by Patrick Rall

    When the 2011 Dodge Durango was introduced during the 2010 calendar year, it ushered in a whole new design and structural theme from the previous Durango SUVs, and while no huge changes are expected for 2012, there is one very popular rumor that has been prevalent since the sporty new SUV debuted last year – an SRT variant.

    The 2012 Dodge Durango will likely be powered by the same basic engines
    as the 2011 models – with a 3.6L Pentastar V6 followed by the 5.7L Hemi
    V8.  The new 3.6L V6 offers 290 horsepower and 260lb-ft of torque as
    well as 16mpg in the city and 23 on the open road (RWD).  If you want
    more power, there is the 5.7L Hemi packing 360 horsepower and 390lb-ft
    of torque while still offering reasonable fuel economy numbers of 14
    city and 20 highway.  Both of these engines are mated to a 5-speed
    automatic transmission and buyers can select either rear- or all-wheel
    drive, with the SUVs spinning all four wheels seeing slightly worse fuel
    economy numbers.

    One of the reasons that the new Dodge Durango is so much more fuel
    friendly than the comparably powered previous Durango is the new
    construction format, using a unibody layout rather than a body on frame
    construction like the 1st and 2nd generation model Durango.  This allows
    for advanced weight reduction and improved aerodynamics – both of which
    help to improve the fuel economy as well as the ride quality and
    handling of the new Durango.

    The 2011 Durango helped to improve the full sized Dodge SUV in every
    way, but where does the sporty ute go from here?  Well, the Dodge
    Durango shares a platform with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, along with the
    Pentastar V6 and the 5.7L Hemi V8.  The difference is that the Jeep will
    offer a high performance SRT8 variant for the 2012 model year, deriving
    its power from the same 6.4L Hemi V8 found in the new Dodge Charger
    SRT8 and Dodge Challenger SRT8.  This high powered Jeep packs 465
    horsepower and 465lb-ft of torque, using the 5-speed automatic
    transmission and an advanced all wheel drive system to make it one of
    the fastest and most powerful sport utility vehicles in the world.

    Chrysler and Dodge have been hush-hush on any sort of high performance
    2012 Durango but rumors have been swirling that we could soon see a
    Durango SRT8, also packing the 6.4L Hemi and 465 horsepower.  These
    rumors are bolstered by the fact that at the 2010 Woodward Dream Cruise,
    a Chrysler employee (who obviously prefers to remain nameless)
    presented me with an image of a white 2011 Durango with the hood up –
    powered by the 6.4L Hemi.  Chrysler has acknowledged that they have been
    working with the 6.4L Hemi in a variety of vehicles but other than the
    Charger, Challenger and Grand Cherokee, nothing is official.  However,
    with the 2012 Dodge Durango billed as being a performance sport utility
    vehicle more than an off-road vehicle, it would make good sense to see
    the 2012 Durango offering an SRT8 package with the powerful 392 cubic
    inch Hemi.