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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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Honda is working with Verizon on self-driving cars technology.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

The Mcity campus was designed to be a proving ground for new technologies. Honda and Verizon are utilizing it as such as they partner to explore how Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) can be used to ensure quick and reliable communication between road infrastructure, vehicles, and pedestrians.

The 5G technology leverages cloud technology to deliver lower latency, a large amount of bandwidth, and improved communication. This communication includes the way that vehicles interact with ther cars, traffic lights, pedestrians and emergency vehicles to improve threat detection and avoid accidents when seconds matter most. That's where the "V2" in acronyms like "V2V" (vehicle-to-vehicle) and "V2X" (vehicle- to-everything).

Honda and Verizon Test How 5G Enhances Safety for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles www.youtube.com

Honda has been working since 2017 to develop a technology that will help to create a collision-free society. The technology, called Safe Swarm, uses V2X communication to enable vehicles to communicate with other road users and share key information such as location, speed, and vehicle sensor data.

There are some obstacles, not the least of which is the need to outfit each vehicle with onboard artificial intelligence capabilities. The use of 5G helps move the AI capabilities from the vehicle to the MEC, reducing the need for AI onboard each vehicle.

"The ability to move computing power to the edge of our 5G network is an essential building block for autonomous and connected vehicles, helping cars to communicate with each other in near real-time and with sensors and cameras installed in streets and traffic lights," said Sanyogita Shamsunder, vice president of Technology Development and 5G Labs at Verizon. "When you consider that roughly 42,000 people were killed in car accidents last year and 94% of accidents are caused by human error, our new technologies including 5G and MEC can help drivers 'see' things before the human eye can register and react helping to prevent collisions and save lives."

Three safety scenarios have been explored as part of the testing:

  • Pedestrian Scenario - A pedestrian is crossing a street at an intersection. An approaching driver cannot see the pedestrian due to a building obstructing the view. Smart cameras mounted in the intersection relay information to MEC using the 5G network. Verizon's MEC and V2X software platforms detect the pedestrian and vehicle and determine the precise location of road users assisted by Verizon's Hyper Precise Location services. A visual warning message is then sent alerting the driver of the potential danger.
  • Emergency Vehicle Warning Scenari - A driver cannot see an approaching emergency vehicle and cannot hear its siren due to the high volume of in-vehicle audio. Verizon's MEC and V2X software receive a safety message from the emergency vehicle and send a warning message to nearby vehicles. The driver receives a visual warning.
  • Red Light Runner Scenario - A vehicle fails to stop at a red light. Using data from the smart cameras, MEC and V2X software detect the vehicle and send a red-light-runner visual warning message to other vehicles approaching the intersection.

You can watch the video of Honda and Verizon's Mcity tests at http://honda.us/5GResearch.

Honda isn't the only company exploring what 5G communication can offer. Pirelli has installed the tech in its tires and BMW recently updated its My BMW app to make it compatible with the new technology. Audi is working on similar technology out on the road in Virginia and Georgia.

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The 2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST gives buyers more performance at a lower price.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Explorer lineup is getting a three-model enhancement for the 2021 model year. The Explorer Enthusiast ST, Platinum, and Platinum Hybrid will be making their way to dealership lots later this year in a targeted attempt to identify customer desires.

The new models join the just-announced 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch, also a new addition.

2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST

The Enthusiast ST grade takes a lot of what customers like about the existing Explorer ST and delivers it at a far cheaper price. The Enthusiast ST has a starting MSRP of $48,750 as opposed to the ST, which starts at $52,830.

Setting it apart from there Explorers is the Enthusiast ST's quad chrome exhaust tips, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets, and sideview mirrors with ST projection lamps.

The new model comes equipped with the same 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that's in the Explorer ST that churns out 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission completes the powertrain.

Ford has given the model a sport-tuned suspension and a top track speed of 143 mph. A standard Class III Trailer Tow Package provides towing capability of up to 5,600 pounds.

The cabin of the Enthusiast ST is complete with leather seating surfaces, unique Miko micro-perforated inserts, and City Silver accent stitching with the ST logo. There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated sport-style steering wheel with the ST logo, and paddle shifters.

The Explorer Enthusiast ST also features standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technology.

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum

2021 Ford Explorer Plat Ford has two new Platinum models coming to a dealership near you.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

2021 Ford Explorer Plat

The new Explorer Platinum is powered by a 3.0-liter engine and comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Four-when drive is available.

To make the Platinum version worthy of its upscale price tag, its packaging includes door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, roof-rack side rails, a twin-panel moonroof, and a unique grille with satin aluminum finish. Its cabin is fitted with leather seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dashboard, door rollovers, and door and front console armrests.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Platinum has a starting MSRP of $52,480. The hybrid version of that model starts at $53,085.

All the models are currently available for order via Ford dealerships. Deliveries are expected to begin this summer.

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