Bacon makes everything better.
So does SRT — when it comes to cars like the Challenger and Charger.
And now, SUVs.
What, after all, could be better than an almost 500 hp Durango that can take you and five friends to 60 in just over four seconds? That has the steering reflexes of a Porsche 911 — but can also tow nearly 9,000 pounds?
How about the new SRT 392 Durango?
WHAT IT IS
Take a Durango — Dodge’s mid-size SUV — and baconize it with a 6.4 liter 475 hp Hemi V8, the same one that powers the Challenger SRT 392 (that’s the size, in old school cubic inches) plus a road-ripping all-wheel-drive system which allows four-wheel burnouts and which you can’t get yet in the Challenger SRT.
Along with that extra room for your hooligan amigos — and that hitch out back.
That’s the SRT 392 Durango — a very special version of Dodge’s mid-sized SUV screwed together by the guys who work at SRT, that acronym standing for Street & Racing Technology.
But really, this is about firepower — not technology. No turbos or overhead cams here. Just a huge V8 belting out huge horsepower, like Napalm back in ‘Nam.
It’s a time-trip back to the good old days, for however long they can get away with it today.
Base price is $64,090 — which isn’t cheap and will limit how many hooligans can get their hands on this one.
Of course, speed has always been a question of money.
How fast do you want to go?
The SRT 392 Durango is new for 2018.
All Durangos — not just the SRT — now come standard with an LCD touchscreen and Chrysler’s excellent U-Connect interface but the SRT Durango gets a larger 8.4 inch display and uniquely gets the Performance Pages apps — same as the Challenger/Charger SRT — with selectable real-time horsepower/torque output displays, G forces, lap timer and a plethora of additional digital gauges.
The audacity of it.
The practicality of it.
The discretion of it.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
The price of it.
The appetite of it.
The temptation of it.
UNDER THE HOOD
Regular Durangos come with V6s standard — and you can upgrade to a 5.7 liter V8. Nothing much to see here, move along.
Then there’s this thing.
It comes standard with a 6.4 liter V8, muscled-up to 475 hp and 470 ft.-lbs. of torque. Historical perspective is in order. The 392 Hemi is stronger than the ultimate Hemi — the legendary 426 Hemi used in classic supercars such as the shovel-nosed Daytona Superbird Richard Petty toured Talladega in at 200 MPH.
It made 425 hp — gross, using the old way of measuring horsepower. Engine on a stand, headers and no mufflers. Cheater tuned.
The SAE gross rating was always optimistic, usually by about 20 percent.
Using today’s way of rating the horses — SAE net, engine in the car with all accessories and a production exhaust with mufflers — the 426 Hemi in a ’70 Superbird would clock in around 345 hp — while the Durango’s 392 would have carried a 565 hp rating, had it been available back in ’70.
The good old days weren’t always good — and tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems!
Another angle that helps get a handle on just how good we’ve got it now vs. then is to consider the acceleration stats of that 1970 Hemi Daytona — which didn’t have three rows of seats and couldn’t pull 8,600 lbs., which the SRT Durango can.
A 1970 Hemi Superbird took a bit less than 6 seconds to get to 60; ran the quarter mile in the high 13s. The Durango gets to 60 two seconds sooner — and through the quarter mile in the high 12 second range.
And it weighs 5,500 lbs.
A ’70 Daytona Superbird weighed about 3,800 lbs.
That is some impressive math.
If anything, the Durango’s V8 is under-rated. Put that 392 in a ’70 Superbird — lighter by 1,700 lbs. (the equivalent of a ’70 Super Beetle plus its driver hitched to the bumper of the Superbird) and you’d have a ride fast enough to scare even Richard Petty.
This is why the 392 is paired with an all-wheel-drive system.
Even with the traction advantage of modern wheels and tires (vs. the absurd fifteen-inch rolling stock that was fitted to the ’70 Daytona; smaller wheels than come standard on a new Nissan Versa) the power is simply overwhelming.
The AWD system nails it down, puts it to productive use. And keeps you pointed in the right direction — while also letting you smoke the tires, which is essential to this experience. Engage the Launch Control and its Tally Ho!
