SERGEANT JAMES POST
THE 2018 DODGE DURANGO SSV
In addition to the pursuit-rated vehicles tested each year by the Michigan State Police (MSP), occasionally, manufacturers will submit prototypes for evaluation and testing.
Normally, these results are not published or included in the test results released to Law Enforcement (LE) agencies and the media. This is understandable because these vehicles can rightfully be called “works in progress” and the grueling MSP tests can frequently reveal areas which need more attention.
Such is the case with the Dodge Durango submitted for the MSP tests conducted in September 2017 and reported on in the last issue of P&SN. The speed, braking and ergonomic testing of the Dodge Durango were not done under the cover of darkness, but in full view of the many in attendance. FCA engineers stated to those present that the vehicle (a modified SSV Durango) was recently prepared and subject to additional refinements and upgrades. It was, however, sufficient for testing, the FCA engineers stated, and the MSP staff reported it did pass the basic requirements for a pursuit rating which delighted the Mopar® fans in attendance.
These tests of a Durango have been widely reported in the media and speculation about a pursuit-rated Durango is more rampant than rumors about which entertainment mogul or media icon will be the next to fall from grace. FCA officials we interviewed would neither admit nor deny that a Durango Pursuit will be released in 2018. This is very understandable and an industry stock reply, as future vehicle releases are better kept secrets than a politician’s E-mails and logically so. Profit is the bottom line, of course, and the SUV police vehicle market is the newest and fastest growing segment of LE vehicle sales. Both Chevrolet and Ford already have a gigantic head start with their pursuit-rated Tahoes and PI Utilities, so a pursuit-rated Durango could make a serious impact in their sales (if competitively priced), particularly with those departments already using the popular Dodge Charger Pursuit sedans.
With the testing of a prototype Durango pursuit vehicle (and a sincere hope that one is on the horizon), this article will provide you with an in-depth review of a Durango you can buy today – the 2018 Dodge Durango SSV.
2018 Dodge Durango Special Service Vehicle, aka SSV
FCA’s Dodge Division has had an SSV Durango for several years and it – along with the Ram SSV pickup – has sold in increasing numbers to departments which need off-road capabilities more than they need pursuit capabilities. Most of these agencies are west of the Mississippi River, but rural sheriff’s departments across America have been drawn to the Durangos because of their rugged performance and proven reliability.
The 2018 Durango Special Service is not a modified civilian SUV, but a specifically designed vehicle with input from FCA’s LE Advisory Group and LE customers. There are two engine options, the 3.6L Pentastar® V-6 and the 5.7L HEMI® V-8. Both engines have their own unique economy-minded, fuel saving assists. The V-6 features Engine Stop/Start (ESS) technology which shuts off the engine as the vehicle comes to a complete stop, then instantly restarts as the brake pedal is released. All of this takes less than a half-second. The V-6 is also E-85 Ethanol Flex fuel capable.
The HEMI comes with its own Fuel Saver Technology, also known as a Multi-Displacement System (MDS). MDS is available in the 5.7L HEMI only and it is an ingenious creation which cuts the powerful V-8 back to four cylinders during normal operation. The change is almost unnoticeable, so an indicator is provided in the instrument cluster and the increased fuel economy is amazing. I personally have achieved 38 mpg with one of my HEMIs and routinely get 30 mpg, all at freeway speeds.
Regardless of the engine you choose, the power is transferred to the ground via an eight-speed automatic transmission, controlled by a rotary gear selector control on the console which frees up valuable space normally occupied by a traditional shift lever. Sixth gear in the transmission is the final drive gear, while seventh and eighth gears are overdrive gears. The Durango shares the eight-speed auto with the Ram SSV pickup and their retail counterparts.
Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) is standard with both engines and All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is optional with both engine choices. The V-6 AWD is single speed, full-time, whereas the V-8 AWD is two speed, full-time active AWD.
Standard equipment includes an 800 amp battery, a heavy-duty 220 amp alternator and heavy-duty engine cooling and braking packages. Other standard SSV features include heavy-duty front and rear floor mats, interior LED lamps, a power distribution center, front and rear wiring harnesses (including spotlight wiring), and in floor storage compartments.
Standard SSV safety equipment includes a full complement of driver’s and passenger’s front and side air bags and active head restraints, plus the ParkView® Rear Back-Up Camera which includes rear ParkSense®. The SSV brakes are upgraded with heavy-duty front brake calipers and feature a four-wheel disc Antilock Brake System.
Your officers’ creature comforts are not overlooked either as standard SSV equipment includes a headliner console with storage and a red/white LED auxiliary dome light; an eight-way adjustable power seat; a leather wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel; and a six speaker audio system operated by steering wheel controls. It also features an Automatic Tri-Zone Temperature Control and all of these functions are visible on a 4.7″ Uconnect® display in the dash with Google Android Auto and Apple® CarPlay™ Integrated Voice Command. A full-length floor console features an armrest, a 12 volt accessory outlet and storage.
Noteworthy options include an engine block heater and skid plates (on AWD models) which protect the fuel tank, transfer case, front suspension, and underbody. An optional rear compartment storage cabinet with a slide out drawer and cooling fan is available. Load leveling rear suspension can also prove to be a valuable option, particularly with the optional Class IV trailer package.
Comparing the SUVs
The Durango, with an almost perfect 50/50 weight ratio and available HEMI and AWD, would be a formidable competitor in any comparison; however, two of the main reasons officers prefer SUVs over sedans are cargo space and height (ground clearance). The Durango is slightly larger than the Ford, but smaller than the Chevy. The Durango’s rear cargo space is 84.5 square feet, compared with the Tahoe’s 112.1 square feet, while the PI Utility’s is 85.1 square feet. At 8.1″, the Durango’s ground clearance is comparable to the Tahoe at 8.5″ and better than the Utility at 6.5″.
At the time this article was prepared, the three companies had not announced fleet pricing for the 2018 models; however, based on previous years, it is anticipated that the Durango SSV will be cheaper than the Tahoe and about the same as the PI Utility. And all three LE SUVs are proudly built in America.
This brings us full circle in our Durango story. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and, if you are interested in trying one on for size, contact them at www.fcausfleet.com.
Sergeant James Post appreciates your comments and suggestions for future articles. He can be reached at email@example.com.