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2014 Dodge Durango - Driven

Thundering around town in a three-row SUV isn’t typically an exciting event. Slow and cumbersome with loads of body roll and understeer can make for a rather uninspiring trip. Then again, the refreshed 2014 Dodge Durango isn’t a typical SUV.

Coated in Granite Crystal Metallic paint with matching 20-inch rims, blacked-out windows, color-keyed bumpers and grille, and that ‘racetrack’ LED taillight fixture out back give this bad boy a snarling bad attitude. Equipped with the Rallye Appearance Package, this Durango seems to hold up an inappropriate gesture to any sneering onlookers.

Get on this bad boy’s good side, however, and you’re coddled like a king – even in the third row. The revised interior for 2014 is much improved over last year and includes numerous refinements. There’s an all-new steering wheel with standard paddle shifters controlling the standard TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic, a reworked center stack with the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect system, and a large seven-inch TFT display within the gauge cluster.

Though this Dodge is refreshed for 2014, all the good stuff from its 2011 total makeover is still present. The killer exterior looks, the loads of room in the second and third rows, its two optional engines, and all-wheel-drive set-up are among the most notable features in the Durango’s returning repertoire.

I recently spent a week with this beastly SUV, doing everything from commuting around and hauling kids, to blasting around cloverleaf interstate on-ramps. Head past the jump for my full run-down.

Click past the jump for the full review

Exterior

Dodge Durango - Driven
Dodge Durango - Driven
Dodge Durango - Driven

The outward appearance on this 2014 Durango with the optional Rallye Appearance Package is menacing. My tester came cloaked in deep grey paint, which happens to be my favorite color, so the looks really resonated with me. The color-keyed grille, bumpers, mirrors, and 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels really look great.

I was disappointed the turn signals weren’t incorporated into the LED racetrack.

The Durango’s shape isn’t half bad either. Its sloping hood line helps with forward visibility and the large front windows make the cabin an airy place. Even rear visibility was decent, especially with the rear seat headrests folded down. The accent crease midway up the doors and the rear haunches stretching between the C- and D-pillars really add character.

Around back is Dodge’s ‘racetrack’ taillight fixture. It’s similar in design to those seen on the Charger and Dart. Though the taillight unit looks great, I was disappointed the turn signals weren’t incorporated into the LED racetrack. Only a small rectangular section of the unit lit up when signaling.

Interior

Dodge Durango - Driven
Dodge Durango - Driven
Dodge Durango - Driven

The interior of the 2014 Durango receives a much needed refresh. A new steering wheel with paddle shifters and multi-function buttons felt good within my hands. The gauge cluster seen though the wheel is another welcome improvement. A seven-inch TFT display dominates the cluster with numerous ways to configure information. The tachometer, temperature, and fuel gauges remain analog.

Over to the right is the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system. Its touchscreen responds quickly to inputs and works seamlessly. Like using an iPhone for the first time, the menus came naturally and were easy to navigate. Down below the screen is a bank of buttons and knobs to work the climate controls and common radio functions. Again, all the switches were laid out in a common-sense manor.

A new steering wheel with paddle shifters and multi-function buttons felt good within my hands.

Along the center console, the most noticeable change is Chrysler’s new rotary gear selector dial. Just like in the Ram 1500, the dial works easily in switching from gear to gear with very distinct notches notating each position. Though this was my first experience with such a rotary dial, it easily became second nature. Switching between forward gears came way of the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Dodge Durango - Driven

Rear seat passengers will find a very accommodating area. Sitting behind myself in the second row, I had generous amounts of leg and foot room. The fold-down center arm rests on the captain’s chairs, along with the reclining feature, makes the second row a great place to road trip. Further back in the third row, passenger again have ample leg room, though folks with LeBron James-size shoes might have a hard time getting comfortable. Anyone under six feet will be fine.

Like all good SUVs, the rear seats fold flat. The 50/50-split third row seat allows for plenty of cargo room while still transporting four passengers. (A second-row bench seat is available for hauling a total of seven passengers) My tester came with a center floor-mounted divider between the second row captain’s chairs. It includes two cup holders and a shallow pocket for storing odds and ends. An optional center console is also available.

Drivetrain

Dodge Durango - Driven

The Durango comes with two engine options: the ubiquitous 3.6-liter, Pentastar V-6 or the venerable 5.7-liter, HEMI V-8. Both engines are plenty powerful enough to move the 5,000-pound SUV around with ease, but the HEMI is the choice for those looking for a seven passenger hot rod. My tester’s 3.6-liter V-6 proved very capable of motivating the Durango while still getting 25 mpg highway. Its overall EPA ratings come in at 18/25/20 mpg for city/highway/combined driving.

