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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Road test: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT

Dodge's in-house hell-raisers turn the three-row SUV into a hot rod

Dodge is trying to kill us all. Not literally, you understand. It’s just that the American manufacturer seems intent on pumping an inordinate amount of horsepower into their cars in recent times. The chief case in point is the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, the world’s fastest production car from 0-to-100kph. It does wheelies if you nail a standing start. That model isn’t available in the UAE, but the new Dodge Durango SRT is – and in its own way, it’s just as unhinged.

OK, so the Durango’s V8 is responsible for 475hp versus the Demon’s monstrous 840hp, but the Demon can’t carry seven people without a couple of people in the boot and you collecting extra police charges in addition to an inevitable speeding ticket or six.

Dodge claim it’s the fastest, most powerful three-row SUV in its class. Speaking of class… Do you do the school run? Does it numb your brain? Well, worry no longer – so long as you strap those children in tight. Because the Durango can genuinely house an entire family, with a choice of interiors: six seats, with two armchair-esque “captain’s” pews in the centre row, or more of a bench in the middle to up the capacity to seven.

This is the first time that the Durango has had the full treatment from Dodge’s in-house hell-raisers SRT – that’s Street & Racing Technology in longhand. And let’s hope it’s not the last, because seldom does a vehicle of this size have you champing at the bit to get back behind the wheel.

The “392” logo above the front wheel arches denotes the muscular cubic-inch capacity of the engine – that’s 6.4 litres in modern speak. It’s happy to shout about its powerful capabilities, too: I leave my test Durango running while I dash back to my office desk to retrieve my sunglasses one evening and when I return, I can hear the bassy, reverberating rumble of its dual exhausts from across the other side of my work car park long before I can see it.

Nothing will make your bad-boy family SUV look meaner than the all-black with red detailing of my test vehicle, finished with big bright-red Brimbo brakes and glossy grey alloys on 20-inch wheels.

Styling-wise, the Durango is definitely best seen from ahead, with its scowling headlamps and flared grille. It has a big, bulbous behind to fit in that third row of seats, with what seems like a lot of car to the rear of the back wheels compared to little overhang at the front.

That will make you a little reticent to carry too much speed into corners, but body roll isn’t a problem and, in a straight line, you will embarrass plenty of sports cars, not least thanks to the fact that power goes to all four wheels.

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In Sport mode, the gear shifts are up to 50 per cent faster and 65 per cent of the 640Nm of torque is directed to the back wheels. For full-on, tyre-wrecking oil effect, the Durango SRT has a launch mode.

Inside, the Beats speaker system keeps the stereo soundtrack on a similar frequency to the engine note, and within an incredibly comfortable cabin, the only slight annoyance is the cruise control.

Dodge doesn’t yet seem to have figured out how to make this work without a tendency for your car to creep above the speed limit seemingly at random, which can be an expensive failure in the vicinity of trigger-happy speed cameras. That is easily remedied – just drive a few kph below the limit – but would still be an ongoing ownership niggle.

In the Dan Brown novel Inferno, there is a plot that involves controlling world population numbers with sinister means. Now, I’m not suggesting that is what Dodge is up to here, but I will say one thing: I would definitely rather drive the Dodge Durango SRT than read any of Brown’s books.

The specs: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT

Price, base / as tested: Dh259,000

Engine: 6.4-litre V8

Power: 475hp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 640Nm @ 4,300rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Fuel consumption, combined: 7.7L / 100km