There is one area of direct equivalence between the SRT’d Durango and a ’70 Hemi Daytona: They each drain the tank almost as quickly as a Saturn V rocket burns through its stock of liquid oxygen/kerosene when the five F1 engines are lit.
EPA says 13 city, 19 highway is possible — but single digits are the reality when you light this rocket’s fire.
ON THE ROAD
Do the $20 bill test.
Put a twenty on the dashboard and tell your passenger it’s theirs — if they can grab it. Then floor it.
Your twenty is very safe.
And so are people in the opposite lane of traffic.
Unlike hyper-powered rear-wheel-drive machinery, which has a tendency to get sideways very easily — the Durango is almost fail-safed by its AWD system, which meters the 392 Hemi’s power through four contact patches rather than just two.
Some slip is allowed — enough to enhance the fun without spoiling the ride by putting you in peril of bending the metal. In addition to the Launch Control button, as in the RWD Challenger and Charger SRTs — there is also the whole slew of individually configurable throttle, shift point/firmness and a seemingly endless array of other settings. But really the only control you need is the one underneath your right foot.
Point — and shoot.
Well, you’ll also need to brake.
Not because you want to, necessarily. It’s just an annoying necessity when you glance at the gauges and notice you’re doing 90 and you’re not on the high bank at Daytona. Richard Petty didn’t have to worry about “reckless” driving tickets for doing what comes naturally in a machine like this.
Happily, the SRT has brakes to go with what’s under the three-scooped hood (these are really hot air bleeds; the 392 Hemi is injected and so the center scoop isn’t connected to a pair of Carter AFBs, sadly). Four huge and red powder-coated Brembo brakes at all four corners slow this mechanical Megalodon down as quickly as the Hemi hurls it forward.
This is another point of departure vs. the classic-era muscle. It’s not all engine. It is balanced.
This includes in the curves.
Probably — no, certainly — the Durango (all 5,500 lbs. and despite sitting several inches higher off the ground) — has more lateral grip than Petty’s Daytona. A curve posted 35 MPH taken at 60 in a ’70 would be taken sideways, the tail wagging the dog. The Durango takes the same curve at the same speed with one hand on the wheel.
The G meter egging you on to go faster.
The SRT-tuned steering is immediately and precisely reactive. You can dial in micro-changes to shift the Durango’s course exactly along the desired line, from which it does not deviate. This is amazing given what it is — or rather, what the SRT guys started out with: A big SUV whose designers never had this in mind but which cuts the rug like a sports car.
Meanwhile, this is still a big SUV. It’s no longer a body-on-frame SUV (the current model shares its unibody underthings with the Jeep Grand Cherokee) but it is big and heavy — and this is an advantage insofar as ride quality.
The things it’s capable of in the curves notwithstanding, the SRT Durango still has the Barcalounger feel of a big SUV. Potholes and ruts are seen but rarely felt. It doesn’t bottom out when you hit a dip in the road and you don’t need to inch forward carefully when entering or exiting driveways and other such that are the bane of the low-riding sports car.
This is a practical hell ride.
It hauls the groceries and people as effectively as it hauls the proverbial mail. And it does so in almost any weather (AWD, so it’s viable in snow — which rear-drive performance cars are not) and you can take it on a gravel road without slowing down or out in the field, even — things only a deliberately cruel ad car-hating fool would attempt in a Challenger or Charger.
This includes cops driving Chargers.
That AWD system (and the ground clearance) could be your get-out-of-jail-free card one fine day.
I didn’t say that. Pretend you didn’t read it.
And there is stealth to consider.
AT THE CURB
If you are doing say 62 MPH in a bright blue Challenger on a divided highway with a posted speed limit if 55 MPH and a cop appears in the other lane, coming toward you, that cop is going to draw a bead on you. First with his eyes and then with his radar.
The odds of your being pulled over and extended no quarter are high.
