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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A white 2021 Dodge Durango is doing a burnout in an empty lot.

Is the 2021 Dodge Durango the World’s First Performance SUV?

Sometimes, two seemingly disparate forces come together to make magic. The first pickup truck, for instance, combined a passenger car with farm machinery to craft one of America’s most popular auto body styles. Another case in point? The 2021 Dodge Durango, a tough racecar of an SUV that manages to combine the best of sports cars, trucks, and SUVs in one sweet, confusing package.

The Durango goes beyond other performance enhancements in the SUV market. Sure, brands like Honda may offer “sport” trims on some of their SUVs, but these editions usually boil down to more style points, tech, and safety features rather than on-road accelerating power. Dodge, meanwhile, has revamped the Durango to be the crossover we never knew we needed: a high-performance SUV.

Forget the top-heavy designs and awkward steering that plague many discount SUVs. This guy isn’t just agile; it performs like nothing you’ve ever seen. Like an elephant on main street, the 2021 Durango may stick out as a three-row, high-performance vehicle, but it really does do what its smaller, seemingly more agile competitors can. Only with those extra-sweet benefits that make SUVs such a popular body style. Here’s what you need to know.

Notable Features

A closeup shows the black steering wheel and dashboard in a 2021 Dodge Durango.

The 2021 Dodge Durango is a midsize, 8-passenger SUV designed to perform like a much more lightweight vehicle. Note the base model’s V-6 engine, which breaks from the SUV tradition of outfitting base models with more clumsy 4-cylinders. You get 295 horsepower – already impressive by usual SUV standards- and an 8-speed automatic transmission for a family vehicle that’s also fun to drive every day.

For better towing potential, upgrade to one of the three available V-8 engines with 360, 475, and 710 horsepower. You read that right: a V-8 engine with 710 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque is a reality in 2021 – outside the luxury market, too! The supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 is an engineering marvel, outputting incredible force to offer the best of outstanding road performance and towing. This engine is the top feature of the SRT Hellcat trim available for the 2021 Dodge Durango – more on that below.

The secrets to this SUV’s shocking aerodynamics lie beyond the engines, though. Look to the Durango’s 52/48 weight distribution, by which the SUV is engineered to balance weight between the engine and rear drive axle, offering outstanding traction and improved handling. Trailer sway control technology maintains stability, adjusting engine throttle and occasional brake pressure so you can test the Durango’s speed and towing limits at the same time. Available all-wheel drive provides even power output and ultimate traction control while reaching top speeds, while the available electronic T-shifter and paddle shifters enable you to quickly and easily sear into record-breaking speeds with just a few clicks.

No Identity Crisis Here

Despite its performance features and tough towing potential, the 2021 Dodge Durango still offers the benefits you’d expect from an SUV, starting with a roomy cabin. All three rows offer an embarrassment of space, including leg and headroom, while ergonomic seating provides both style and comfort. Driver and family entertainment exist in the industry-leading infotainment device, the UConnect system. This fast, responsive, and smartphone-compatible device can be outfitted with navigation and hordes of entertainment features. Add the dual-screen Blu-Ray player to keep all passengers engaged while you enjoy a thrilling drive.

There’s no shortage of interior luxury packages, either. While the driver’s cockpit harkens back to the Dodge Challenger’s athletic design, comfort features like heating and ventilated seats and fine Nappa leather upholstery offer touches of luxury-level style. As for another SUV staple, enhanced active safety features like Blind Spot Monitoring and Brake Assist make this vehicle as reliable as it is powerful.

Adventurous SUV drivers who love to forge their own path, take note: this multi-talented SUV might also be your outdoorsy companion. Note its dozens of different seat configurations that enable you to fit luggage, sporting equipment, and more – all without worrying about that extra weight affecting performance. And of course, the Durango’s ample max cargo volume of 85.1 cubic feet doesn’t hurt, either.

Make no mistake: the 2021 Dodge Durango is an SUV, through and through. However, Dodge has done what no other automakers have: they turned this SUV’s performance throttle to break barriers and absolutely astound the market. Just look to the golden boy of this lineup, the SRT Hellcat trim.

A gray 2021 Dodge Durango is shown from the side towing an Airstream camper.

Durango SRT Hellcat

The signature Hellcat trim is Dodge’s famously sporty, racetrack-ready trim on their muscle car, the Dodge Charger. Now this athletic upgrade is coming to an SUV in the form of the Durango SRT Hellcat. Dodge has billed this trim as the taller, longer, more spacious cousin of the Charger, an opportunity that may confuse some. Aren’t SUVs for fuel economy and cabin comfort, at most offering some off-road capability?

But the Hellcat SRT Durango isn’t anything close to your average SUV. This bad boy can clock up to 710 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque thanks to its Hellcat Supercharged V8 engine, aggressively aerodynamic body shape, and 8-speed automatic transmission that explodes with power through all 4 wheels. The growling engine, large supercharger, and athletic looks will turn heads, especially as this SUV accelerates from 0 to 60 in a bizarre 3.6 seconds, according to Car and Driver on-road testing.

Here’s the weirdest part of all. This Formula One-ready SUV can also tow up to 8,700 pounds, a record in the midsize crossover SUV market. Prepare for shock and awe as your high-performance SUV – race-like dual stripes and all – pulls a trailer down the highway. Add the specially designed steering wheel, clutch, and console, and you have what looks to be the largest race car ever.

An Oddity of Engineering

So what the heck is this car? Who is it for? Is it a must-have for those looking to show off as they recite specs to their dreary friends? Is it the perfect vehicle for those who want to not only tow a horse trailer but put those poor equines through the thrill ride of their lives? Maybe families who love an open road adventure can appreciate when dad gets a little too aggressive, kicks the family SUV into gear, and laughs as everyone’s eyes pop out?

The 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat may seem like an outrageous vehicle, but it, at the very least, makes history as an SUV that can hold its own on the racetrack. Then again, it’s not like a high-performance SUV is unheard-of. The Jeep Trackhawk has its own shredder of an engine, and any Mercedes-Benz SUV of the AMG subsidiary can achieve hot-rod performance levels. However, the difference in the Durango lies not only in marketing but in its potential to do even more than leaving less capable SUVs in the dust.

Which begs the question: who doesn’t want a vehicle that can do it all? For drivers who lament performance vehicles’ low-slung frames and small cabins, there’s the roomy Durango. For drivers who want towing without the limitations and occasional clumsiness of a heavy-duty pickup truck, there’s the well-balanced Durango. For family SUV drivers who just want a little more excitement out of their drive, there’s the superpowered Durango. Sure, this SUV is notable for its outstanding top speeds, but in reality, the 2021 Dodge Durango’s wonder lies in its unheard-of versatility. While there’s no such thing as a vehicle that does it all and tops every car enthusiast’s wish list, the redesigned 2021 Durango may be the closest we’ve come to touching the sun.

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