If you’re in the market for a performance-oriented three-row SUV with mainstream badge on its rump, your options are disappointingly limited—there’s the Dodge Durango SRT and the Ford Explorer ST. That’s it. But making choices is hard, and you make enough of them every day, anyway: What’s for dinner? What time should I get up tomorrow? Do I really need that third drink? But some choices are easy. When it comes to Durango or Explorer, we already saved you the trouble. However, for 2021, the Durango SRT lineup expands. The 475-horsepower Durango SRT 392 has been joined in the lineup by the one-year-only 710-hp 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat.
Yes, another decision to make. Thankfully, we’re here to help—Which Durango SRT should you buy, the Durango SRT 392 or the Durango SRT Hellcat?
Well (and at risk of sending you off to mindlessly scroll through Instagram), don’t be an idiot. Buy the Durango Hellcat. Want to know why you should get a Durango Hellcat over the Durango 392? Read on to find out.
What’s the difference between the Durango 392 and Hellcat: Is it all about the engine?
Yeah, pretty much. With the Durango’s 2021 model year revision, both SRT-modified Durangos are virtually identical inside and out. The biggest visual tell that a Durango sports 710 hp—aside from the Hellcat badges on its flanks and rump—is its foglights: If a Durango SRT has them, it’s a 392. The Durango Hellcat uses that space to help funnel more air to the engine bay to keep the hot-running Hellcat V-8 cool. Other similarities include electronically adjustable suspension damping, standard high-performance all-season tires (Pirelli three-season tires are optional on both), and, should you have an extra $1,295 laying around, Dodge will sell you the Durango Hellcat’s upgraded two-piece six-piston front brakes for your 392.
All right, to the (h)elephant in the room: engines. The Durango SRT Hellcat sports the now tried-and-true Hellcat 6.2-liter supercharged V-8, which in Durango tune makes 710 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque. The Durango SRT 392 gets a 6.4-liter naturally aspirated V-8 that produces 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Both V-8s are mated to eight-speed automatics, but the Durango Hellcat’s is beefed up to handle the extra torque load of its supercharged engine. Both versions of the Durango SRT come with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive.
Pricing for the Durango Hellcat starts at $82,490, while the 392 stickers for $65,490 to start.
How do the Durango SRT Hellcat and Durango SRT 392 compare?
By the numbers, the Durango Hellcat is (unsurprisingly) quicker than the Durango 392. The Hellcat accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 11.7 seconds at 117.3 mph. The last Durango 392 we tested needed (a still-quick) 4.6 seconds to hit 60 mph and 13.2 seconds to run the quarter mile at 103.5 mph.
The new Durango Hellcat also has the lead in handling tests, lapping our figure eight in 25.0 seconds while averaging 0.77 g, versus the Durango 392’s 25.5-second at 0.75 g performance. The gap, however, does narrow some on the skidpad and in braking tests. The Hellcat averages 0.90 g around the skidpad to the 392’s 0.89 g average, while the 392 and Hellcat both need 110 feet in our 60-0-mph test.
Neither Dodge is particularly efficient. The Durango 392 is EPA-rated at 13/19/15 mpg city/highway/combined, while the Hellcat nets 12/17/13 mpg.
In reality the two Durangos feel pretty similar if you’ve got a light right foot. Both offer up quick, direct, and well-weighted steering, firm but not punishing suspension tunes, and not quite enough brakes for the speeds they’re capable of on a world-class driving road like Los Angeles’ Angeles Crest Highway.
When you stomp on the throttle—and really, how can you resist?—the differences really reveal themselves. The Durango Hellcat’s power is truly next level, with an endless, effortless wave of power as the transmission quickly works its way through its eight cogs. The Hellcat may just do one trick, but man does it do it well.
Although it’s been a few years since a Durango 392 last made its way through the L.A. fleet, technical director Frank Markus in our Detroit office had the opportunity to drive the two Durangos back to back recently on a track. “On the face of it, the Hellcat’s a screaming deal, delivering 49 percent more power and 36 percent more torque (good for a quarter-mile performance improvement of about 13 percent) for only 28 percent more money than the SRT 392 (which starts at $64,490),” he wrote. “Then again, the SRT 392 sounds nicer, it’s around 10 to 15 percent more fuel-efficient, and it pretty much shares the Hellcat’s suspension, tires, and optionally (for $1,295) its brakes.
“The SRT 392 I hot-lapped lacked the optional two-piece front rotors, and as such, I never found the confidence to dive deeply into turns. Its lighter-duty 8HP70 transmission also shifted less firmly, inducing a slight shudder to the vehicle on each upshift. We’re told the Hellcat is about 1.5 seconds quicker around a 2.5-mile road circuit.”