Well, that escalated quickly. This past Tuesday morning I drove two hilariously expensive variants of the Dodge Durango — the 475-horsepower, 6.4-liter SRT and 710-horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat — around Carolina Motorsports Park. The SRT is about sixty-four grand, while the Hellcat starts at eighty. These are fully-equipped, viciously quick unibody SUVs with optional features like the same “forged carbon” interior pieces one would find in a well-equipped Lamborghini Huracan. I can’t discuss the Hellcat’s driving characteristics yet, but the “plain” SRT would give a lot of smallbore club racers a run for their money around a track, doubly so if you had real tires on the thing instead of high-load-rated sport-utility rubber on there.
Just fifteen years ago, the “D”, as marque enthusiasts call it, was nothing more than a parts-bin special, basically a Dakota pickup with minivan taillights. Now it’s a credible unibody alternative to hyper-speed German speedsters from AMG and BMW M, loaded throughout with soft-touch interior materials, widescreen infotainment, and large-pizza-sized brake rotors. The Hellcat, in particular, is capable of easily slaying the BMW X5M at a $25,000 discount.
As a party trick, the biggest D really satisfies. Unfortunately, the party won’t last for long.
The Durango Hellcat will only be made for six months. The reason? Evaporative emissions regulations. It’s not impossible to make the 6.2-liter engine meet the requirements, but it’s not worth doing in the Durango, which is on borrowed time anyway. Next week I’ll tell you if it’s worth spending the money in order of this rare and hugely powerful vehicle — but I’ll bet you already know if it’s right for you.
Perhaps the real question here should be: What’s the point of these new evaporative emissions regulations, other than to beat the already embattled automotive sector into further compliance? The amount of pollution emitted by any new vehicle — not counting, of course, the hated and feared carbon dioxide — is already best assigned to the “nominal” category. What purpose does this additional regulation serve, other than to help perpetuate the existence of the EPA?
Oh well. If you want one of these, now’s the time to make that happen. If you can’t get it done in time, address your complaints to the Federal Government, in triplicate, so they can be promptly shredded. It seems like there’s always time to offshore factories, increase the supply of labor in a market already suffering from record levels of unemployment, or bail out a bank… but there’s a clock ticking on the baddest Durango ever. Consider yourselves warned.
Last week, for Hagerty, I told a story about a lonesome girl and a crumbling car.