Drop the hammer and any nearby tree-hugging Prius will be left in the dust.

Mated to either engine option is the standard TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. I found the tranny to work well in nearly every situation, especially in keeping the engine’s revs in check. Eighth gear is available as low as 40 mph, making inner city travel and slow highway jaunts a thing of eco-friendly bliss. Drop the hammer, however, and any nearby tree-hugging Prius will be left in the dust. It’s at this time the transmission’s two faults tend to come out. First, the transmission seemed slow (though only barely) to drop from eighth gear to fifth or fourth for highway passing. It’s not an unreasonable amount of time, but some pre-planning might be necessary. The only other complaint was with throttle tip-in. The engine and transmission wanted to shove the vehicle forward upon first acceleration only to hang is first gear a nanosecond too long.

The Pentastar V-6 seemed well-matched to the Durango. Normally making 290 horsepower, the Rallye Appearance Package adds five horsepower for a total of 295 horses and 260 pound-feet. That power gives the Durango the ability to tow a respectable 6,200 pounds worth of trailer. Opt for the 360-horsepower HEMI and that number jumps to 7,400. Those are surprising numbers considering the SUV’s unibody construction.

Price

Dodge Durango - Driven

The Durango comes in five trim levels: SXT, SXT Plus, Limited, R/T, and top-dog Citadel. The base model SXT starts out at $29,995 and prices can climb northward of $50,000 for an up-optioned Citadel.

My tester came moderately equipped. It started life in the SXT Plus trim but got the $1,495 Rallye Appearance Package, the $895 second row captain’s chairs, and the upgraded 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system with navigation for $595. That latter feature seems well worth the $595 fee as it upgrades the Uconnect system from a smallish 5.0-inch screen and adds navigation.

Adding in a $995 destination charge, and the grand total for my tester comes $35,475.

Driving Impressions

Dodge Durango - Driven

Hauling around town in the Durango was a pleasurable experience. Wind noise was nearly non-existent and tire thump was only noticeable on broken or uneven pavement. The steering felt properly weighted with a good on-center feel. Turning through curves wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, the Durango was rather confidence inspiring with its handling characteristics and minimal body roll. Dodge really did its homework on suspension tuning and handing prowess for this SUV. Off the line, the 3.6-liter V-6 propels the SUV with more gusto than legal in most states, though it lacks a sporty exhaust note.

Competition

Chevrolet Traverse

Chevrolet Traverse

The Traverse is another good contender in the three-row passenger SUV market., and starting at $30,795, the Traverse is similarly priced to the Durango lineup. Powering the Chevy is a 3.6-liter V-6 making 288 horsepower while getting 17/25 mpg in city/highway driving. A large fuel take means the Traverse can travel up to 520 miles on the highway between fill-ups, though its unlikely the eight passengers could travel that long without a bathroom break.

The Traverse is available in four trim packages: LS, 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ. Check all the option boxes on the LTZ, and the sticker price begins to edge towards $46,000.

Ford Explorer

Ford Explorer

The Explorer has long since been the grandfather of the SUV world, having helped start the craze in the early 1990s. Newly revised, the explorer moved to a unibody platform and comes powered by a myriad of engine options – many of which bare Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharging technology.

For instance, the 2.0-liter, EcoBoost four-cylinder engine making 240 horsepower while getting 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Coming in FWD and AWD forms, the Explorer represents a solid choice of family-friendly SUVs from Ford.

Base price for the Explorer starts at $30,015 and rises to over $48,000 with many of the option boxes checked.

Conclusion

Dodge Durango - Driven

The Durango represents a great, soulful choice in the current three-row SUV market right now. Sure, the Chevrolet Chevrolet Traverse has slightly more interior volume and more seats, but it lacks the menacing attitude and character of the Dodge. With its $35,000 price tag and generous options list, the tester I enjoyed represents a mid-pack example of an every day Durango. While the Rallye Appearance Package might not be for everyone, I loved it. Opt for the more luxurious Limited or Citadel models if leather and a hefty price tag is your thing.

LOVE IT
  • Meanacing exterior appearance
  • Revised interior with loads of room and Technology
  • 3.6-liter V-6 felt plenty powerful and 25 mpg highway
LEAVE IT
  • A heavy foot results in poor mpg
  • Throttle tip-in got annoying
  • Tire thump on rough roads



What is your take?

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