The Dodge Durango Hellcat should not exist.
The vehicle is such an unnatural monstrosity, such an unholy perversion, that Dodge was only able to offer the Durango Hellcat for sale for a single year. Whether this was truly down to the “lawyers and bean counters” at Chrysler not loving the idea of a Hellcat-powered Durango, as was claimed at Dodge’s reveal last year, is anyone’s guess.
Whatever the reason, the Hellcat trim will be unavailable on the Durango in 2022… and is presumably disappearing from all Dodge models after 2023.
And since the 2021 Durango Hellcat is technically sold out, this monster is even more elusive — an even more uncommon and unnatural sight.
The Dodge Durango Hellcat is a 710-horsepower freak of nature, standing in defiance of god and man.
And I love it to pieces.
Not just because of its accolades. Sure, the Durango Hellcat is the most powerful SUV in the world. But that’s just trivia.
I think you have to judge a vehicle on whether or not it succeeds at the job (or jobs) it’s meant to do. And the Dodge Durango Hellcat is truly amazing because it succeeds at the two things it sets out to do.
It is both a great family SUV and a ludicrous, borderline-terrifying muscle car. And it hasn’t had to do much compromising of either experience to achieve the other.
In its role as a family SUV, there are only two real drawbacks of the Hellcat trim. First is the laughably terrible gas mileage — I found it difficult, even while behaving myself, to achieve anything better than an average of 17L/ 100km. Second, there is noticeable, additional noise, vibration and harshness over the standard SRT 392 model. The vehicle gently shakes a little at idle. It also shivers slightly and drones a bit from slow rolls. The suspension, in every setting, is mercilessly stiff, especially for what is supposed to be a big, comfy SUV. The 392 version is practically a Rolls Royce compared to the Hellcat.
But honestly? I could care less. Those are minor concessions, especially when you consider the Durango Hellcat’s more aggressive supercharger setup, larger x-pipe with 4-inch exhaust outlet, specially tuned transmission and competition suspension with adaptive damping — an upgrade over the 392’s standard performance suspension.
Further working its role as a family SUV, the Durango Hellcat is anything but Spartan on the inside.
Our tester featured the $1,500 upgraded Laguna leather, high-performance seats, finished in “Demonic red” and embroidered with SRT Hellcat logos. What kid wouldn’t get a kick out of that?
In addition to the Hellcat-specific interior finishing, you can expect to find all of the infotainment options available throughout the Durango lineup.
Dodge’s Uconnect 10.1-inch touchscreen is present and remains simple and intuitive while navigating through its menus. Maps, Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free communication and the ever wonderful SRT performance pages are easy to find and use in real-time. The system is also wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
Children will be most interested in the rear DVD “Entertainment Centre”, which features its own remote and headphone sets, and can be connected to a variety of devices, including a built-in Blu-ray player, found in the centre console.
I’m personally most fond of the 19 Harman Kardon speakers and subwoofers found in the Durango. Harman Kardon remains, in my books, the best audio equipment currently found in any vehicle. The whole vibe of the Durango Hellcat makes it difficult to choose between blasting Iron Maiden or Run The Jewels through the phenomenally high fidelity speakers.
There’s also a variety of expected safety features, including parking assist, blind-spot assist, and assisted braking. No, none of this is as sexy as 710 horsepower. But it has to be said how incredible it is that the Durango Hellcat has 710 horsepower and a rear DVD entertainment centre.
On the performance front, the Durango Hellcat carries through a few key components from the lesser SRT 392 model.
The Quadra-Trac active on-demand transfer case, performance-tuned electric power steering, Brembo performance 4-wheel antilock disc brakes with red calipers, and 3.70 axle ratio are all carried over. Outside, 20 x 10-inch machined aluminum wheels with “dark pockets”, red-accented stripes and a host of the menacing, unmistakable Hellcat badges help to distinguish the Hellcat from the less powerful 392 model.
Which brings us to the power.
The Durango Hellcat receives the beloved and epic 6.2-litre supercharged HEMI V8, tuned to 710 horsepower and 645 lb-ft or torque. Of course, in the Durango, unlike the Challenger and Charger, this goliath power is delivered to all four wheels.
This is enough to propel the Durango Hellcat to 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds. A few real-world launch control tests with our tester scored between 4.1 seconds to 4.3 seconds on unprepped and sometimes wet surfaces. So a pro driver? On a prepared surface? Yeah, I’ll believe the brochure on that 3.5-second time.
Those are just numbers, though. And if the Hellcat has done anything wrong, ever, it’s making the Internet think 700 horsepower is no big deal. But it is still, in 2021, a very, very big deal.
You have to put this kind of power and acceleration into perspective. This six-passenger family sedan will eat a current generation Mustang GT or Camaro SS, and many previous generation Corvettes and 911 Carreras between the lights.
In the world of SUVs… Porsche Macan GTS? Range Rover Sport? Never heard of them. You’re looking at the Lamborghini Urus before you can find an SUV which hangs with the Durango Hellcat.
Is it really $40,000 more car than the 392? Yeah, it is. And then some.
The 480-horsepower 392, 6.4-litre HEMI V8 is a lot of fun — in every application. What I love about that engine is that you really can use all of the horsepower most of the time. And if the 392 has any advantage over the Hellcat, it’s that.
You can’t just use a Hellcat engine whenever you feel like it. You have to be calculating. And you have to be holding on.
A blast to 80 km/h in a 392 is like being mauled by the cartoon Tasmanian devil. It’s in your face, but it’s all in good fun. There’s really no such thing as a blast to 80 km/h in a Hellcat, because before you know it, you’re doing… Well, let’s just say “a lot more than 80 km/h” to keep me out of any specific trouble. Put it this way: blink, and you’re shattering the speed limit.
Full-throttle acceleration in a Hellcat feels like being sucked into the vacuum of space. The power feels all-consuming and seemingly endless.
With your foot pinned to the floor, the whole car rears up and the front end lifts as you feel a great pressure on your chest and neck. Supercharger whine fills your ears as each upshift is complemented by exhaust crackles and bangs. As you become gripped in a tornado of violence and speed, you dare not even look down at the speedometer as the world is now coming at you faster than you can actually think. The Hellcat simply rips and tears you forward through space and time.
The experience is a cacophony of noise and heart-pounding thrills. It’s pure euphoria.
The 392 offers a very healthy amount of horsepower. 480 horsepower is more than most need, and presumably more than some can handle. But with a 392, you can always sense that there’s an end to it. Your feet can touch the bottom. A Hellcat, on the other hand, is like being in open water… on the ocean. Thrilling. Terrifying. And so much bigger and more powerful than you are.
In that way, the Durango Hellcat isn’t just a good muscle car, but a great one. It demands you respect it and it never ceases to thrill you.
I’ve often said that the 392 “Scat Pack” cars are fun more often than a Hellcat, and I stand by that. But a Hellcat offers a level of intoxication, enthrallment, and obsession with its power and acceleration that — even though there are so many reasons the 392 is the better buy in the real world — I just couldn’t possibly recommend a 392 to anyone who has the option of purchasing the Hellcat.
The Dodge Durango Hellcat is a Frankenstein monster. It’s a collection of dead things, stitched together for the purpose of wreaking havoc on the puritanical villagers. Even though all it wants is for you to love it. And unfortunately, the pitchforks are out. The public can no longer tolerate monsters such as these and they will soon be gone forever.
But a Hellcat is a monster I want in my life. Because a little bit of terror is fun. It reminds you that you’re alive.