These days there are SUVs of all shapes, sizes, and uses. The SUV has evolved somewhat over the course of the last several years. Most are more family-friendly than true sport utility. That said, there are many vehicles that are still purpose-built machines. One stood out to us more than the others we drove this year. This SUV combines muscle-car-like power with the practicality and utility of a large seven-passenger vehicle. Our choice for SUV of The Year is the Dodge Durango SRT. Introduced in 2017 as a 2018 model, the Durango SRT is the king of the Durango line, and if it weren’t for the Dodge Demon, we’d say it was the king of the whole Dodge family.

Note: We base our choice of SUV of the Year on real-world vehicles, not exotics or cars that are way out of reach. The pool of cars we choose from are only selected from cars we've actually driven and reviewed, so we have first-hand experience with them. Our staff discusses the 10 best cars we've reviewed over the past twelve months and narrows them down to three, and then an overall winner. Cars are evaluated based on style, comfort, driving experience, safety, technology, efficiency, materials quality, build quality, amenities, brand significance, and segment impact.

The Dodge Durango SRT: The Hot Rod SUV

Dodge Durango SRT

Exterior Styling: Its muscular appearance hints at its performance

While the Durango SRT is obviously still very much a Durango, it’s also easy to discern that this is no regular Durango. The hood scoop and vents, lower bumpers, and SRT badging give it away as something more sinister. This is not a subtle vehicle, and if you want a sleeper, you’d better look elsewhere. At first glance, it’s apparent that this SUV was built to roast tires and lay down rubber in a straight line. What impressed us, though, was that we never got tired of looking at it. It’s well-proportioned, doesn’t have any garish styling elements, and Dodge did a good job of making it eye-catching without going completely bonkers. 

2018 Dodge Durango srt interior

The Cabin: Few SUV interiors are more spacious, comfortable, and well-appointed

The Durango SRT’s cabin isn’t as elegantly designed as our choice for last year’s SUV of The Year, the Mazda CX-9, but then this vehicle would feel weird with a classy interior. You get the Durango SRT to do burnouts, rip up an on-ramp to the interstate, or take the occasional quarter-mile run at the nearest drag strip. With that in mind, the Durango SRT’s somewhat over-the-top interior styling seems warranted. It’s a bombastic vehicle, and its interior conveys this well.

That’s not to say the Durango SRT isn’t well-appointed. It comes with top-notch leather seating and a large Uconnect infotainment screen that gives you access to modern technology. Its instrument cluster features a digital display in the center and the analog gauges to either side. The true benefit of this vehicle is space. There’s plenty of room for seven people, and the Durango has more interior room than many of its more conventional body-on-frame SUV competitors. The Durango SRT is still designed for the family, despite its high-powered engine and performance-minded ethos.

2018 Dodge Durango SRt

The Driving Experience: A seven-passenger, four-wheeled land missile

Because the Durango SRT comes with a 6.4-liter V8 engine that produces 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque and has a reported 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds, you might think that this vehicle’s sole purpose is for going fast in a straight line. It is good at that, but Dodge endowed this SUV with the equipment to make it handle surprisingly well, too. It’s a little too heavy to be completely at home on a race track, but it’s more than competent on the roads most drivers encounter in the real world. Pair that with AWD and the ability to tow a class-leading 8,700 lbs., and you have an SUV that is better than just about any other on the road.

2018 Dodge Durango SRT

There are cars that are much faster than the Durango SRT. Those cars come with high price tags, a lot less seating, and almost zilch in terms of cargo space. That’s what we love so much about the Durango SRT. It’s a red-blooded American attempt at creating a vehicle without compromise. Dodge took a whole-hearted stab at making a family vehicle that could blow the doors off most other cars on the road. They took the idea of a practical performance SUV to a whole new level. We’re happy that they’re pushing the envelope for big V8 gas-powered vehicles in an age when electrification is dominating the headlines.

Dodge has built an SUV that people will be talking about long after the Durango SRT goes out of production. To us, that’s worth quite a lot. Plenty of automakers build great SUVs, but most of those vehicles are forgettable. The Durango SRT isn’t. It’s the kind of vehicle people are proud to own, and the kind of SUV that enthusiasts and average consumers will remember fondly for many years to come.

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The Runners Up

Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Inscription

2018 Volvo XC60

Just when you though the XC90 was the best vehicle in the Volvo lineup, the Swedish/Chinese automaker delivers their 2nd-generation XC60, and what a crossover it is. As richly appointed as its bigger brother and even more slickly styled on the outside, the XC60 is marvelous. In T8 E-AWD Inscription trim, it has pretty much everything you need, including serious 400 hp thrust from the turbocharged & supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, coupled with electric power to the rear wheels. Inside, find some of the best front seats in the industry, Volvo's fantastic Sensus big-screen infotainment system and a level of excellence in materials and design that not even the German carmakers can keep up with. - Amos Kwon

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BMW X3 xDrive30i

2018 BMW X3

The new X3 might not look all that different from the last one, but it's so much better. The exterior is more sophisticated and has more presence, and the interior is bigger and richer with the kind of materials and tech befitting a luxury crossover of this caliber. Even in the base trim, there's plenty of on-demand power, and the handling is seriously impressive. Call up the slick iDrive 6.0 infotainment center on the now larger touchscreen, and you'll find that it's beautiful, crisp, and fun to use. The second row and rear cargo section are sizable, and you won't find any reason not to use the X3 for practical errands and for the pure fun of driving. BMW nailed the 3rd-generation X3 skillfully.  - Amos Kwon

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