2021 Dodge Durango R/T Tow N Go Review: Big Red Dinosaur

Kshitij Sharma
by Kshitij Sharma


Engine: 5.7L V8
Output: 360 hp, 390 lb-ft
Transmission: 8AT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 14/22/17
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 16.7/10.9/14.1
Starting Price (USD): $47,902 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $66,737 (est, inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $63,690 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $81,535 (inc. dest.)

For the record, I am not a fan of sporty SUVs.

I believe that performance vehicles need to be light, compact, and nimble things that SUVs just aren’t. But yet, here we are, at a moment in time when there are as many “sporty” SUVs on sale as sportscars, if not more.

Get a Quote on a New Dodge Durango

I will admit while performance SUVs aren’t my thing, they are an intriguing concept. I can only imagine how the concept meeting might have gone. “You see that three-row Durango parked there? Let’s stick a V8 in it and give it performance suspension.” *a pause* “Let’s also throw in a tow package for practicality.”
This brings us to the 2021 Dodge Durango R/T that we have here. I was skeptical about taking the big red SUV for the week because all I saw was a giant fire-breathing T-Rex with a saddle and two flags on it. But my intrigue got the better of me.

What’s New?

Being a mid-cycle facelift, much of the Durango R/T remains aesthetically similar to last year’s model. It does, however, get a new face more akin to the more expensive and powerful SRT. Headlights are now sleeker and come with a new DRL design. The front grille is now more aggressive and the fins on either side of the bumper are functional as is the lower lip and air intake.

Along with SRT design cues, the R/T also gets SRT-tuned suspension as part of the new Tow N Go package which is the one we have here. Towing capacity now increases to 8,700 lb and the R/T with Tow N Go now boasts of Track, Sport, Snow, and Tow modes along with an SRT tuned exhaust system with the iconic Dodge V8 rumble, which basically means it’s very loud. Lastly, the UConnect 5 with a 10.1-inch screen now comes standard with the R/T.

Hemispherical power

The image of the T-Rex remains imprinted in my mind as I thumb the starter and the big red wakes up with a guttural grunt. It sounds a bit agitated in a now-I’m-up-so-we-better-get-going sort of way. Mashing the throttle is rewarding, I’ll admit. The eight-speed automatic works quite well and suits the SUV’s personality. It isn’t the fastest out there but is quick enough to keep engagement levels high. You can operate the gears manually via the steering-mounted paddle shifters but using the aircraft-style shifter feels like manual labor and more fun.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat Review: First Drive

On the move, the grunt leans into a growl and doesn’t turn into an outright roar until you reach the rather conservative redline of 5,800 rpm. It is quite astonishing that the sound changes thrice in such a short rev range. Also, regardless of the mode, you’re in the 5.7-liter dinosaur is always loud. And I liked it that way.

360 hp and 390 lb-ft of peak torque from an almost six-liter engine seem inadequate. Those are mid-level JDM sportscar numbers. But mid-level JDM sportscars don’t usually have V8s this big. The power delivery is linear and the Durango gains speed quite quickly despite its size. Yes, it doesn’t kick you against the seatback when you mash it but does nudge you in and keep you there for a while. You will feel that it is louder than it is fast but then again, maybe most cool dinosaurs were the same. It will, however, still not stop you from mashing the throttle every chance you get.

An SUV shouldn’t drive like this

The Tow N Go package we have here adds SRT-tuned SLA independent suspension with Bilstein adaptive dampers with rebound control springs at the front and an SRT-tuned multilink setup with the Bilstein kit at the rear as well. It costs $4,995 ($5,495 CAD) to equip but makes a massive impact on the way the R/T handles. The shifts from normal to Sport to Track are prominent and noticeable.

The large-diameter steering weighs up considerably as you go up the driving modes. While there is a disconnect between the road and the steering since you sit so high up, it is direct enough to make up for the deficit. Sport mode is the sweet spot of the Durango and is the most balanced on-road setup. The bumps do feel a tad harsher compared to normal mode where the ride is a lot smoother. It offers just the right amount of damping and aggressive throttle mapping to make short work of the long sweeping corners. You can even have fun on it on city streets when the traffic has thinned out a bit.

