Auto Review: A very contemporary Durango

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured - posted Fri., Feb. 14, 2014
- Contributed Photo

As we are still in the grip of a pretty substantial winter, this week’s auto is another vehicle designed to be able to negotiate through the season’s worst. If you may recall from last week, I mentioned the trend of SUVs going from truck-style frames to unibody construction, with the Toyota 4Runner being an exception to this trend. The Dodge Durango started life as a rugged SUV based on the Chrysler light truck platform back in the late ’90s, and is now built on an architecture shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee (although the Durango is larger). This latest version not only has the more car-like construction that dispenses with the separate frame, it has a fully independent suspension for a more comfortable ride and standard three-row seating.

Riding on a long, 119-inch wheelbase, the Durango comes in five versions: SXT, Rallye, Limited, R/T and Citadel. Two engines are offered, depending on trim level: a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 290 horsepower (available on all but the R/T), and a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 360 horsepower (standard on the R/T, and optional on the Limited and Citadel). The transmission is a new eight-speed automatic, and it has a rather novel shifter: a rotary dial found on the central console. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is an option with either a single speed (V6) or two-speed (V8) transfer case. Our test subject was an R/T with the standard V8 and AWD, and we got to sample the Durango during a fair amount of snow, where it performed well but was not class-leading in terms of overall mobility in deeper conditions. When the streets dried out, performance was impressive, with excellent acceleration and solid handling, despite the substantial heft of this large SUV. A throaty exhaust note was muted, as was the overall noise level in the cabin at speed, and ride quality was quite compliant even over rougher patches of pavement. With the V8, the Durango was rated to tow up to 7,200 pounds.

The interior of our R/T was roomy, versatile and very accommodating; with optional Premium Nappa leather upholstery. The displays are very modern, with a digital instrument cluster (with some analog displays) and an 8.4-inch touchscreen in the center stack for Chrysler’s Uconnect telemetrics. The second row consisted of two captains chairs that fold and tumble for additional cargo versatility. We also had the optional DVD/Blu-ray entertainment system to help keep passengers occupied on long trips. The third-row seating is roomy enough for two adults on short trips, and the rear liftgate was power-assisted.  With second- and third-row seats folded, cargo capacity is 84.5 cubic feet. The optional Technology Group included Adaptive Cruise Control (which works even in slow, stop-and-go traffic) and Blind Spot/Cross Path Detection systems.

The 2014 Dodge Durango R/T AWD is EPA rated 14 MPG city/22 highway and has a base price of $41,395. With options, our sticker came to $49,265.

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