The 2023 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is one of the most irresponsible vehicles on sale today, and that’s meant as a compliment. Nobody needs to transport themselves and five passengers at the rate this thing can, and the consequence of a wildly shouty 6.2-liter supercharged V8 making 710 horsepower in a vehicle that weighs 5,575 pounds manifests in dismal fuel economy. But we can easily overlook these faults as mere guilty pleasures, for the Hellcat Durango is a truly fun vehicle and a great one-vehicle solution for those who need SUV space.
Hellcat all the things (especially the SUVs)
Chances are you’re familiar with the Hellcat engine if you’re reading this review, but for those that need a refresher, the blown V8 makes 710 horsepower and 645 horsepower in Durango guise, figures slightly down from its form in the Charger and Challenger. The engine is backed by the 8HP95 ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that we know and love. Full-time all-wheel-drive is standard and the power distribution can be adjusted based on drive mode. All this grunt hits the ground via enormous P295/45ZR20 run-flat all-season tires. Thanks in part to those huge meats, 0-60 MPH happens in 3.5 seconds and the rig will dispatch the quarter mile in the high-11-second range. Acceleration, as you’d expect, is violent. And it’s a goddamn riot, time and time again.
The Hellcat engine has been around since 2015 but the third generation Durango has been on sale since the 2011 model year. It’s showing no signs of slowing down, either. It feels old; the resolution of the backup camera and digital gauge cluster is poor, and the center console interface feels dated despite a recent refresh. Even the shifter feels ancient. But like the Lexus GX460, age-forward honesty is part of its charm.
Age is but a number
Despite it being advanced in its years, the Durango drives, handles, steers, and corners far better than it should. The ride quality is shockingly good given the SRT suspension and massive tires. Somehow, it’s plush enough to be a fantastic road tripper even over the Northeast’s poor road surfaces. This notion is bettered by the engine’s never-ending torque, though it should be said that the supercharger whine can get a bit tiring given the ~2,100 RPM the engine spins at when the vehicle is running 70 MPH. The exhaust could also use a dual-mode baffle of some sort, but then again you don’t buy the Hellcat for subtlety.
We did a few-hundred-mile highway jaunt in the Durango SRT Hellcat and found it to be shockingly great at the task. What isn’t great is the 12/17/14 mpg EPA rating, but careful throttle application allowed us to average 15.2 MPG over ~400 miles of freeway-heavy testing the vehicle seen here. That’s not that bad considering the number of miles of wide-open throttle blasts we did, how much stuff the Durango was packed with, and the incredibly hot and humid weather it was subjected to during this adventure.
Fun where it counts
For enthusiasts, the Durango SRT Hellcat represents the perfect balance of modern tech with old-school brutality and the “you need to be in control” factor. That it can tow 8,700 pounds and carry 1,590 pounds worth of payload is great for its class, too. It also drives much smaller than it is, and while the steering is dead numb, it’s very direct. But chuck it into a corner and you’d never guess the vehicle measures 201 inches long and weighs as much as a 2017 Viper plus the trailer you can pull it on.
Of course, this one-vehicle-to-do-it-all factor comes at a price. The 2023 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat starts at $91,740. Our tester had options in the way of $395 for paint and $595 for the three-season tires. More notably, this vehicle was the “Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat Premium,” the last word of which adds $10,900 for Premium Package 2XY which includes the power sunroof, Laguna Leather interior, premium instrument panel, adaptive cruise control, a Class IV hitch and trailer brake controller, 19 speaker Harman Kardon stereo with an 825–watt amplifier, carbon fiber interior accents, and other less interesting items.
The grand total for the vehicle seen here is $104,670. Truth be told, the extra options that push it into six-digit territory stretch it beyond where we’re comfortable with a Durango’s MSRP tallying. Case in point: The Harman Kardon stereo is severely disappointing, perpetually sounding tinny and wholly incapable of generating enough bass to match the other levels. This is where someone will comment that I should just shut up and listen to the Hellcat engine’s glorious exhaust note, but some of us love music (and podcasts) and hearing audio in good quality. At over a hundred grand for a family hauler, you shouldn’t have to choose between the exhaust and the stereo.
Good bones, even today
This leads us to say skip the options. The “base” Hellcat is nicely equipped, anyway: The 10.1-inch UConnect 5 infotainment system is great, it’s got plenty of safety tech, and it’s just a plain old SUV (albeit unibody, not body-on-frame) that offers a good seating position, loads of comfort, and the perfect highway-cruising demeanor. It’s far from the most efficient, quiet, or luxurious way to go places in this segment– look at something like the (less expensive) 2023 BMW X7 xDrive40i for that take on the modern SUV– but it sure does make you enjoy the ride.
There aren’t many better road trippers if you care about performance and fun and need sufficient room for things like kiddos and vacation gear. Or if you care about towing a race car, if that’s your kind of thing. The point is, there are other vehicles that are as good and as fast as the Durango Hellcat in a similar price range (most of them tend to be a bit more costly, though), but the Dodge has them beat in the fun factor for normal driving, family hauling duty, and as a vehicle to fulfill most of your normal needs should frivolous spending not be of worry. If you can palate the consequences of American excess and are looking for the ability to haul your friends and/or family, tow a trailer, and do it all comfortably while hearing a supercharger scream and a V8 bellow, look no further.
Yay: Hellcat experience, ride quality, seat comfort, towing capacity, UConnect
Nay: Stereo quality, fuel economy, highway speed cabin dB, social irresponsibility
The final say: The Hellcat-powered Durango is a hilarious amount of fun, offers massive performance in a spacious and comfortable package, drives smaller and better than it should, and road trips with the best of them. Despite its imperfections, it’s absolutely glorious.
Configured our way: Skip the Premium’s Harman Kardon audio system and other visual items that don’t add to the experience and stick to the $99,605 Durango SRT Hellcat Plus. Over the “base” Hellcat Durango, this mid-range trim adds the trailer tow group and power sunroof, both of which are must-haves for a performance SUV in this price bracket. Ours would be Octane Red, and we’d pass on the frilly racing stripe options; save that money for gas and tires.