Rising fuel prices and looming federal regulations have led most automakers to focus solely on super-efficient electric vehicles, but the Dodge brand continues to serve as the last bastion of proper American performance. The Durango serves as the most functional model in the lineup, combining segment-leading power with real-world capabilities that make it a great all-around vehicle, regardless of the trim level in question.
I recently had a chance to spend a week driving the SRT® 392 AWD variant of the sporty Dodge three-row SUV, a model which has been overshadowed by the SRT Hellcat, but there are several clear reasons why the SRT 392 Durango has proven to be so popular since it was introduced back in 2018. After making a long highway drive, running my normal daily errands and even hauling larger items from the hardware store to my farm, the Durango SRT 392 offers more real-world functionality than just about any other 470-horsepower vehicle on the market today and it does so without compromising comfort.
The SRT line is known for high-performance excellence, so this is the aspect of the Dodge Durango SRT 392 AWD that should surprise you the least. Packing 475 horsepower, 470 lb-ft of torque, an advanced all-wheel-drive system with a track mode that adjusts front-to-rear power distribution, an adaptive suspension setup that allows for better front-to-rear weight transfer on a hard launch, a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission and high-performance tires, the SRT 392 Durango leaves from a hard launch like few other vehicles for sale.
The power on a hard launch pins you to your seat, the 392 HEMI® engine roars with a loud “bark” at the lightning-quick shifts and this roomy three-row SUV sprints from a stop to 60 miles per hour in the mid-4-second range with repeatable ease. More importantly to those prospective buyers who like drag racing, the SRT 392 Durango will easily lay down high-12-second quarter-mile times, creeping into the mid-12s with the right conditions. All of that power also helps the Durango speed up quickly through the mid-range, such as when passing slower moving traffic on a country road in Ohio.
While the straight-line acceleration is the most impressive performance aspect of the Durango SRT 392, the combination of the advanced all-wheel-drive system, the adaptive suspension system and the massive Brembo brakes makes this big SUV surprisingly spry on twisty roads. Granted, it is a big SUV, so it doesn’t cling to the road like the Charger or Challenger, but as three-row SUVs go, the Durango SRT offers world-class cornering abilities. Get into one of those corners a bit too hot and the brakes quickly get the vehicle under control, bolstering the impressive all-around performance feel of the three-row machine.
Plush Road Trip Warrior
Some people might look at a vehicle like the Dodge Durango SRT 392 with a 475-horsepower V8 engine and a performance-engineered suspension system and expect that it wouldn’t be a great option on a long road trip, but those people would be very wrong. I made a 320-mile round-trip drive from my home in Michigan to Norwalk, Ohio, for an NHRA event in the Durango SRT 392. I used Eco Mode, but I did not drive gently, making a few spirited pulls along the way while cruising at or slightly above the posted speed limit and I averaged 19.4 miles per gallon. For an SUV that runs 12-second quarter-miles, can tow 8,700 pounds and has real seating space for adults in all three rows, I was very happy to get nearly 20 mpg.
More importantly, the Durango SRT 392 is a remarkably comfortable vehicle for a long drive. The sporty SRT front seats are designed to keep you in place during stints of spirited driving, but they are also nicely cushioned, making them great for a three-hour drive. They are also cooled, so when I found myself sitting in traffic when leaving the track, the climate control systems quickly fought off the heat of the day.
While the Bilstein suspension system offers a Track setting that yields the best cornering abilities, the Street setting offers the smoothest ride, keeping much of the roughness of the road out of the cabin. Mind you, the softer setting doesn’t lead to a boring, numb feel, instead offering a good feel of the road without feeling every bump and crank through the seat and steering wheel. The interior is also well insulated against sound, so while you can always hear the sweet note of the 392 HEMI engine, you don’t hear a whole lot of wind or general road noise.
Finally, the Durango SRT 392 comes with the latest Uconnect® system, including a 10.1-inch touchscreen and a long list of features, including Android Auto connectivity. I love the standard Uconnect navigation system in my 2017 SRT Hellcat Challenger, but in the new Durango SRT 392, the Android Auto interface offers even greater ease of use.
On my long drive, I was using the Google Maps on my phone along with Spotify. The Android Auto screen on the Durango’s Uconnect menu shows the map screen with directions across most of the 10-inch screen, but there is a small inset area towards the bottom-middle for Spotify. When you click the Spotify logo, it makes that information the main feature of the Android Auto screen and Google Maps becomes the small inset. This is a great feature on a long road trip, where the navigation is simply telling you to stay on the highway for a hundred miles. You can easily flip to the Spotify screen to change your playlist right on the huge Uconnect screen, flipping back to the map with one touch should you need to check your route. All the while, my phone was charging on the wireless charging pad in the center stack, so when I got to the track in Ohio, my phone was fully charged after hours of use.
If you need a high-performance three-row SUV that checks all the boxes for a long road trip, the Durango SRT 392 is the one.
Exhilarating Daily Driver
The features of the Dodge Durango SRT 392 which make it a great vehicle for a long road trip also make it a great daily driver. The comfortable seats, quiet interior and state-of-the-art infotainment system make sitting in traffic more tolerable, while the Bilstein suspension setup offers a smooth ride or precision handling, depending on the driving situation.
Like all the modern Dodge SRT vehicles, the Durango SRT 392 packs gobs of power, but unlike some performance models, it is just as pleasant to drive gently. There is no denying that some performance vehicles – including SUVs – simply don’t drive well under normal driving circumstances. In many vehicles, the throttle response, steering system and suspension systems are all designed with only performance in mind, so they are a bit too rough for daily driving.
On the other hand, when the Durango SRT 392 is set to the Street settings, it is just as smooth and as comfortable as the boring, low-performance competition. While the roar of the 392 HEMI engine is impossible to ignore, throttle response is progressive enough to allow for gentle acceleration. The steering system never becomes as numb as some other big SUVs, but the Durango SRT has varying levels of power assist, leading to an easier drive in the Street settings and, as mentioned above, the Bilstein dampers do a great job of providing a smooth, quiet ride in Street mode.
The bottom line here is that the Dodge Durango SRT 392 offers a combination of functionality and performance like few vehicles on the market today. This three-row features incredible acceleration, braking and handling coupled with a roomy, high-tech interior and the ability to tow as much as most pickup trucks – making it an incredible no-compromise SUV for anyone who needs lots of interior space and lots of horsepower.
Author: Patrick Rall