Like the Jeep Grand Cherokee with which the Durango shares its platform, mechanicals, and technology, the three-row Dodge received a comprehensive update for 2014. Most noticeable are the revised front and rear fascias, which now use copious amounts of LEDs, including hockey-stick-shaped front running lights and Dodge's "racetrack" taillights. Inside, the Durango has a new gauge cluster with a seven-inch TFT screen and a cleaner center stack with larger buttons and an optional 8.4-inch touchscreen (a five-inch touchscreen is standard). Under the skin, the Durango loses its antiquated five-speed automatic in exchange for a new eight-speed unit found elsewhere in Chrysler's lineups; the new transmission is controlled through a rotary knob on the center console, like that found in the 2013–2014 Ram 1500. There is also a new trim level -- Durango Limited -- which includes standard heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and the larger touchscreen...
The Dodge Durango debuted for 1998, just ahead of the curve of its peers on the three-row SUV craze of the late 1990s. Both the first- and second-generation Durangos shared their underpinnings with the mid-size Dodge Dakota pickup truck, which, along with the third row, helped to differentiate the Durango from its Jeep Grand Cherokee corporate cousin. V-6 and V-8 powertrains have always been available, as has rear- and four-wheel drive. Unfortunately, the second-generation Durango shed the simple, toned lines of the 1998 model for a puffed-up, steroid-fed look. We noted that the new truck, which debuted for 2004, seemed "deceptively light on its feet" and that the Durango's appearance "strikes fear into commuters stuck in econoboxes." We also felt that the interior was "gloomy," despite being of higher quality than the first-gen truck. The second-generation Durango also offered a short-lived hybrid version along with V-6 and V-8 engines.
However, it was in 2011 that the Durango re-emerged as a class leader. Based on a stretched version of the also-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee (itself riding on a modified version of the Mercedes-Benz M-class platform), the 2012 model moved the Durango from truck to car underpinnings. All for the better, too, as the 2012–13 Durango is well-composed over paved and unpaved roadways, has a reasonably well-packaged interior, and has more powerful and efficient powertrains than before. The exterior styling -- which was just updated for 2014 -- has a heavy dose of machismo, which works well on the large crossover. Some people, though, may find the chrome on the top-level Citadel model to be too bling-y.
Despite the major cosmetic overhaul for 2014, much of the Durango stays the same. Behind the signature cross-hair grille is Chrysler's fuel-efficient 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine; a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is optional. Both engines now use a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear- and all-wheel drive is available with either engine; tow ratings are anywhere from 6200 pounds to 7400 pounds, depending on engine and drivetrain configuration.
The Durango's unibody construction is similar to that of the Mercedes-Benz M-class and the Jeep Grand Cherokee and is a welcome contrast to the old body-on-frame chassis that punished occupants of the previous Durango. Thanks to the underpinning swap, the Durango has surprisingly good body control. Add nice brake-pedal feel and accurate steering, and you have a 5000-pound SUV that feels remarkably light on its feet. That said, the Durango does not exist in a vacuum, and when driven back-to-back with its competition the Dodge's overall mass is noticeable. As we found out in our comparison test of eight three-row crossovers, the Durango is "the right vehicle to take to Home Depot, but [not] around town."
The interior features three rows of seats with room for seven, but second-row captain's chairs are also available and reduce maximum occupancy to six. Outward visibility is only OK due to the high front cowl, but the Durango still successfully combines SUV capability and crossover versatility. It also continues to offer a slew of safety technology, like blind-spot warning, active cruise control, and rear cross-path detection. The 2013 Durango is rated as a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, although the revised 2014 model has yet to be tested.
- Ford Explorer
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Nissan Pathfinder
- Toyota Highlander