MAKING GOOD ON A MUSCULAR PROMISE: The life-blood pumping heart is an organ made of muscle. After this year every product in the Dodge brand line-up will have a longitudinal configured powertrain available with a heartbeat supplied by Hemi V-8. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is making good on late CEO Sergio Marchionne’s promise that the Dodge brand would remain the American muscle standard bearer.
FIRST THREE ROW SRT: Every surviving Dodge also happens to be available in high performance SRT tune. Hence, the proper order of all products Dodge dictates that the brand’s only remaining SUV, the three-row Dodge Durango, receive the Special Racing Team performance treatment.
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WHAT: 2020 Dodge Durango SRT 392 3- Row full-sized performance sport utility vehicle. The model is largely unchanged from its 2018 model year debut.
Std. Power: 6.4L OHV pushrod gas V-8 w/ idle Start/ Stop = 475 hp / 470 lb-ft @3500 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle. Currently the largest displacement engine in a full size crossover SUV offered in the United States.
- +75 hp, +55 lb-ft and has Track Mode vs. Ford Explorer ST AWD
- 11.57 lb/hp vs. Ford Explorer ST AWD 11.75 lb/hp
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: 3rd Generation Durango marches on after a 2011 debut and 2014 model year refresh. The 3-Row SUV shares the WK2 4th generation Jeep Grand Cherokee’s last Mercedes Benz donated platform from the W166 Mercedes ML SUV.
√ Tandem dual hood bulges; √ Back slanting widened hexagonal dark chainlink grille supporting upper swept back lighting; √ Bolder mid fascia chin with mid air-intake and flanking straked fog lamp brows; √ Dark clad lower air dam rising in center with housings;
√ Dramatic rear rising belt line mirrored by tandem mid and lower body creases; Muscular fenders; √ Kinked C pillar followed by darkened privacy glass and darkened D-pillar for floating roof effect; √ Straked roof followed by twin bulge spoiler; √ Punched out mid liftgate; √ “C” LED “F” wrapping taillamps; √ Inverse “U” mid liftgate with prominent darkened grab bar; √ Dark clad lower rear fascia with wider tow connection housing and dual corner twin exhaust pipes.
- Specifically SRT = √ Non functional center hood intake; √ Functional dark honeycomb sub-grille center intake; √ Functional dark honeycomb dual Naca hood ventilation ducts; √ Darkened window and accent trim; √ Body color matched lower body & wheel arch cladding; √ SRT badges lower right front grille and rear liftgate; √ Smoked copper finish alloy wheels.
WHY: SHO-ing taillights to Explorer ST
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Summer 2019
WHERE: Dodge new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
WHERE TO: Track capable, street conquering, moves in the inclement stuff (better with a winter tire substitution).
- Standard full-time all-wheel drive = Electronic viscous multi-clutch differential, e-clutch limited slip front, rear differentials
- Nominal / maximum front to rear torque split = 50:50 / 30:70 (Track mode)
- 6 drive modes: Track, Sport, Custom, Automatic, Snow, Tow (without any Eco Mode!)
- Launch control
- ABS Hill descent control; 8.1″ clearance
HOW ROADWORTHY: “Apache” is the code name for Dodge Special Racing Team’s detuned pushrod V-8 racing crate engine, replete with cross bolted main bearing caps.
A brisk and authoritative TorqueFlite 8HP70, made in Germany by ZF, produces a microsecond’s worth three gear’s drop, opening the shorter intake runners at 4800 rpm for the “top end” surge. By third gear Durango SRT 392 has a two truck length lead on chief domestic competitor Ford Explorer ST. What the Explorer ST lacks is Durango SRT 392‘s genuine track mode permitting authoritative tire chirps through lower gear changes and being equipped with an accomplished brake torque Launch Mode.
+ Lever style transmission shifter with manumatic mode replaces silly scroll dial on lower Durangos.
+/- Majestically entertaining “Everyone Get Out of the Way” wide open throttle bellowing roar from the tubular headers to free-flow resonator cat-back dual exhaust calms down only to a touchy in traffic throttle rumble.
- +3% frt., +16% rr. spring rates, +18% stabilizer bar stiffness vs. Durango R/T 3.6L
Dodge SRT division’s beefing of spring and anti-roll bar rates really sharpen Durango SRT 392‘s track attack attitude. Along with a the maximum 30:70% F:R torque split, and shod with 3-season Pirelli P-Zero’s, this titan claws straight ahead coming out of an apex never feeling ready to plow. Dive is so effectively restrained that it compliments the always powerful multi-piston caliper on slotted rotor grab. Diminishment of chassis hop on the street is impressive. The price for all this stability is that even in its most benign settings, adaptive damper compression can only do so much to shake off bothersome gap impacts on the street. Steering while brisk seems to ever-so-slightly lag inputs. inputs steering Helm assist weight is burdensome in the slog, and surface feel is wanting.
HOW FAR: 16 combined miles per gallon. “Sucks” is relative as in gulping +20% premium decomposed dinosaur vs Ford Explorer ST.
