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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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Updated compact SUV

2022 Nissan Rogue gets new VC Turbo engine

The Rogue was fully redesigned last year.

Nissan

Nissan refreshed its best-selling vehicle, the Rogue SUV, in 2021 with a grown-up new look and plenty of new tech. Changes the year after a major overhaul are usually minor, but for 2022 Nissan's giving the Rogue a new powertrain. A brand-new 1.5-liter variable compression (VC) Turbo engine is on board, producing 201 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque.

2022 Nissan Rogue The new VC engine can change its compression to adapt to driving conditions.Nissan

Power is up 11 percent and torque is up a staggering 24 percent with the new power plant. The variable compression engine is capable of adapting to changing driving conditions. When the driver needs more power, the engine shifts to higher compression, which delivers better acceleration at the expense of fuel economy. When efficiency is best, the engine changes its compression again. The VC engines made their debut in 2019 in both the Infiniti QX50 and Nissan Altima. It's trick engine technology, but it doesn't always deliver on its promise of efficiency gains. Nissan's continuously variable transmission is still in place, though it has been improved with 17 percent wider gear ratio coverage and 32 percent lower friction. The automaker says it helps deliver better acceleration and fuel economy.

2022 Nissan Rogue Top Rogue trims get upscale finishes and a handsome cabin.Nissan

Pricing for the 2022 Rogue S FWD starts at $27,875, including a $1,175 destination charge. Adding all-wheel drive pushes the price by $1,500. Nissan offers three packages for the SUV as well, including a $2,660 SV Premium Package, a $1,320 SL Premium Package, and a $400 10.8-inch head-up display for the top Platinum trim.

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The CX-50 features body cladding and rugged styling.

Mazda

Mazda's got a busy 2021 and 2022 as it gears up to release several new vehicles. The first is almost here, and today the automaker shared preliminary details. The CX-50 is an all-new SUV that shares a platform with the Mazda 3 and CX-30.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Production begins in January 2022. Mazda

At first, the CX-50 will be offered with Mazda's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, one of which is turbocharged, but electrified powertrain options will join the lineup down the road, including a traditional hybrid. Both gas engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. A new drive mode select system is also standard that allows the driver to change the CX-50's behavior to match road and driving conditions such as towing and off-roading.

2023 Mazda CX-50 A new drive mode selection feature allows the driver to change vehicle behavior. Mazda

The new SUV's styling is a departure from the norm for Mazda, whose typical designs are sleek and elegant but far from rugged. That changes with the CX-50. Mazda installed beefy fender flares, body cladding, and a chunky front bumper that make the SUV look ready for the trail. New colors debut with the CX-50 as well, including Zircon Sand for the exterior and a terracotta upholstery option for the interior. The SUV will be the first Mazda to be offered with a panoramic sunroof.

2023 Mazda CX-50 New color schemes are available for both the interior and exterior. Mazda

We don't have full pricing or options details yet, but Mazda says that the CX-50 will be built at the facility in Huntsville, Alabama that it shares with Toyota. Production is scheduled for January 2022.

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