By James Raia
Being the biggest, fastest or most powerful means a lot in the automotive industry. The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is the most powerful sport utility vehicle ever made. It has a few horsepower nod over the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.
What’s difficult to determine is why the designations are important. The Hellcat is newly designed to join the other Hellcat sedan offerings. It’s aggressive-looking but not particularly handsome. But its Hellcat badges (side views of an angered wildcat) vault the SUV into a roadshow.
The design derives from the name of the American Grumman F6F Hellcat, the main Navy fighter in the second half of World War II. A Hellcat also means “witch” or “a violently temperamental person.” If it’s an important connection, sure, consider buying the new Durango. The badges constantly attract attention, often from young onlookers.
The 2021 Dodge Durango is available in six trim levels: SXT, GT, R/T, Citadel, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat. Dodge offers a choice of V6 or V8 engines. Rear-wheel drive is standard on most models. All-wheel drive is optional on most trims and standard on both SRT variants.
The SRT Hellcat is powerful
The SRT Hellcat reigns in the power world, accelerated by a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 with 710 horsepower. It also has seven drive modes: auto, sport, track, snow, tow, eco and valet.
For RV owners, the trailer tow is a $1,095 option. The towing capacity is a segment-best 8,700 pounds.
Still, an SUV with acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 180 miles per hour? There must be a need for such specs in a three-row SUV, but the reasons are hard to fathom. Are there track races for the Durango? Are there speed record attempts on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah for SUVs?
2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat likes gas
Vehicle owners pleased with power and performance aren’t often concerned about fuel efficiency. But the Hellcat and its stablemates consume gas like thirsty brewpub patrons. The top-end Durango is rated at 12 miles per gallon in city driving and 17 mpg on the highway. Its 13 mpg combined mileage is an industry embarrassment.
Fuel shortcomings aside, the Durango SRT Hellcat further appeals to the power-pleased clan with its bellowing exhaust system. It’s a throaty growl, the result of specialized exhaust pipe additions. There’s never any doubt the Dodge is in the vicinity.
Like many top-end SUVs and pickup trucks, the new Durango dispels any remaining notions of work and recreation vehicles forsaking comfort and convenience for versatility.
Lots of standard features in the SRT Hellcat
The standard features list is exhaustive, a compilation of other trims’ offerings. But the Hellcat also includes Brembo brakes, adaptive suspension, sport seats with upgraded leather and a flat-bottom performance steering wheel.
Dodge updated all 2021 models with a 10.1-inch touchscreen and the carmaker’s Uconnect® 5 infotainment display. It’s an impressive offering with quick touchscreen reactions and a sharp graphic readout.
The most expensive add-on is the $2,495 Premium Interior package. It adds a suede headliner and forged carbon fiber accents. Upgraded Laguna leather seats add $1,595. Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert and a lane-departure warning add $2,395.
Additional options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system ($1,085) and a second-row DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones ($1,995).
Better grab one quick
The SRT Hellcat is a one-year-only offering. Its original limited production of 2,000 sold out quickly. Dodge announced an added production run in April.
The Durango’s base model starting price is about $33,000; the SRT Hellcat begins at around $80,000 and can approach six figures. The test vehicle cost $86,075.
If money means power, the SRT Hellcat means business. Buy the Durango and drive it with authority. Spend a lot of money on gas. Expect a lot of attention on the road. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot or a witch. And while perhaps easily tempted otherwise, keep your temper in check.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.