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2017 Chicago Auto Show: Best in Show

img678369071 1486748753663 jpg 2018 Dodge Durango SRT | photo by Angela Conners

CARS.COM — Two themes emerged at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show: the familiar, bone-chilling cold of a Midwest February and the blisteringly hot popularity of the ever-expanding SUV segment. With sales of the class soaring, automakers are quickly churning out new models; SUVs unveiled at the Chicago show include the 2018 Ford Expedition, 2018 Toyota Sequoia, 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure and 2018 Dodge Durango SRT

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Although many editors wanted the Lego Batmobile to take home the Best in Show Award, it’s … not a real car. So the honor goes to the Durango SRT. The three-row SUV’s performance credentials impress: Power comes from a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 good for 475 horsepower and 470 pounds-feet of torque; Dodge says the Durango sprints from zero-to-60 mph in 4.4 seconds. editors Mike Hanley, Fred Meier and Brian Wong weigh in on the SRT’s allure below.

Hanley: With an available V-8 engine and menacing looks, the Dodge Durango is already one of the burliest three-row SUVs you can buy, but Dodge has taken the tough-guy look to new heights with the Durango SRT, which adds aggressive bodywork and meaty tires. It backs up those looks with a 475-hp, 6.4-liter V-8 that can launch the SUV to 60 mph in a swift 4.4 seconds. Whether you find yourself at the track or on a family road trip, the Durango SRT should be plenty of fun.

Wong: As Hanley alluded to, that promise of fun is the reason that I like the Durango SRT so much. The Durango is fundamentally a family vehicle and even in SRT guise with its standard captain’s chairs, it seats six passengers and can tow 8,600 pounds. And it does all that while being absurdly fast. There’s also precedent for this company making delightfully fun SRT versions of SUVs, with the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT providing the same sort of hijinks in a two-row setup. In my mind, I’m rolling up to a stoplight next to a Ford Mustang GT in a Durango and saying “So, you want a piece of me?” Yes, please.

Meier: Fun is the Durango SRT’s sole reason for being, and that alone makes it a winner. No one needs it, but you want it anyway. The new Ford Expedition unveiled here was a tougher engineering challenge; it balances so many goals at once. The Durango, by contrast, is a solution to a nonexistent problem. You still get a competent, good-looking three-row family SUV. But you also get one that, on command, can be an outrageous one. I also like the fact that it’s such an SRT sleeper. From three sides, it could be any other Durango with fat tires; only the menacing grin of a front end hints at what lurks beneath.

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