Dodge Durango

The Durango has the manners of a car and the space of a utility vehicle

 

The Dodge Durango is a seven-passenger crossover utility vehicle that is more like a tall car than a utility vehicle. With four-wheel independent suspension, nearly 50/50 weight distribution and responsive steering and handling, the Durango’s driving dynamics are better than what you typically find in a sport utility.

Dodge press materials describe the Durango as a “driver’s SUV,” and I concur.

It sits a bit lower than a Jeep, for example, and that makes it feel confident in corners. The ride was supple yet firm. In normal driving, the Durango was as quiet and smooth as many luxury sedans.

This people mover is available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive and with a 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 or a 360-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and paddles on the steering wheel let the driver take control and shift manually.

The Hemi is fun when you loosen its 360 horses and it has a tow capacity of 7,400 pounds. Under light loads, the Fuel Saver Technology deactivates cylinders to improve gas mileage. Unless you need the Hemi’s extra grunt for towing, the V-6 is perfectly acceptable and has a fuel economy rating of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway. The Hemi is rated at 14 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway.

The all-wheel-drive system in the V-6 does not have an extra-low range, and while that limits its off-road capability, most buyers will not use it off-road. The Hemi’s optional all-wheel-drive system has a low-range transfer case with a neutral position that allows it to be towed behind another vehicle, such as an RV, without damaging the powertrain.

Base prices start at $29,995 for an SXT and top out at $42,095 for the R/T. I drove a well-equipped Citadel model that had a sticker price of $55,960. It was equipped with adaptive cruise control, rear cross path detection, blind-spot monitor and forward collision warning. Uconnect Access offers 9-1-1 calling and roadside assistance.

The Durango lets the buyer tailor the look for personal preference with several special appearance packages such as the Blacktop Package (black wheels and grille), the Brass Monkey (bronze wheels and black grille) and Anodized Platinum that has two-tone leather seats, soft leather on the instrument panel and gunmetal trim on the steering wheel and door speakers. The test vehicle, from Dodge’s press fleet, was a Citadel with the Anodized Platinum package.

Three-row SUVs are popular with families who do carpooling or have more than two children. The split-folding third seat gives room for seven. The test vehicle was equipped with second-row captain’s chairs that make it easier for entry to the third row but reduce total seating capacity by one. The second-row console is handy for extra storage. A Blu-ray video rear-seat entertainment system with 9-inch screens on the back of the front-seat headrests, make a good choice for family road trips.

Third-row legroom is tight, and there is not much luggage space when the third seat is up, but that’s pretty standard for all but the largest SUVs.

The heated and cooled leather seats, navigation system, three-zone climate control, Uconnect Bluetooth system and nine-speaker audio system greatly add to creature comforts.

The 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen has attractive graphics and is one of the more intuitive systems out there. The 8.4-inch unit can utilize the rear-mounted camera to show trailered items while moving, a good safety feature.

The Durango’s styling is simple and uncluttered, almost to the point of being boring. I prefer that kind of look to one that is gimmicky and busy because it will wear well for a longer period of time.

Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control and front, side and side-curtain airbags. Hill-start assist keeps the vehicle from rolling backward on steep roads, and trailer sway damping is useful for towing.

2017 Dodge Durango Citadel Anodized Platinum AWD

Engine: 5.7-liter, 360-horsepower V-8

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

All-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 119.8 inches

Curb weight: 5,397 pounds

Base price: $43,995

As driven: $55,960

MPG rating: 14 in the city, 22 on the highway

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