2021 Dodge Durango: Brand’s Only SUV Gets New Lease on Life, Hellcat Model

Dodge Durango 2021 Lineup jpg 2021 Dodge Durango (from left) R/T, SRT Hellcat and Citadel | Manufacturer image

Competes with: Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Toyota Highlander

Looks like: An even meaner hot-rod SUV

Powertrains: 295-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6; 360-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8; 475-hp, 6.4-liter SRT V-8; or 710-hp, supercharged 6.2-liter Hellcat V-8; eight-speed automatic transmissions; rear- or all-wheel drive

Hits dealers: Fall 2020; SRT Hellcat in early 2021

While the world continues its frenzy over front-wheel-drive, car-based SUVs, Dodge has soldiered on with its rear-wheel-drive, seven-passenger Dodge Durango, leaving the ancient front-wheel-drive Dodge Journey as its entry into the more modern-style of crossovers. But for 2021, Dodge’s Journey has come to an end, leaving the Durango to soldier on alone (for now) in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brand’s showrooms, and allowing Dodge to give it a mild face-lift and a much-needed interior redo to keep interest up in the big truck. 

And to keep things really interesting, a one-model-year-only SRT Hellcat model joins the Durango lineup — but production of that variant will be seriously limited, so if you’re looking to grab the ultimate Durango, better cozy up to your local Dodge dealer now and get on his or her good side.

Related: Here Are the 10 Cheapest New SUVs You Can Buy Right Now

Shop the 2020 Dodge Durango near you

Used
2020 Dodge Durango SXT
39,152 mi.
$26,000 $1,000 price drop
Used
2020 Dodge Durango R/T
80,471 mi.
$30,000

Exterior

Aesthetic changes to the new 2021 Durango are subtle and involve slightly revised, slimmer headlamps, a new grille shape, and new bumpers front and rear with reshaped air inlets. Out back, there’s a new spoiler and third brakelight design at the top of the rear backlight. 

The overall look brings the Durango closer in appearance to the Dodge Charger SRT Widebody as the brand looks to tap its performance heritage and disseminate it across the entire lineup, practically at all trim levels. Six trim levels will be available on the 2021 Durango: SXT, GT, R/T, Citadel, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat. All models get 20-inch wheels and tires — 20 by 8 inches for SXT, GT, R/T and Citadel, and 20 by 10 for the SRT models as well as for the R/T with the new Tow N Go Package.

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The look of the new SRT Hellcat is slightly different than other models, however. It gets a unique front-end design, new chin splitter, cooling inlets for the oil cooler and air intakes, and a unique rear spoiler that creates 140 pounds of downforce at 180 mph. Its 20-inch wheels come in two-tone machined metal and black, with an optional Lights Out version that makes them all black, available also on the Black Package for the SRT models or the Blacktop Package on the R/T Tow N Go.

Engine and Transmission

Powering the Durango is a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 making a robust 295 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with power routed to the rear wheels;  all-wheel drive is optional. The optional engine upgrade is to the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, making 360 hp and 390 pounds-feet of torque. If you’re craving even more power, jump to the SRT 392 that features a honkin’ big 6.4-liter V-8 that delivers 475 hp and 470 pounds-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is optional on all models and powertrains but is the standard configuration for both SRT models.

Suspensions differ depending on package and trim, as well. The standard steel suspension features automatic rear load-leveling on RWD models, while the R/T trim comes with a sport-tuned suspension. If you want active damping, you’ll have to opt for one of the SRT models, which get an electronically adjustable sport suspension. And if you’re looking to do some towing, which the Durango excels at possibly better than any other car-based SUV on the market, you’ve come to the right place: The standard V-6 tow rating is 6,200 pounds, which goes up to 7,400 pounds when you opt for the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, and up to a surprising 8,700 pounds when you go for either of the SRT models.

There’s even a fun package called Tow N Go that’s available on the R/T trim specifically. It brings in a lot of the fun bits from the SRT models, like the SRT’s body parts and fender flares, the drive modes, SRT wheels and tires, big Brembo brakes and ups the R/T’s tow rating from 7,400 pounds with the 5.7-liter Hemi to the SRT’s 8,700 pounds.

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What does the new ’21 Durango SRT Hellcat have under the hood that the SRT 392 doesn’t? That engine is the biggest thing — the same one you’ll find in the Charger and Challenger Hellcat models, but with a new Durango-specific cooling circuit for the charge air coolers integrated into the supercharger housing. It’s designed to keep intake air flowing at less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which should help make for consistent performance numbers from the Hellcat — numbers Dodge reports as a 0-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds, a National Hot Rod Association-certified quarter-mile time of 11.5 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph. Helping to deliver that power is a new exhaust system with a unique 260-millimeter crossover X-pipe meant to create a distinctive muscle-car sound to augment the scream produced by the supercharger at full chat.

Interior

The big news for the rest of the Durango lineup is the new interior, which brings the design closer to the feel of the slightly nostalgic, driver-centric look of the Challenger and Charger. The new look has some buttons along the bottom of the console dedicated to drive modes.

The 8.4-inch Uconnect 4 system is still standard in the SXT and GT, but a new 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 system is optional on the GT and standard on the rest of the lineup. It features a higher-resolution screen, additional functionality and over-the-air updates, just like it does in the new 2021 Chrysler Pacifica that we’ve already seen and covered pretty extensively. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the board, and wireless smartphone charging is an option. Uconnect 5 will receive some unique Dodge-oriented appearance treatments in the Durango, with black and red accents, while SRT models have a fun startup animation as well as a few hidden Easter eggs that Dodge encourages you to hunt for. SRT models will also feature SRT Performance Pages that provide info on vehicle performance, timers, gauges for G-force, engine and power readouts, as well as configurable drive modes, launch control and shift light features.

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The new 2021 Durango will be available for ordering later this summer with deliveries starting in fall of this year, but the Hellcat model will be handled differently: It’s going on sale in the fall, but won’t be delivered until early next year, and it’s going to be a very limited production run. See, due to emissions-rules changes for the 2022 model year, Dodge can’t certify the Durango with the Hellcat motor beyond the 2021 model year. And as for how many it intends to make, that’s been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered auto manufacturing and supplier plants around the world. Dodge officials threw out the number of just 2,000 potential Hellcat-powered Durangos before they pull the plug on that trim, which could make this the second-most-collectible Hellcat-powered Dodge, just behind the 2018 Challenger SRT Demon. So if you want one, we reiterate: Better get friendly with your local Dodge dealer and get your order in as soon as you can.

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Photo of Aaron Bragman
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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