Prepare to add a new grille design to that area of your brain that triggers the panic response of lifting and/or downshifting and/or braking when your peripheral rearview-mirror vision senses a police presence. In addition to the blacked-out maws of the Ford Taurus and Explorer, Chevrolet Tahoe and (increasingly rare) Caprice, and Dodge Charger, you’re going to need to start watching for the menacing grille of a Dodge Durango. Specifically, the higher-cooling grilles of the R/T and SRT models.
Dodge currently outsells Ford and Chevy in the police sedan biz but has been sitting out the hot-pursuit-ute competition. No longer. Starting late in the 2018 model year, the company rolled out a custom tailored Durango, which gets further tweaks for 2019. All-wheel drive and five-passenger seating is standard, with “bomb-bay” side-hinged doors covering the third-row seat stowage area where electronics for the police lighting and so forth can be mounted.
Engine choices include the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, each of which gets a beefy 200-amp alternator and a high-capacity 800-cold-cranking-amp battery from the Ram Cummins diesel to run all the lights, sirens, laptops, etc. There’s also pre-wiring for spotlights. Oh, and if you’re wondering why a “pursuit” vehicle doesn’t offer the stonking new 475-hp/470-lb-ft Durango SRT engine, there are two good reasons: 1) the engine is too expensive; and 2) providing the braking required for that hi-po engine inside an 18-inch wheel would have required too much re-engineering.
Because pursuing bad guys frequently requires jumping curbs, the only available tires are 265/60R18 Michelin Latitude Tours with nice, squishy sidewalls. The biggest brakes that fit within those 18-inch wheels are 13.8 inches in diameter in front, 13.0 in back, but high-performance pads are borrowed from the autobahn package that European export models get. That R/T and SRT grille and fascia are specified on this otherwise SXT Durango because of the added brake and engine cooling they provide. Other parts-bin chassis fortifications include R/T spring and shock damping rates, with Nivomat self-leveling rear shocks. The 6,200-7,200-pound tow rating and 6,500-7,100-pound gross-vehicle-weight rating (V-6 and V-8) carry over from civilian models, and trailer-brake controls are standard.
Inside there’s a specialized front center console with two 12-volt sockets, two USB jacks, an aux jack, and a “certified speedometer.” Three-zone climate control is also billed as “K-9 friendly.” Naturally, sensible black cloth upholstery is standard.
So how’s it drive? We only had a chance to sample the 5.7-liter Hemi variant, and it performed almost precisely like our R/T long-termer with squishier tires and a 100-pound-lighter weight (from deleting the third-row seat). We tried turning off the stability control, but it wakes right back up in a panic whenever you manage to incite a nice drifty bit of cornering. Still, it’s our bold prediction that any law-enforcement buyers with an ounce of automotive enthusiasm faced with similar “deals” on price between the Explorer, Tahoe, and Durango will appreciate the Dodge’s longer wheelbase, better driving position and package relative to the Explorer, and better weight-to-power relative to Tahoe. You have until this fall to condition your rearview-mirror reflexes.
|2019 Dodge Durango (Pursuit)|
|BASE PRICE||$35,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES||3.6L/293-295-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 5.7L/360-hp/390-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,850-5,200 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||201.2 x 75.8 x 70.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.4-7.6 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||14-18/22-25/17-21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||187-241/135-143 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.94-1.16 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Fall 2018|