I remember when the Dodge Durango first came out. It was a sharp looking truck-based SUV. Then, the second generation came out and it all went to heck. The styling was a mess, the interior materials would make Lego cry, and it was just plain ugly. Now we have a third generation Durango which is based on the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. I spent a week with it to find out if it is a sharp looking SUV or another mess that would make Lego cry.
I’m just going to say it; the Durango’s styling is a home run. Truly a grand slam knockout. Sporting the new Dodge crosshair grille and a wide stance, the Durango has an imposing presence.
My tester was a fully loaded top-of-the line Citadel model which featured quite a bit of chrome, but it is tasteful. The headlights have a jewel-like quality to them, with some intricate styling tweaks that really make them unique. As much as I love the front end, the rear seems a little plain to me. While not ugly by any means, it lacks the style the front end clearly has.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the 20-inch chrome clad wheels. Personally, I’m over chrome cladding and it just felt tacky. Dodge showed the Durango Citadel with some fantastic looking aluminum wheels during the auto show season. My guess is those are an option, though in my opinion they should be standard.
I also felt the door handles were flimsily on the outside. When you pulled them to open the door the handles felt loose and wiggled. I have since checked other new Durangos and other new Chrysler products, and each seem to have this issue. The handles don’t give you that solid feeling when you pull on them to release the door, and this definitely made an impression on me each time I opened the doors. But shutting the doors would result in a solid thunk, quickly removing the cheap feeling the handles gave me.
Inside the Durango is another home run; the materials are all first rate. I’m not typically a fan of two-tone interiors, especially when the main color is tan, but the black and tan interior of this Durango really looked great. The seats were supportive and the power tilt and telescoping steering wheel made it easy to find a comfortable driving position.
The stalks and center console controls are straight from the Jeep Grand Cherokee parts bin, but that’s OK. The controls feature large buttons that are easy to use and are marked clearly.
Where the Durango differs from the Jeep Grand Cherokee is size; the Durango features a third row for extra passenger capacity. I personally hopped in the back seat and played with all the different seating arrangements. I was highly impressed and actually comfortable sitting in the third row. While you do give up nearly all your cargo room with the third row up, a five foot ten inch male will be more than comfortable sitting in the third row during a road trip. Sadly, you’ll need another vehicle to haul your luggage in.
While the Durango does offers the terrific new Pentastar V-6 engine, my tester was equipped with the Hemi V-8. Rated at 360 horsepower and 390 pound feet of torque, the power is channeled through a one choice five-speed automatic. Yes, I said five-speed not six.
My all-wheel drive tester felt quick, but heavy. The steering was nicely weighted and the transmission programming was well sorted. The all-wheel drive Durango with the Hemi V-8 is rated at 13/20. I am happy to report I averaged 15.6 mpg in mixed suburban driving and 21.3 mpg on the highway with the cruise set north of 70 mph. It is worth noting I also had five people, two dogs, and the rear-end full of luggage when I averaged 21.3 mpg on the highway. Had I gone slightly slower and or had a smaller load, I am sure my mileage would have been even better.
On the way back from the family cabin my family and I ran into one of the absolute nastiest storms I have ever driven through in my life. The rain was coming down in sheets and you couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of you. It was truly terrifying for some of the people in the car. The Durango felt steady and very safe as we drove through the storm (for three hours) and never lost control at any point. I was highly impressed, and am not convinced all vehicles would have driven through that quite as well.
At the end of my week with the Durango there was no question, this is by far the best Durango to date. With a terrific interior and great fit and finish, Dodge has a very competitive SUV in its line-up. While it may not have quite the fuel economy rating that some of the competition does, it has easy to use electronics and large towing capabilities that some of the competition just can’t match. I would definitely recommend the Durango to anyone needing a three-row crossover with towing capabilities.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Chrysler