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 6 Occupant seating = full-size 2+2+2 SUV style: Row 3 = Livable knee & head room for 2 x 5’11” adults ; √ Standard 2nd Row captain chairs.
- +1 Still on the large overhangs side of crossovers
- -1 Fixed pitch 2nd Row seats, Row 3 ingress a bit of a squeeze
HOW USEFUL: √ Comfort approach variable height power liftgate; √ Power flat folding 2nd Row tilt, sliding captain’s chairs w/ twin cargo bay release latches; √ Power remote cargo area 3rd Row seat fold & raise; +1 Large sub-cargo floor cargo management w/ reversible hard cover; +1 Long 1st & 2nd Row door pockets; +1 Deep center armrest space w/ fore mobile handset slot; +1 3rd Row wall storage and outboard floor cargo management.
HOW SAFE: STANDARD: Good to Acceptable IIHS scores; √ 10 airbags; √ Rear camera w/ predictive grid; √ Audible front & rear park warning; √ Roll mitigation; √ Blind Spot, rear cross traffic Warning; √ Post collision S.O.S. alert; -1 “Moderate” IIHS small front overlap impact score
AVAILABLE (included in test vehicle)
- ♦ Adaptive cruise control; ♦ Forward collision avoidance braking; ♦ Lane departure warning, audible w/ slight tug.
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Inside, the 2020 Durango SRT 392 constantly reiterates the SRT powerplant heartbeat.
A racing style smaller diameter D-wheel is served up meaty thick to hold, even if blinding with its polished metal accents. Aggressively bolstered and narrow front buckets Velcro occupants in place with Alcantara. A 180 mph speedometer, red bezel push start igniton button and bitty dorsal magnesium shifter paddles also communicate the SUV on Steroids mission. Thereafter the it is Dodge fare dating to the mid 2000s. The uni-tiered low pebbled dark pliable dashboard simply matches the dour of remaining cabin panels. Credit is due for an “old school” center stack embedded touch LCD infotainment screen. A trio of audio and climate rotary black striated knobs along with hard buttons are low fuss. Lipstick red gradients outline the white on black speedo then fueling and coolant temp gauges, flanking a 7K rpm tachometer. There no 21st century TFT customization or illumination, which invites waves of obstructive sun wash. Yet the center multi-trip display offers any racer’s heart’s content of operating condition detail.
√ Leather + velour seating – heated Rows 1 + 2, cooled Row 1; √ Wide berth, sport bolstered front bucket seats; √ 10-way power front seats, w/ 3-setting driver memory; √ Heated leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; √ Automatic 3-zone climate control; √ 2nd Row climate fan and seat heating controls; √ Large center console ribbed rotary metallic transmission position and Drive mode dials; √ Overhead console retracting sunglasses bin; √ Power folding side mirrors.
-1 Limited steering wheel reach adjustment; Short 2nd Row seat cushions; Power liftgate, lock switch on liftgate [rather than cargo area panel].
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Gauge cluster MFD horsepower, torque display; √ Performance Pages; √ Foot well, center console & door panel ambient lighting; √ D-shaped steering wheel with night illuminated “SRT” emblem
Details Done Right: Magnesium shift paddles; √ White contrast stitched leather on dash; √ Smooth soft touch dash and door padding; √ Carbon fiber mid dash accents; √ Aluminum steering wheel vertical spoke; √ Sueded headliner; √ T-style toggle console transmission position selector.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Coarse grain below waist-height, pillar, aft cabin wall plastic cabin trim; Steering wheel spoke controls lack tactile distinctiveness; Non-fluid door and secondary switch action.
√ UConnect 4.0 center dash embedded 8.5″-inch capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; √ Bluetooth & voice command hands-free communications; √ GPS HDD Navigation w/ 3-D map, voice guidance; √ voice to text SMS messaging; √ USB-A x 4, 12V x 4 (includes cargo), 115V AC x 1 (2nd Row)
+1 Concealed forward center console wireless device storage; Qi inductive device charging pocket aft of center armrest.
-1 No 3rd Row USB ports
HOW “APP” -LICABLE:
√ SRT Performance Pages; √ Android Auto / Apple Car Play smart phone projection; √ 19-speaker, 825 watt Harman Kardon audio booms the bass; √ UConnect Apps
+1 Extensive UConnect voice commands for climate, audio, voice to text SMS and navigation inputs
-1 It’s the older UConnect 4.0, slowing down Performance Pages and Sirius TravelLink loading.
By Subscription: √ Sirius XM Traffic, Metro Weather radio & TravelLink apps (5 yrs. included); √ Wi-Fi hot spot (by Verizon Wireless)
HOW MUCH: $73,060 = 2020 Dodge Durango SRT 392, w/ one track instruction day at the SRT High Performance Driving School held by Bondurant High Performance Driving School in Chandler, Arizona (within 1 year of purchase).
WHAT’S MISSING: Upscale cabin wall plastics; Surround view camera; Hospital zone compliant exhaust setting
ANY COMPETITION: Ford Explorer ST: +1 fuel economy, ride compliance, tamer soundtrack, lower price.
(Contributing Editor: T. Paluch)