They are less in the SRT 392 because at a glance, it looks like a Durango — which is after all just another SUV. These tend to pass unnoticed. Or at least, un-“taught-a-lesson.” On the other hand, everyone knows what a bright blue Challenger R/T with white hockey stick billboard stripes is for. It’s not bought to drive the speed limit. Cops know this.
But the Durango?
It’s a cloaking device.
And even if you are noticed, it’s easier to disappear. Figuratively and literally. The Durango blends in. Except for the red powder-coated brake calipers, “392” badges on each front fender and a mostly subtle SRT hood with pressed-in air bleeds on either side of a central low-profile air scoop, the SRT 392 looks like a . . . Durango.
The goods are for the most part discreetly tucked out of sight.
The main giveaway is sound.
Push the starter button and a healthy, almost cat-free blatttt blattt pulses from each of the SRT 392’s large exhaust tips. It will alert everyone in the vicinity that something is up. And if you stomp the gas leaving your driveway, everyone within a mile or so will be looking skyward, waiting for the F/18 to blast past.
Not an exaggeration. The SRT-ized exhaust has baffles that work like a turbocharger’s wastegate, popping full-open on full-throttle cue, a shock wave produced at each vertebrae-adjusting (forget that $20 on the dashboard) gear change. It’s wicked and wonderful but also just like a Klingon Bird of Prey losing its cloaking device with Enterprise right there, phasers locked.
You could, of course, just drive it along with the pack.
Hard, given what you’ve got.
But also easy because of the SRT’s crushed-suede cabin, ultra-comfortable seats, superb Beats audio rig and individual LCD flat screen monitors for the back seaters to watch a show when you are done giving them one.
Plus everything that’s optional in the lesser Durangos, including heated and cooled seats and the entertaining as well as functional Performance Pages apps piped through the 8.4 inch UConnect LCD touchscreen.
Also, it’s not too big.
201.2 inches end to end — which to scale-reference it for you is nearly a foot shorter overall than a Ford Expedition and about as long overall as a full-size minivan, like a Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey.
But the metric that matters even more is width. The Durango doesn’t feel as though it ought to have a flag car running point — like you see when they move an oversized object, such as a modular home, down the road on the back of a flatbed. Some of the latest full-size SUV stuff does feel that way — because of the width (and the track, the wheels are pushed out ever farther, which enhances that big car ride but also takes up much of the road space meant for normal-stance cars).
The Durango is about four inches narrower through the midline than an Expedition or similar full-sized/three row SUV (75.8 inches vs. 79.9 in this example). It rips but does not hog the road.
And yet still has three rows and plenty of room for a full crew of amigos. Plus their stuff. And what won’t fit can be pulled.
Remember that 8,600 lb. max tow rating.
A Challenger SRT can hitch a ride.
The one thing the SRT boys neglected was a larger tank. The baconized Durango has the same 24.6 gallon fuel cell as the V6 Durango — which is plenty when you’re averaging low double digits, as the V6 Durango is perfectly capable of averaging.
But the SRT Durango is fully capable of transforming those 24.6 gallons into water vapor and C02 in less than 200 miles.
On the upside, the gas fill is now capless. Just pop the fuel door and insert. You’ll be on your way sooner — and with less mess.
The center console has almost no storage space, especially with the Beats system and the CD slot, which is put inside there and so takes up most of what little space there is. There is just enough room to tuck a small frame pistol or a cell phone.
But you do have all that additional space elsewhere. Remember: This is a three-row SUV and unless it is packed with your crew, there is always room for almost anything.
A perk that comes with the purchase of SRT vehicles is a day of hot-shoe instruction at the SRT Track Experience Driving School. This will make you fully aware of the capabilities you just bought and — more important — give you the skills to make proper use of them.
Did I mention they also paint the 392 Hemi the same cheerful orange as the ’70 Hemi?
THE BOTTOM LINE
This one’s expensive, certainly.
But some things are priceless.
*** Photo courtesy of Caricos
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The Eric Peters Car Review is sponsored by the NMA Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting your interests as a motorist and citizen through the multi-faceted approach of research, education, and litigation. The Foundation is able to offer this assistance through tax-deductible contributions.