2018 Dodge Durango will scramble your alphabet [video review]

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Imagine a large crossover with German-engineered underpinnings, stoked with a high-horsepower V8 engine. It accelerates, corners, and halts as if birthed from the womb of Mercedes-AMG or BMW M. Luxuriously equipped cabin? Yep. Lathered to the rafters with the latest technology? Absolutely. Brain-morphing performance? Oh yeah! Screaming down the Autobahn would be nirvana. If you think a bad-wagon like this must wear German jewelry, I’m about to scramble your alphabet.

Instead of the letters AMG or M slapped across its hatch, this one wears Dodge’s SRT badge–the same three demonic letters that announce the Challenger/Charger Hellcat and Challenger Demon. But, those same three letters once appeared on the Chrysler Crossfire SRT6 that was legitimately powered by a hand-build AMG engine. So, this is not without precedent. And, the Durango is more Mercedes-AMG than you might guess.

Durango’s basic architecture was developed while Mercedes was a sibling of Dodge under DaimlerChrysler and is shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and recent ML/GL crossovers. From behind the wheel, there’s no doubt. Its Mercedes roots bleed through to a feeling that two Kenworths couldn’t move it off course. The suspension is firm, yet compliant over rough pavement, courtesy of the active damping system that adjusts the suspension according to drive modes. Punch it from all-day comfortable to track day firm.

Those drive modes? There are seven of them: Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Valet, and ECO. Sport mode reduces shift times by 50% and moves 65% of torque to the rear wheels. The deep burbling exhaust note will send the Wicked Witch to burning her own broom while Brembo high-performance brakes and 20” black alloy wheels with Pirelli P Zero three-season tires stick it.

Accelerating away, it’s fast enough to scramble your brain. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) certified the Durango SRT’s quarter-mile time of 12.9 seconds. It’s capable of vaping 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. You can thank the 392 cubic-inch (6.4-liter) HEMI V8 under the hood that delivers 475 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque–all routed to the electronic all-wheel-drive system through Chrysler’s TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission. Want some more digits? It can also tow 8,700 lbs. and achieves 13/19-MPG city/hwy.

While the smooth body is muscled up with all strands of accoutrement, much of it is functional. Those hood scoops and heat extractors in the hood are authentic, as are the four-inch round exhaust outlets. LED fog lamps and cold air ducts in the lower front facia enhance performance. Red brake calipers look hot, but grip 15” rotors that are larger than many cars’ wheels. A mesh grille replaces Dodge’s crosshair version so there’s no doubt this is the SRT. And, if you want further confirmation, check the “392” fender badging.

Sidle inside to sniff an interior worthy of any high-output ‘Benz. Heated and cooled Demonic Red Laguna leather seats, heated flat-bottom steering wheel, carbon-fiber trim, suede headliner, and stitched dash coverings dress the cabin. Drivers face a 180 mph flat screen instrument display while rear passengers sit in captain’s chairs with their own video screens. Crank up the Beats Audio with 506-watt amplifier, summon navigation, and connect iThings via Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto. Conjure the SRT Performance Pages to track vehicle telemetry thirty ways from Sunday. Safety is enhanced by adaptive cruise, forward collision warning plus, lane departure warning plus, blind spot, rear cross path detection, and rearview camera.

Dodge wants to make sure you know how to speak fluent SRT and can adequately handle this German-bred beast, so they’ll send you to the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving for a day you will never forget. You’ll be speaking in Sanskrit when that’s over!

Dodge will sell you a base Durango for $29,995, but light $74,955 on fire for this one.

Storm Forward!

Check out Casey’s video review of the Durango SRT above, then follow him on Twitter and YouTube: @AutoCasey.

2018 Dodge Durango SRT
Seven-passenger, AWD Crossover
Powertrain: 475 hp 6.4-liter V8, 8-spd trans
Suspension f/r: Elect Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
Brakes f/r: Brembo disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, capability
Fuel economy: 13/19 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Detroit, MI
Base/as-tested price: $29,995/74,955