Track mode is by far the most aggressive with the T-Rex-ness dialed up to 11. The suspension stiffens up considerably. It’s sportscar stiff, aggressive, unforgiving and the most fun I’ve had sitting four feet off the ground. The absence of ground-shaking power makes the Durango predictable and linear. A strong mid-range and a responsive gearbox inspire confidence and despite its bulk, the Durango is surprisingly nimble in the corners. You can hug the innermost line of cloverleafs and power out into the merging lane encased in a loud V8 rumble. It felt more predictable and confident in the corners than the Challenger 392 Widebody I drove last year. And that is saying something.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Dodge Challenger GT AWD Review: It’s All In the Name

The only time it feels its weight is under braking. While the SRT Brembo disc brake setup is plenty powerful and offers plenty of pedal feel but you can feel it coming under stress under heavy braking.

The spacious mid-sizer

Compared to the previous year’s model, the cabin is relatively the same. Front seats are large, spacious, and comfortable but tend to feel a tad flat despite the side-bolstering. But that is just my opinion, all passengers–especially the wife–loved the width and the ability to move around in the seats. The same is the story at the rear. Our tester came with the optional captain seat setup with middle-console storage complete with a pop-out compartment. The seats don’t row fore or aft but yet there is ample space for two adults, three if you opt for the bench seat.

The third row too can seat two adults for short stints and is quite comfortable though the twin-seats would benefit from a bit more width, seatback comfort and squab length aren’t issues. Also, the captain seats tumble forward for easy access.

Albeit optional, the ash white leather upholstery looks good and is soft to the touch. You can also equip the cabin with a suede headliner which adds to the plushness. However, the fit and finish and panel gaps are inconsistent in places and the plastic quality leaves more to be desired. People looking for a plush and luxurious cabin flush-fitting panels should look elsewhere.

The technology quotient

Dodge now offers the 10.1-inch UConnect 5 touchscreen infotainment system standard with the R/T. One of the most intuitive systems out there, it seamlessly connects to Android Auto every time. In addition, the home screen is customizable and the native navigation also works quite well and leaves nothing to be desired. Toggle switches for driving modes make switching driving modes a breeze.

Our tester even came with the optional rear entertainment system ($1,995) with dual BluRay and HDMI compatible screen with individual remote controls and a set of Bluetooth headphones each.

On the downside, however, most driver assistance systems are still optional extras. You need to shell out $2,395 extra for the Technology Group package to add adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist, lane departure warning and forward collision warning. Plus, blind-spot detection costs an additional $495 to equip. These features are standard on most cars even in lower segments and it’s high time American automakers follow suit.

Verdict: 2021 Dodge Durango R/T with Tow N Go Review

A Tyrannosaurus Rex, fondly called the T-Rex used to consume up to 300 lb of meat a day. The Durango R/T we have here would consume enough fuel to return a mileage of 16 mpg or 14.7 L/100 km, if you don’t push it. Put the hammer down and the fuel consumption shoots up but it runs on 89 Octane or even 87 if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of performance. Admittedly, it’s only a consolation, and fuel bills will be high with the Durango R/T. Also, fit and finish can be inconsistent in places.

Having said that, you can have a V8 three-row SUV for $47,902 including destination (excluding discounts) for the RWD version. Tow N Go Package requires AWD which starts from $50,402 ($63,690 CAD) including destination (excluding discounts). AWD with Tow N Go starts from $55,402 ($69,185 CAD) and is highly recommended. Equipping the driver assistance package will add another $2,885 to the price. At nearly $60,000, the 2021 Dodge Durango R/T Tow N Go is a well-rounded SUV that is fun to drive, practical, and capable enough to tow 8,700 lb. Plus you get a 5.7-liter V8-powered dinosaur as a pet. What’s not to like? Dammit, my JDM friends are probably fuming right now.

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  • V8 Power
  • Most fun you can have in a sporty SUV
  • All round package


  • Thirsty engine
  • Inconsistent fit and finish
  • Lack of standard driver aids
Kshitij Sharma
Kshitij Sharma

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