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First Drive Review: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat begs for a new platform to handle power

The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is a new addition to the lineup.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

This generation of the Dodge Durango has been around a while – it was first introduced in 2011. Though it's been refreshed a few times along the way, it's nowhere close to novel. Instead of a complete redesign, we've gotten the new 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, an updated stablemate that comes with track-ready equipment, new tech, and a whole heck of a lot of power.

The Durango SRT Hellcat received a cold-air scoop, throaty twin-pipe exhaust, LED headlamps, rear spoiler, and different front end as part of its design process. There's no question the SUV is a Durango and the modifications give it an even more muscular appearance which is fitting for the model.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat The SUV comes with a host of equipment to make it track-ready.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 6.2-liter HEMI V8 that's under the hood of the Durango SRT Hellcat produces 710 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque. Though it sounds like a lot – and it is – the power is easily controlled. Dodge has made this an SUV that is as comfortable creeping through city traffic as it is with the pedal to the floor getting up to speed on the highway. Shifts are smooth and so is the acceleration, once you ask the vehicle for it.

Steering is calibrated to allow the driver to feel connected to the car and it inspires confidence. The age of Durango begins to show through when it comes to the frame, whether on the road or track. A drive along rural North and South Carolina roads showed the suspension to be reactionary allowing bumps to be passed on to the cabin with seat bouncing a common occurrence, even at moderate speed. On the track, despite the amount of equipment and technology installed on the SUV to help it attack corners with ease, the tech was fighting the vehicle's architecture the entire time.

When it comes to stopping power, the Durango has plenty. Even when on the track and after repeated laps, the model's black Brembo six-piston brakes were up to the task.

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat The interior of the Durango SRT Hellcat is appointed with premium products but it isn't elegant.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The interior of the Durango SRT Hellcat is very similar to the others in the company's lineup. It continues to have comfortable seating and a reasonable amount of storage space. There's a 10.1-inch centrally located infotainment screen that runs FCA's fresh Uconnect 5 operating system. It has pleasing and quick graphics, is responsive to touch, and quickly reacts to reroute navigation when required.

Unfortunately, though premium in price, the cabin of the Durango isn't particularly elegant. Its finery doesn't measure up to that offered by the Toyota Highlander and refreshed 2021 Nissan Armada. However, the fit and finish is head and shoulders above what was offered in the Dodge Journey, Grand Caravan, and previous iterations of the Durango.

The Durango also stumbles when it comes to safety features and technology compared to its rivals. Though the Durango SRT Hellcat is meant for the track, it's likely to spend most of its time on the street where active safety technology can play a big role in helping to keep people safe. It doesn't have the lane keeping and centering, and surround view cameras that its competition offers.

The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat starts at $80,995. It is here that buyers are paying for the sports-centric equipment under the hood and body of the vehicle in addition to the most premium interior features that Dodge offers. That's a lot of dough.

But there aren't too many rivals to the Durango SRT Hellcat, let alone any that are cheaper. To get an engaging SUV with similar prowess you'd have to splurge on a super luxury SUV like the Lamborghini Urus, opt for Maserati Levante Trofeo, or Alpina XB7. In that way, the Durango SRT Hellcat is a bargain.

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Biden will target 50 percent of all vehicle sales for EVs by 2030.

Ford

In the last several months, we've seen automakers from all corners of the globe commit to some degree of electrification by the end of the decade and beyond. That includes the American Big Three: Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Stellantis (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, others). Today, President Joe Biden plans to throw his weight behind these efforts by signing an executive order that sets a goal of pushing the sales of zero-emissions vehicles to half of all vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2030.

Biden's target is not legally binding, but the industry is already jumping on board. In a joint statement, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis confirmed that they aim to hit an EV sales volume of 40-50 percent annually. It's worth noting that the President's 50 percent goal and the automakers' sales targets also include plug-in hybrid vehicles, which still use a traditional gasoline engine.


Jeep PHEV The target also includes plug-in hybrid vehicles, which still use gas engines.Jeep


Auto unions and dealers are not opposed to the ambitious roadmaps laid out by the Big Three, but both have differing views on what is essential and how things will ultimately play out. While aware of the goals, the UAW is focused on wage growth and the preservation of jobs and benefits. It feels that an increase in EV production volume must happen here in the U.S. to include good-paying American union jobs.

Dealers, to a degree, are supportive of the goals but skeptical of their ultimate success. Some feel that electric vehicles do not present the earth-shattering shift in functionality and usability that other new products, such as smartphones, did in different industries. Regardless of concerns and skepticism, it appears that automakers are going all-in on the shift to electrification, so we're bound to see a wealth of new battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in the next few years.


GM battery facility rendering Automakers are pledging billions to increase EV and PHEV production volume.GM

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New SUV

New Jeep Compass Coming Soon

The Compass gets a major update for 2022.

Stellantis/Jeep

The Chicago Auto Show is happening now, which means we've already seen a few new models and concepts. Just yesterday, Jeep introduced the new 2022 Compass compact SUV. It gets a new design inside and out, updated tech, and a load of new available driver aids. The Compass' refresh comes as new models from Ford, Subaru and others could cut into Jeep's off-road dominance.

As it was in previous model years, the new Compass is powered by a 2.4-liter "Tigershark" four-cylinder engine that makes 177 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. It's good for up to 31 mpg on the highway in 2WD models and can deliver a max towing capacity of up to 2,000 pounds in 4WD models. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard for Compass Sport and Latitude 4X2 models, while all others get a nine-speed automatic transmission that can handle the 20:1 crawl ratio setting in the Trailhawk model.

An all-new Latitude LUX trim joins the Compass lineup for 2022 as well. It features leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat, a seven-inch full-color gauge cluster, and the larger 10.1-inch screen.


2022 Jeep Compass The new Compass is more upscale than its predecessor.Stellantis/Jeep


The Compass comes with a class-leading 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, but higher trims get an even larger 10.1-inch unit. It offers standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and runs Uconnect 5, a colorful, responsive infotainment system with advanced features and tech.

Several new safety features make an appearance, but most are added-cost options. The highway assist system offers a semi-autonomous driving feature, which Jeep says will become available later. Other tech includes traffic sign recognition, standard pedestrian/cyclist automatic emergency braking, a surround-view camera system, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, and a long list of more traditional advanced driver aids like blind spot monitoring and parking sensors.

The Compass lineup for 2022 includes five trims: Sport, Latitude, Latitude LUX, Limited, and Trailhawk. Pricing for the new Compass starts at $26,490, including a $1,495 destination charge. At the top of the lineup, the Trailhawk and Limited models both start at $32,890. It's expected to start arriving on dealers' lots in fall 2021.


2022 Jeep Compass New color schemes highlight the Compass' interior.Stellantis/Jeep

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