement that’s hard to ignore, with nothing changing since arriving on the scene in 2017 for the 2018 model year. It carried forward into 2019 unchanged, and will do likewise for 2020, with only some of the Durango’s lesser trims getting minor updates.
The current third-generation Durango came along in 2010 for the 2011 model year, by the way, and with the update brought back some of the curves that were missing from the angled second-gen model. More premium-level interior materials quality was reintroduced as well, with all trims that I’ve tested having been impressively finished. This is especially true of the SRT, which gets a suede-like Alcantara roofliner and A-pillars, plus contrast-stitched leatherette covering the entire dash top and much of the instrument panel, all the way down each side of the centre stack in fact, while the front and rear door uppers are made from a padded leather-like material, and armrests finished in a contrast-stitched leatherette. As you might expect, everything from the waistline down is made from a harder plastic, but it feels very durable and capable of managing punishment.
The steering wheel is a mix of perforated and solid wrapped leather with nicely contrasted baseball stitching around its inner ring, while the spokes feature high-quality switchgear and those shift paddles noted earlier, plus Chrysler group’s trademark volume control and mode switches on its backside as well. All of the cabin’s other switchgear is well done for a mainstream volume-branded vehicle too, with the larger volume, tuning and fan speed knobs on the centre stack being chrome-trimmed and wrapped in grippy rubber.
The infotainment system just above incorporates a large 8.4-inch high-resolution touchscreen that works very well for all functions. I like the simplicity and straightforwardness of Chrysler group touchscreens, and I clarify those in Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles because they’re often very different than what you’ll find in other FCA brands, like Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. Screen quality aside, as the premium Italian brands use the latest high-definition displays, I like the Chrysler interfaces best, as they tend to be easier to use and more fully featured.
Along with individual displays for the audio system, auto climate controls including digital switchgear for the heatable/cooled seats and heated steering wheel, navigation with especially good mapping and easy, accurate route guidance, phone hookup and features, plus various apps, the SRT adds another display dubbed Performance Pages featuring power torque history, real-time power and torque, timers for laps etcetera, plus G-force engine and dyno gauges, as well as separate oil temp, oil pressure, coolant temp and battery voltage gauges, much of which is duplicated over on the gauge cluster-mounted multi-information display, giving this SRT a level of digital depth few others in the industry can match.
Under the centre stack is a rubberized bin that’s big enough for any smartphone. The expected 12-volt charger and AUX plug is in close proximity, plus two even more relevant charge-capable USBs, but unfortunately no wireless charging is available. There’s another 12-volt charger as well as a Blu-ray DVD player under the centre armrest, while Dodge includes a great sounding 506-watt Alpine audio system with nine amplified speakers, or an even better $1,995 optional Harman/Kardon system with 825 watts, 19 speakers and a sub.
The throaty sound of the SRT’s V8 makes any talk about audio equipment seem unimportant, mind you, whether it’s chugging away at idle or shaking the world around it at full roar, and the way it responds to right-foot input is dramatic for such a large utility. I wouldn’t use the term catapult do describe its takeoff, but it launches without hesitation before eclipsing any remotely legal speeds within seconds. Truly, if you need more there’s probably something wrong with the way your brain processes adrenaline, while the eight-speed auto’s ability to send its formidable power and torque to all four wheels is commendable. This beefed up gearbox provides quick and purposeful shifts, yet it’s impressively smooth even when allowing revs to rise. Its manual mode with paddles provides good hands-on engagement, which was helpful when pushing hard through corners, something the Durango SRT does effectively.
The Durango’s fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension carries over mostly unchanged from the base SXT to this SRT, but Dodge dubs it “SRT-tuned” and adds a Bilstein adaptive damping suspension (ADS) in place of the regular model’s gas-charged, twin-tube coil-over shocks, plus it replaces the solid stabilizer bars with a set of hollow ones, the end result being a wonderfully flat stance through tight curves and good tracking at any speed. Additionally, the electric power steering is performance-tuned and braking power is increased via a set of big Brembos, making stopping power almost as dramatic as acceleration. It’s compliant suspension, general comfort, great visibility and easy manoeuvrability makes it an easy SUV to drive around town too, and thanks to not being quite as wide as a true full-size SUV, like Chevy’s Tahoe or Ford’s Expedition, it’s no problem to park in tight spaces.
To be clear, the Durango is a considerable 120 mm (4.7 in) narrower than the Tahoe and 104 mm (4.1 in) thinner than the Expedition, but rest assured that it measures up where it matters most from nose to tail. Its 3,045-mm (120.0-in) wheelbase is actually 99 mm (3.9 in) longer than the Tahoe’s and just 67 mm (2.6 in) shorter than the Expedition’s, which means adults fit comfortable in all seating positions.
Less width translates into less side-to-side room inside, of course, but it’s still plenty wide within, and should be sizeable enough for larger folks. The driver’s seat is superb, and like the others (excepting the third row) is finished with an embossed “SRT” logo on its backrest. My tester’s seats were covered in a rich looking dark “Demonic Red” with white contrast stitching to match the decorative thread elsewhere, while Dodge included perforated leather inserts to allow breathability for the ventilated seats noted earlier. The leather quality is extremely soft and premium-like, while the seat sides even feel as if they’re finished in the same quality of leather, albeit black. The instrument panel and doors are trimmed out with genuine-feeling patterned aluminum inlays for a sporty yet upscale appearance, plus ample chrome highlights brighten the cabin elsewhere. This said you can upgrade this SUV with an SRT Interior Appearance Group that replaces the aluminum inlays with genuine carbon-fibre, plus upgrades the instrument panel with a leather wrap, possibly a good way to spend $3,250.
Like those up front, the SRT’s standard second-row captain’s chairs are ultra comfortable, while Dodge has fixed a nice centre console in the middle featuring two cupholders and a storage bin. Rear passengers can access a panel on the backside of the front console featuring dual charging USB ports, a 115-volt household-style three-prong socket, and switchgear for the two-way seat warmers, while a three-dial interface for controlling the tri-zone automatic climate system’s rearmost compartment can be found overhead, along with a separate panel housing an attractive set of dome and reading lights.
All of this Durango SRT goodness comes for just $73,895 plus freight and fees, incidentally, and right now CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $6,500 on all 2019 Durango trims, with up to $5,000 in incentives alone. You’ll need to go to the 2019 Durango page on CarCostCanada to learn more, at which point you can access pricing for trims, packages and individual options, plus money saving rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. It’s an excellent resource, giving new car shoppers all the info they’ll need to secure the best deal possible.
My tester was equipped with a $950 Technology Group that includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, advanced brake assist, forward collision warning with active braking, plus lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, while a $2,150 rear Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system features a monitor on the backside of each front headrest, these folding upward from otherwise protected positions when not in use. A set of RCA plugs and an HDMI input can be found on the inner, upper side of each front seat, allowing external devices such as gaming consoles to be plugged in easily, all of which can turn any Durango SRT into the ultimate road trip companion.
That’s the beauty of it. This Durango SRT is one of the strongest performing SUVs available anywhere, yet as noted earlier it seats seven adults comfortably, stows all their gear, hauls trailers and much more. It’s the perfect four-season family hauler for speed fanatics, although you’ll want to swap out its three-season rubber for some good winter performance tires come late autumn. Other than that, load up the credit card with plenty of gas money, and you’ll literally be off to the races.
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