SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: Back in the day, Dodge insisted on calling its compact Dakota pickup a “midsize” truck, and in truth, it did dwarf its more popular classmates, the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-10. Fast forward 20 years and that's how the Durango feels to me now, not quite full-size but clearly not a compact, either. So it surprised me to find out the Durango is actually bigger than one of its main competitors, the Ford Explorer, a vehicle that always feels gargantuan to me.
Perhaps the styling is to credit for this bigger-than-it-appears effect, though in any case, I like the way the Durango looks. It feels like a wholly thought out design to me, where the Explorer just doesn't. The brawniness of the Explorer's shape feels forced; the smoother lines of the Durango more organic.
And from a utility standpoint, the Durango proved mighty handy. We were able to not only haul home a brand-spankin' new seven-foot-square shed, but also the half-inch plywood required for the base (folding both rear rows in each case). Still, the Durango falls short overall in refinement, both from a powertrain standpoint as well as in the execution of its Uconnect command center. I know others in the office are rather fond of the system, but between the clunkiness of the navigation system to the fact that you cannot change the seat heating settings without going into the appropriate screen (which means switching away from the map or radio or whatever), it annoys me far more than most systems of its ilk out there.
As for the transmission, it has to be one of the balkier I've driven in a long time. It would easily get tripped up when switching too quickly from braking to throttle, often clunking rather harshly in the process. It actually surprised me seeing as this is one of the automaker's new-fangled eight-speed jobs; figure it would be better tuned. Oh well, maybe next model year!
The 2014 Dodge Durango R/T comes in at a base price of $42,390 with our tester topping off at $49,965.
2014 Dodge Durango R/T
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: I like SUVs that look like SUVs, which is a good way to describe the 2014 Dodge Durango R/T. While competing vehicles like the Nissan Pathfinder have gone for more of a crossover look, the Durango looks beefy and has the guts to back it up with the 5.7-liter V8 that's capable of towing up to 7,400 pounds.
Lucky for me, Dodge didn't mess around with the Durango's appearance much for the update it received for the 2014 model year. There's a new front and rear fascia, wheel designs, available front LED lights and the rear LED racetrack tail lamp which consists of 192 LEDs for a slick look at night, but not much else on the outside. The cabin gets a new three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters, redone center stack with either a 5-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen and new gauge cluster made with a 7-inch color thin-film transistor screen that customers can alter in more than 100 ways.
The most noteworthy news comes in the form a new eight-speed automatic transmission that helps improved EPA fuel economy ratings from 13 mpg to 14 mpg in the city and from 20 mpg to 22 mpg on the highway compared to the 2013 model equipped with the V8 and all-wheel drive.
With the Hemi, the Durango R/T is quick for a 5,300-pound vehicle to get off the line in a brisk manner and easily help you merge onto expressways and pull off passes. I have to agree with Natalie about the transmission tuning, though. It did seem to get confused and hung up between shifts during city driving when you're dancing between the gas and brake pedals.
What's a little surprising is how weighty the steering is for a large SUV. Personally, I like hefty feeling steering but I can see it turning off some people. Handling is solid with the suspension keeping body motions in check through corners, while yielding a ride that's rather comfortable. Considering its curb weight and higher center of gravity, the Durango's handling abilities are impressive.
I am one of the Autoweek staff members who like the overall simplicity of Dodge's Uconnect system. It's easy to work through our test car's 8.4-inch center touchscreen and is responsive to inputs unlike the screens found in a lot of Honda, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles. Radio and HVAC functions can be controlled by redundant hard buttons below the screen, which is always good but Natalie is correct that there are some things that can't be changed unless you are on the appropriate screen. That's annoying, but as long as there are traditional controls for radio and climate, I'm willing to give an automaker a pass.
The interior overall is really simple -- maybe too simple in design. The thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel is nice but the dashboard lines are a little boring. I'm all for simplicity, but in the Durango's case the designers could have spiced things up a little more. I have no complaints about the quality of materials, though, as there are soft-touch surfaces everywhere. Front seats a firm, but comfortable with sufficient side support.
It's a crowded roster when you look at the three-row SUV/crossover field. There's a new 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and plusher GMC Yukon, Ford Explorer, Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander and Sequoia. I'm sure I've missed a few there, but each possesses their own strengths. In the Durango's case you have an available V8 option that's good for towing, which many on the list above don't offer. If you do want a V8, that leaves the GM entries and the Sequoia, which are all full-frame vehicles compared to the Durango's unibody underpinnings. The Toyota is long in tooth and has dreaded fuel economy making it not so attractive. My limited seat time with a new Tahoe has me believing that the ride quality is smoother than the Durango, though. Where the Dodge wins is in handling reflexes over the GMs.
What's best for you depends on what you're looking for in your three-row SUV/crossover. I'm certain there's one out there to fit the needs of almost anyone. But if you're looking for something sportier with V8 engine, the Durango is probably your best bet without having to spend a lot more money for something from a luxury automaker.
Base Price: $42,390
As-Tested Price: $49,965
Drivetrain: 5.7-liter V8; AWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 360 hp @ 5,150 rpm, 390 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm
Curb Weight: 5,331 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 14/22/16 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 14.2 mpg
Options: Customer preferred package including adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist, forward collision warning plus, blind spot cross path detection ($1,995); rear DVD entertainment center package including Blu-ray compatible dual screen video, rear seat video system ($1,995); trailer tow group IV package including class IV receiver hitch, 7 and 4 pin wiring harness ($995); premium Nappa leather group package including power tilt/telescope steering column, lux leather-trimmed bucket seats, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, ventilated front seats, leather-wrapped door panels, power 8-way drivers seat w/ memory and 8-way passenger seat, floor console with leather armrest, rain sensitive windshield wipers, automatic high beam headlamp control, cargo compartment cover, cargo net, Second-row fold/tumble captain chairs ($895); Uconnect 8.4 AM/FM/BT/ACCESS/NAV package including: GPS navigation, HD radio, SiriusXM traffic, SiriusXM travel link ($400) second-row console with armrest and storage including 1 USB charging port in console, 12-volt auxiliary power outlet in console, illuminated rear cup holders ($300)
Article SOURCE: this factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.