This is a muscle car masquerading as a family vehicle with a third row for the kids.
– Cleveland, Ohio
Three-row crossovers have been evolving away from their rough-and-tumble SUV roots for some time. Comfortable, car-like rides. Smaller V6 and turbocharged four-cylinder engines. Hybrid versions. They’re little more than minivans now with less space and a little more ground clearance.
The Durango, though, hasn’t gone soft. It still offers a V8 (a Hemi, no less), can tow a ton (3.7 tons, actually), and it looks just as likely to eat your children as it is to ferry them around. This ain’t your sister’s Honda Pilot. It’s for a select few in the family way who revel in being un-PC and revving their engines at stoplights.
- My favorite thing about the Durango is its design, particularly this R/T version with black 20-inch wheels and a Granite Crystal Metallic paint job. It looks like a government vehicle in a Michael Bay movie. Believe it or not, this generation has been in dealer parking lots since 2010, yet it still looks fresh enough to take the tiara in a beauty contest with most other three-row crossovers.
- Among its mainstream competitors, the Durango is the only one that still offers a V8. Here’s what you get with it: a burbling exhaust that sounds like you’re hiding a Challenger in the back, the ability to tow really big things (up to 7,400 pounds with rear-wheel drive), and a hole in your wallet that comes from a combined miles-per-gallon rating of just 17. No matter, though; if you want the muscle car of crossovers, you have to get this engine (it’s standard on the R/T). It’s just not the same experience with the V6.
- At least in R/T guise, the Durango is also a surprisingly willing dance partner when it comes to performance and handling. The big engine scoots it along briskly for being such a big SUV (0-60 happens in under seven seconds) and the suspension is taut and controlled while still offering a pleasing and comfortable ride.
- UConnect is still a great infotainment system. Despite its age, it’s as good or better than Ford’s Sync 3 system, which is brand new. In the Durango, you get a big, squarish 8.4-inch touchscreen that responds to inputs as fast as an iPhone, and all of its controls (both onscreen and on the dash and steering wheel) are logical and easy to use. It’s only demerit is a lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. That’s coming soon, but it’s not here yet.
- The Durango’s third-row seat isn’t a treat to sit in. Fortunately, our tester has the optional second-row captain chairs ($995), which allow taller folks in the back to stretch their legs. Unfortunately, the second row seats, be they a bench or buckets, don’t slide fore and aft, so you’re stuck with the legroom that Dodge gave you. Of course, as with all triple-row CUVs, kids will do fine back there, but some automakers are making surprisingly comfortable third rows for non-kids too; Dodge isn’t one of them.
- There may be a durability issue with the Durango, but I can only give you anecdotal evidence. My tester was creeping up on 10,000 miles, and being a test vehicle for automotive journalists, those were hard miles. The black leather on the driver’s seats was already creasing and showing wrinkles, which will turn into cracks over time if not addressed. Also, like many FCA products, the interior plastics and the way they fit together feel a bit below average in terms of quality and assembly. This is all to say the Durango might not wear as well over the years as, say, your sister’s Pilot.
- Chevy Traverse
- Ford Explorer
- Honda Pilot
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- GMC Acadia
- Kia Sorento
- Mazda CX-9
- Nissan Pathfinder
- Toyota Highlander
Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com