Dodge Durango SSV...With a HEMI

(Ed.Note: We reviewed the totally new, NextGen Dodge Durango SSV powered by the 3.6L Pentastar V6 in the March-April 2012 issue of Police Fleet Manager. Go to, click Resources and then Article Archives. In this issue, we cover the late-release HEMI powertrain.) 

For late-2012, Dodge has developed a Special Service Vehicle package for the AWD and RWD versions of the redesigned Durango. The new SUV comes with either a 290 hp, 3.6L Pentastar V6 or a 360 hp, 5.7L HEMI® V8.

The NextGen Durango has gone from a truck-based chassis to an SUV-based chassis. Specifically, the new Durango is built from exactly the same platform as the Jeep Grand Cherokee. In fact, the best way to think of the new Durango is as a Grand Cherokee with a 5-inch longer wheelbase and a 10-inch longer body. Put another way, the Grand Cherokee is a 5-passenger, 2-seat SUV, while the Durango is a 7-passenger, 3-seat SUV. Everything else is the same.

Better Ride

Part of the improved ride and sure-footed handling with the Third Gen Durango is the upgrade to a fully independent rear suspension (IRS). The old Durango used a solid axle, while the new Durango uses a multi-link rear suspension. The Short-Long A-arm front suspension on the new Durango is also a bit more refined than the double wishbone front suspension on the old Durango.

In spite of the major structural changes and all new sheet metal everywhere, the new Durango is virtually identical in overall size and volume to the old Durango. However, the new Durango has a bit taller and a bit narrower rear cargo opening.

The Special Service Vehicle package Durango gets a number of police-only components. Instead of the standard 160 amp alternator, the Special Service version uses a 220 amp alternator. The battery is also upgraded from 700 CCA to 800 CCA. The engine has heavy-duty cooling. The Durango SSV also gets higher performance, “export” front brake pads, which is essentially an upgrade from non-asbestos organic (retail) pads to semi-metallic (police) pads.

Importantly, the term Special Service has always meant something less than pursuit rated. To the point, the Special Service package Durango is “not designed nor intended for high-speed emergency or pursuit driving” according the Chrysler Fleet. At this point, Dodge has said nothing one way or another about a pursuit-capable, police package version of the Durango.

Seats and Center Console

Even though the Special Service package Durango is based on the lowest trim level, power windows, power door locks and power windows are standard. The Special Service package Durango uses an eight-way, power driver seat with four-way power driver lumbar adjustment. Heavy-duty cloth is standard on the front seats, while the rear seats are cloth.

The Special Service package Durango has a number of seating options to accommodate passengers, K-9s and cargo. The third-row seat delete is standard on the Durango SSV. This is the only seating configuration available. A flat load floor with under-floor storage is in place of the seat. Rear HVAC is standard, while the rear HVAC controls are deleted.

The Special Service package uses the retail center console and floor-mounted gear shifter. A column-mounted shifter is not available. Some aftermarket accessory makers have already developed a replacement center console that accommodates all the emergency and communications gear.

Driving Impressions

We spent more than a week with the Durango, courtesy of Chicagoland’s Thomas Dodge. This Durango had both the Trailer Tow Group and the Skid Plate Group. Both options are strongly recommended.

The new SUV-chassis Durango has a far and away better ride than the old truck-chassis Durango. It also has much less Noise, Vibration & Harshness, and much less Buzz, Squeak & Rattle. A quiet interior and comfortable ride may not be the top priorities for a police vehicle, but the new Durango definitely has both. Again, think Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Durango is very maneuverable for a 7-passenger SUV. The new Durango has a turning circle, curb-to-curb, of just 37.1 feet. That is 3 feet feet tighter than the old Durango and, in comparison, 3 feet tighter than the Ford CVPI. This was a nice surprise. The steering was extremely responsive, but not overly sensitive or twitchy. Simply put, the Durango was very quick to respond to steering inputs. Its maneuverability and handling at these urban speeds are outstanding.


The HEMI-powered Durango SSV hit 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, 100 mph in 23.7 seconds, and had an electronically limited top speed of 110 mph. That is a full second faster to 60 mph than the 3.6L V6 version, and 8 seconds faster to 100 mpg. In perspective, the 5.7L HEMI Durango AWD is comparable in acceleration to the 5.3L Tahoe, and just a bit faster than the 4.6L V8 Ford CVPI.

The 5.7L V8 used in the Durango is a toned-down version of the HEMI, and is different from the more powerful version of the HEMI used in the Charger Pursuit and Ram pickups. The Durango uses a 360 hp engine, the Charger has a 370 hp engine, and the Ram truck packs a 390 hp engine. That said, the HEMI Durango is a very capable SUV for routine patrol in all police scenarios—urban, rural, highway, off-road. It has enough engine to do whatever is necessary.

The EPA fuel estimates for the 5.7L V8 Durango SSV are 13 mpg City, 20 mpg Hwy and 15 mpg Combined. That is an EPA estimate of 3 mpg less than the same vehicle powered by the 3.6L V6. During the 700 miles we put on the Durango V6 over a 10-day period, we averaged 15.7 mpg. The duties were mostly rural and suburban calls for service, some traffic enforcement, very little idling, and some interstate driving. With very little cargo most of the time, that is about 2 mpg less than the V6 version we tested earlier, and about the same as the older 4.7L V8 Durango doing similar duties.

So, how does the Durango SSV compare to competitive SUVs? It is virtually the same size as the Chevy Tahoe, and has significantly more cargo capacity than the Explorer. The best apples-to-apples comparison for the non-police package, Special Service Vehicle, 5.7L V8 Durango is to the non-police package, Special Service Vehicle, 5.3L V8 Tahoe in 4WD.

The V8 Durango and V8 Tahoe have virtually the same acceleration and the same limited top speed. Both have about the same interior room and the same cargo capacity. Both have a 2-speed transfer case for the occasional 4x4 rock crawling. The Durango has better ride comfort than the Tahoe and a bit better handling, but that is splitting hairs.

Overall, the Jeep Grand Cherokee-based V8 Durango is a perfect fit in the fleet of other Dodge and Ram vehicles for situations where its cargo capacity is needed. No need to look elsewhere.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2012

Rating : 9.0

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If it isn't pursuit rated...

Posted on : Feb 23 at 8:03 AM By Mcsap

Don't put a hemi in it ! Non pursuit rated Police Vehicles used in a pursuit can result in a crash that can cost a PD big. Even though this SUV isn't fast compared to a charger or a Taurus , officers are more likely to use them for traffic enforcement and that means taking off at high speeds to go after people.

The difference between pursuit rated ( Charger , Taurus and Caprice ) is legally BIG compared to the " Special Service Vehicles " that exist for police use. A higher center of gravity means harder to control during a pursuit.

If PD's want / need a SSV , that's fine. Stick to the 6 cylinder for better mileage and less " pursuit " use. The Dodge 6 cylinder is still almost 300 horsepower. If they want / need a pursuit rated cruiser , the Big three each have a nice offering of good high performance cars.

Dodge Charger 375 horsepower.

Ford AWD Twin turbo Taurus. 365 horsepower ( 6 cylinder)

Chevy Caprice. 355 horsepower.

Any of these cars is a rocket ship and is actually designed and built for pursuit use.

I am a retired Police Officer who has " been there and done that. "

Thats a hemi ?

Posted on : Feb 22 at 4:21 PM By Mcsap

Put a detuned hemi in a car and get detuned performance. Using a AWD vehicle as a pursuit LE car is ripe for mechanical problems down the road.

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