2021 Dodge Durango

By December 29, 2020

The 2021 Dodge Durango is a two- or three-row crossover SUV with the most powerful available engine and highest tow rating of any mid-size SUV. When equipped with the Hellcat supercharged V-8 engine—6.2 liters and 710 horsepower—no SUV can touch it, other than the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, its Chrysler family cousin with the same engine.

The gracefully aging Durango gets a facelift for 2021, with sharper features up front, a larger touchscreen in the cabin, and an electronic transmission control replacing the shift lever, to give the driver more elbow room. The switchgear also is narrower. And there are new LED projector headlights.

The base Durango comes as rear-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive standard on the SRTs and available on every other model.

There are four engines, a V-6 and three V-8s, all mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The base 3.6-liter V-6 makes 295 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and can tow more than rivals, at 6,200 pounds. It’s rear-wheel drive, but with the optional all-wheel drive it can hit 60 mph in about seven seconds.

The 5.7-liter V-8 engine, the renowned Hemi, makes 360 hp and 390 lb-ft; it can tow 7,400 pounds with rear-wheel drive, or 8,700 pounds when equipped with the optional Tow ‘n Go package on R/T trims.

Next is the 392 cubic-inch (or 6.4-liter) V-8 making 475 hp. It can hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. But more than that, the all-wheel-drive SRT 392 Durango handles and moves remarkably well given its size.

Last but clearly not least, the SRT Hellcat 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 blasts from 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, should you ever need to get there that quickly.

Surprise: none of the engines, not even the V-6, get good gas mileage in the heavy SUV.
The 3.6-liter V-6 gets an EPA-rated 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined with rear-wheel drive, or the same combined mileage with all-wheel drive. The 5.7-liter V-8 gets 14/22/17 mpg with either drive system, and the SRT and Hellcat models do worse, though the EPA hasn’t posted their ratings. Expect 13-15 mpg combined.

The NHTSA gives it four stars overall, while the all-wheel-drive models earn three stars in rollover ratings. The IIHS calls the Durango “Marginal” in the small front-overlap test on the driver’s side.

Automatic emergency braking and active lane control are not available on the base SXT model. They’re available as part of a $2,600 Technology package on the next two models, and standard on the top model.

Model Lineup

The Durango is offered in SXT, GT, R/T, Citadel, or SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat models.

The base SXT costs $33,260. It comes with the V-6 engine, two rows of seats upholstered in fabric, an 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four USB ports, keyless start, and 18-inch wheels.

The GT adds the third row, and creature comforts such as an 8-way power driver’s seat. It has more available packages, including safety,

For towing, the 5.7-liter V-8 in the R/T with the Tow ‘n Go Package for $54,395 can’t be beat. It comes with SRT 20-inch wheels that are 10 inches wide, fitted with Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires, Brembo 6-piston brakes, additional drive modes, and a towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.

The $51,900 Durango Citadel with all-wheel drive comes with the V-6, while the 5.7-liter V-8 is available. It comes with nappa leather upholstery, with the front bucket seats heated and cooled. It seats six, with heated captain’s chairs in the second row. Standard equipment includes a 10.1-inch touchscreen with Uconnect 5, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; also the tow package and a heavy-duty engine cooler, load-leveling rear shocks, 20-inch wheels, and the active safety equipment, including adaptive cruise control that comes to a complete stop in traffic.

The SRT 392 comes with the 6.4-liter V-8 (392 cubic inches) and costs $64,490.

The all-powerful SRT Hellcat with its 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 costs $82,490. It matches the chest-thumping performance with all the features and Dodge’s finest interior.

Exterior

The Durango is consistent with Dodge’s design approach that it’s all about muscle. The hood is big and long, and every Durango but the base SXT has 20-inch wheels. On the SRT models, those big wheels are 10 inches wide. The SRT hood looks even bigger, bulging with a scoop that’s flanked by vents. Now add the available racing stripes and you get the picture. The full picture is the 710-hp Hellcat doing a massive burnout. Hold your ears.

The Durango’s refresh for 2021 features a wide honeycomb grille over the intake that looks like a big mouth sucking in air. There’s also a new splitter under the intake for better road-holding in high-speed corners.

The boxy rear end is less outgoing, at least on the non-SRT models, but the SRTs get a rear spoiler. And even the fancy Citadel gets a chrome-tipped dual exhaust.

Interior

The Durango cabin has the timeless appeal of a black sport jacket. It’s awash in dark soft-touch surfaces and contrast stitching (not counting the cloth-upholstered SXT of course), with shiny switchgear and trim.

It’s been improved for 2021 with more storage spots, and an instrument panel that’s canted toward the driver and cleaned up to feel wider. The new electronic transmission control looks like the mechanical shifter it replaces on the center console. Buttons conveniently control the heated heated seats and steering wheel, eliminating the inefficient nuisance of having to use the touchscreen, especially with gloved fingers.

The front seats are firm and spacious, with power adjustment on all but the SXT; they provide comfort and support on long trips.

The bench seat in the rear has a hump in the middle that the third passenger back there won’t be happy with. But the captain’s chairs solve that; they’re standard with the top Citadel model, and available on every model including the SXT.

The third-row bench is big enough for two adults for short periods, but generally it’s just for kids. It’s split 50/50 and folds into the floor to create more than 43 cubic feet of cargo space.

With the third row raised, there’s 17 cubic feet for gear in the back, while with both rows of seats dropped, there’s a cargo-van-like usefulness, with 85 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

Even the V-6 Durango is potent enough to stir the heart, in less than the seven seconds it takes to accelerate to 60 mph. The smooth 3.6-liter has been a winner for some time, used by Chrysler in many vehicles including the Jeep Wrangler. In the Durango, its 295 hp and 260 lb-ft or torque enables it to tow 6,200 pounds, which is much more than mid-size SUV rivals.

The 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi is nearly as popular as the less costly V-6. Making 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, with all-wheel drive it can tow 8,700 pounds when equipped with the Tow ‘n Go package on R/T trims. Otherwise it can tow 7,400 pounds with rear-wheel drive.

The SRT 392 (392 cubic inches) is a 6.4-liter V-8 making 475 hp. The engine is used in Dodge muscle cars, namely the Charger and Challenger, and can charge the SRT 392 from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds, which would be a phenomenal time if it weren’t overshadowed by the Hellcat. The surprising thing about the SRT 392 is how well it handles; the steering is precise, and it even feels relatively nimble (with the emphasis on “relatively”). An independent front and multi-link rear suspension includes Bilstein adaptive dampers that help it corner like a brick half its size.

Like the Hellcat, it comes with standard all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission.

As for the SRT Hellcat, and its 710 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, besides that jowl-twisting acceleration from a standing start to 60 mph, it can do the quarter-mile in 11.5 seconds, and reach a top speed of 180 mph.

The Durango rides a little lower than the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Its high-speed cornering is improved by better aerodynamics from the revised front end with its new splitter, and the SRT models have a unique rear spoiler to further aid the aero. The SRT models track well and stay planted.

In a straight line, the ride is stiff and the 20-inch wheels emphasize the old structure by not swallowing the flaws of past design. But when the Durango is driven casually on a smooth road, it can ride fairly quietly and composed.

Final Word

The 2021 Dodge Durango is the oldest and most expensive of mid-size SUVs, and that’s a tough ask. It has its virtues, but only the main one is compelling: horsepower. So if you’re an engine enthusiast, a Durango could make you happy. You choose the rush you can afford, from the 295-hp V-6 to the supercharged 710-hp Hellcat.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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