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Dodge Durango SSV

The whole point of a Ride & Drive is to learn something you didn’t know. The Hemi Charger is blistering fast. Everyone knows that. The Ford PI Sedan EcoBoost is both fast and incredibly nimble. Everyone knows that. The tightly sprung Chevy Tahoe PPV can be tossed around an EVOC course like a sedan. Everyone knows that. A good Ride & Drive event is all about, “Show me something I didn’t know.”

The Ride & Drive at the recent Police Fleet Expo – Louisville was a relatively low-speed, high-precision event. For the first time, non-pursuit rated, special-service package vehicles were permitted on the EVOC course. The Michigan State Police does not test any non-pursuit, special-service package vehicles. Neither does the Los Angeles County Sheriff. That means the Durango SSV was something of an unknown, and totally new to the Police Fleet Expo EVOC course.

Police Fleet Manager

has tested both vehicles. We put 750 miles of ticket writing on the V6 Durango SSV and 700 miles of ticket writing on the V8 Durango SSV. Go to, click Resources, and then click Article Archives. However, our staff testing and reporting on the Durango SSV is not quite the same as 500 police fleet managers experiencing the Durango SSV first-hand.

At the PFE Ride & Drive, the “something I didn’t know” turned out to be how capable the Dodge Durango SSV was at keeping up with the other police and special-service package vehicles.

The expression on the driver’s faces said it all. It was either, “Wow, just as good as any full-size SUV.” Or it was, “Wow, better than I expected.” Either way, it was, “Wow” of some kind. Even though the Durango SSV has a longer wheelbase than the Tahoe (120 inches versus 116 inches), the Durango was able to be bossed through the tight and twisting Ride & Drive course originally set up using the Tahoe.

In fact, the Jack-be-nimble Durango seemed as easy to get through the difficult EVOC course as easily as the Charger, which also has a 120-inch wheelbase. As an aside, a long wheelbase almost always translates to a more comfortable ride, all else equal.


V6 or V8

The best way to think of a 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 five-passenger, two-seat SUV, while the Durango is a seven-passenger, three-seat SUV. For fleet managers concerned about durability, both the Grand Cherokee and the Durango ride on the M-class, WK2 platform co-developed with Mercedes-Benz. Part of the improved ride and handling with the third-gen Durango is the upgrade to a fully independent rear suspension (IRS).

The Durango SSV (special service vehicle) is

available as either a Rear-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive. The Durango SSV is powered by either a 290 hp, 3.6L Pentastar V6 or a 360 hp, 5.7L Hemi V8. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 is E85-ethanol FlexFuel capable. The 3.6L V6 and 5.7L V8 are familiar to police fleet managers and technicians.


ZF 8-speed Trans

Both versions of the Durango SSV come with the ZF 8-speed. We can’t say enough good things about this ZF 8-speed. It is designed to handle the torque. It greatly improves fuel economy. It greatly improves acceleration. The 8HP70 8-speed has the ability to shift in a non-sequential manner. For example, it can downshift from 8th gear all the way to 2nd gear in some situations. The 8-speed is new to the special service package, but already proven.

The ZF 8HP70 8-speed trans used with the 5.7L Hemi V8 is different from the 845RE 8-speed trans used with the 3.6L Pentastar V6. The 8HP70 is the same basic layout as the 845RE, but it is beefed up to handle more torque. It has a larger main case diameter, larger clutch packs, some larger gears, an additional pinion gear in one gear set, and a larger park gear.

Gear ratio-wise, 6th gear is direct drive while 7th and 8th speeds are overdrives. This ZF 8-speed can get 11 percent better mileage than the ZF-6 speed transmission and 14 percent better than a modern 5-speed transmission.

The 8-speed greatly improves both fuel economy and acceleration. In fact, the 8-speed gets the Durango to 60 mph a full second faster than the previous 5-speed. With the 3.6L V6, the full-size SUV hits 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, compared to the Ford CVPI time of 8.6 seconds. With the 5.7L V8, the 0 to 60 mph time for the Durango is 7.5 seconds. The 5.7L Hemi V8 is a $2,500 option on the Durango SSV.


Special Service Package

In the past, the term Special Service from all three automakers has meant the same thing—begin with the lowest trim level vehicle, and then start deleting features. Seldom, if ever, did Special Service package mean adding police-specific or even police-oriented features.

The Special Service package for the Durango is different. This is not just a rebadged or content-deleted SUV. This Durango starts with the low, SXT-trim level but then the Special Service package Durango indeed gets 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. Both engines have an auxiliary engine oil cooler.

A police-oriented SUV, this Durango has a unique, police-specific headliner and dome light


rear HVAC for K9 operations. Spotlight wiring prep is standard equipment. Also unique to the Special-Service Package Durango is a liftgate key lock cylinder not found on the retail SUV.


Performance Brakes

The best proof that the Special-Service Package Durango is not just a rebadged retail Durango are the upgraded front brakes. Dodge Fleet ran the Durango on the race courses at Pomona (Los Angeles County Sheriff) and Grattan (Michigan State Police). As a result of this track time, the Special Service Durango comes with higher performance, “export” brake pads. This 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.


Must-Have Options

There are three must-have options. First, the skid plate group, which protects the fuel tank, transfer case, front suspension and front tow hooks. Second, the trailer tow group, which includes a Class IV receiver, 4-pin/7-pin wiring harness, and (most importantly) a full-size spare tire. The trailer tow package used to be the secret way to get a more police-oriented, stiffer suspension.

The third must-have option is a ParkView® rear backup camera. This got a real workout at the


Ride & Drive where—right in the middle of the EVOC course—the fleet manager was required to back into a parking spot, once from the left and once from the right. The Tahoe PPV comes standard with such a rear camera.

Every automaker wants you to test drive their police package and special-service package vehicles. Every Chrysler Fleet regional rep has a Durango in their pool of loaner vehicles, or they can put you in touch with a nearby dealer who has one in their demo pool. Experience how Dodge does SUV.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2015

Rating : 10.0

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SSV Towing

Posted on : Sep 4 at 2:09 PM By Adam Traylor

I'm a civilian who recently purchased a used Durango SSV. Love the vehicle except I purchased one without a tow package. I can't find anything concrete online or from Dodge themselves on how parts needed to safely tow the 7000+ lbs this vehicle says it can tow. Even through Mopar, the tow package kit says only 3500 lbs. Do you know if the SSV comes with all the factory equipment (trans cooler, electrical, mounting points, and rear suspension) that it needs to tow 7000 lbs?

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