The sports-utility vehicle might have started off as a short pickup with a roof over the bed, but by the time I had become aware of cars, their role as a replacement for the venerable station wagon had been cemented. XJ Cherokees, first-generation Explorers and Grand Cherokees, all usually painted in varying shades of forest green, seemed to be everywhere as families were keen to ditch both the station wagon and the minivan and all of the boring family shuttle connotations that came with them. Which meant that they became the next punchline…the soccer-mom SUV that seated nine and did nothing more exciting that jump a curb while out running errands became the new vehicle to avoid, yet somehow the popularity of the SUV hasn’t crashed like the minivan’s has.
Today, the buyer is spoiled for choice for a sport-utility vehicle…small, medium, large, jumbo, you can get it into your driveway for a price, but what price do you pay for the be-all, do-all vehicle? What is the magical family hauler that doubles as a cargo carrier and, usually, the main V8-powered machine really setting you back? Normally, it’s boredom. Yes, it can tow, yes it can haul items and people, but it isn’t going to stir your soul or anything else, is it? A few try and succeed…the Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS, the GMC Typhoon, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT have earned their places and have proven that the SUV can haul more than groceries. And one of the newest examples of the wonder wagon on the block is the Dodge Durango SRT, a three row unit that has recently gotten the SRT treatment. This means that the 392 Hemi from the Charger/Challenger line has made it under the hood, along with a lot of engineering time spent to make sure that once you drive one, that you don’t walk away thinking “big motor SUV and nothing more”. It’s a comprehensive package that clicks just right…and will leave the gearhead of the family jaw-dropped at what they just drove.
I’ve wanted to drive the Durango SRT since last summer’s Woodward Dream Cruise. We got to look at one there, but we weren’t allowed to even see inside of it. We didn’t even hear it run. I’ve been patient, but I didn’t know when the dealership was going to get one in. The folks at Martin Dodge didn’t wait for me to come into the dealership on the right day. Instead, they shot me a message and told me to move my hide before one got snapped up once it appeared. I guess I have an honest face. Yes, the Octane Red example I got my hands on was dirty…nobody has left this one alone since it arrived! To say this one is something special will require more photos and more words, but understand this: not only were both General Manager Bryan Metzger and Internet Sales Manager Scott Renshaw smiling like Cheshire Cats over having me drive the SRT, they were insistent that I go find somewhere open and have at the throttle at least once…I guess they were making up for my soaked drive in the Hellcat Charger. Read on to learn more…
Thanks again to Bryan Metzger and Scott Renshaw from Martin Dodge-Jeep-Chrysler-Ram for the opportunity to drive the Durango SRT, to Mike and Chase at KingSpeed Power and Performance for letting me cut loose in the parking lot and to Mitch Wright and Taylor Howard at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky for allowing me onto the track on an off day for the photographs!