Dodge’s Last Real Muscle Car Is an SUV That Refuses to Die

A funny thing happened in 2023. Dodge announced the Durango SRT Hellcat had been resurrected.

Courtesy Dodge.
The Durango Hellcat SRT. Courtesy Dodge.

It’s the end of an era. Again.

A half-century after America’s muscle cars were suffocated by smog controls, V8-powered sports cars are being knocked-off entirely to help automakers meet new carbon emissions rules.

The Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger are being discontinued at the end of this year in favor of future electric models, leaving the Ford Mustang as the last of the V8 pony cars.

Dodge was the one that kicked off the current golden age of performance with the launch of the 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat, which had a 707 hp supercharged “Hellcat” V8 that made it the most powerful muscle car ever. It wasn’t for long.

The Challenger and the Charger SRT Hellcat sedan that followed were surprise sales hits, and Dodge quickly realized it had a good thing going. It didn’t just increase production, but kept working on the screaming motor and in 2018 launched the 808 hp Challenger SRT Demon. Many expected to be the muscle car to end all muscle cars and Chevy and Ford conceded victory, but Dodge kept its foot on the throttle.

The Challenger and Charger. Courtesy Dodge.

It released several more Hellcat-based cars and this year finally wrapped things up with the Challenger SRT Demon 170, which has a 900 hp engine that can crank out 1,025 hp when running on high octane E85 and is the only factory car that can pop a wheelie. The 170 in its name is a reference to ethanol’s alcohol proof rating. Avid car collector Jay Leno was the first to get one.

Along the way, Dodge shared the Hellcat with its corporate cousins at Jeep and Ram, for the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk SUV and Ram 1500 TRX pickup. The Jeep has since gone the way of the dodo and the Ram set to follow it into the history books this December with the Challenger and Charger.

The Dodge Ram TRX. Courtesy Dodge.

But in 2021, Dodge also built itself the 710 hp Durango SRT Hellcat, which was the most powerful SUV in history at the time.

It originally planned to produce just 2,000 of the $82,490 three-row family vehicles before the tightening emissions standards that were coming into effect in 2022 made them obsolete, but they sold out almost immediately and it managed to add 1,000 more to the run before pulling the plug.

Challenger SRT Demon. Courtesy Dodge.

Then a funny thing happened. In 2023, Dodge announced the Durango SRT Hellcat had been resurrected.

Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said the engineers “got real good” and figured out how to get it to pass the emissions tests, and this time it wasn’t putting a cap on production. In fact, it’s going to be the last Hellcat standing.

The Durango SRT Hellcat is officially returning for the 2024 model year, which will almost certainly be the last, as the current Durango is expected to be entirely replaced with a new generation by 2025. But the way things have gone so far, you never know.

A side view of the Durango SRT Hellcat. Courtesy Dodge.

The all-wheel-drive vehicle can accelerate to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and cover a quarter-mile in 11.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 180 mph. Those were supercar numbers not long ago.

The 2024 price hasn’t been released, but the 2023 model starts at $96,400. The only functional option available is a no-cost Lightweight Performance Package that deletes the third row of seats to turn it into a five passenger vehicle.

Just in case there’s another Durango SRT Hellcat at your school’s pick-up line that you want to be sure to beat out of the parking lot.

The New York Sun

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