Dodge’s full-size Durango SUV was the first in a line of Chrysler products I was to review in early 2015. To be quite honest, I wasn’t supposed to get the Durango, instead I was to roam wintery Montreal in a Range Rover Evoque, but bookings got mixed and I could not have been happier with the outcome.
Thus officially began my #moparimmersion.
The Durango started out for the 1998 model year, replete with truck-ness and robustness thanks to the donor Dakota pickup. A fanboy of the truck I quickly became, but growing pains and other issues made the Durango more of gamble than a sure bet -- a common problem with Chrysler vehicles in the ‘90s.
The Durango has since evolved twice, and has turned into what we have today: a matured, capable, and user-friendly haul-everything truck that is easy to live with, decent to drive, and fine to look at.
Family hauler or 1/4–mile runner?
At $40,495 the Durango SXT is something of a true minivan replacement with all the advantages of a truck, including AWD and the fact that it’s not a minivan.
With seating for up to seven passengers, the Durango will get all family outings done and with little fuss. In this trim, the truck is powered by Chrysler’s well known and revered 3.6L V6. Output is rated at 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.
Moving to a Limited requires an extra $5k and brings with it the option of selecting the (you guessed it) optional 5.7L HEMI V8. This bad boy pumps out 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque.
New since the 2014 model year is the 8-speed automatic transmission, which replaces both 5-speed autoboxes previously offered. Without getting into details too early on, such a huge vehicle should not move with such relative ease…
It’s a Dodge
And to be a Dodge, said vehicle must carry a number of styling cues. The first is the well-known and long-running crosshair front grille. The latest addition to Dodge’s design “language” is the LED “Racetrack” taillamps. Both are featured on all the latest Dodge cars and trucks and I for one am thankful for the tails… They’re impossible to mistake on a Charger, if you know what I’m going on about.
My tested $50,495 R/T actually deserves its R/T nomenclature, unlike some other Dodge products, but I digress. Standard under the acre-large bonnet is the HEMI V8 as are 20” hyper-black aluminum wheels, blacked headlamp, body-colour grille and surround, mouldings and fascias, and not to mention the dual rear tailpipes. Perhaps less noticeable is the 20mm ride-height drop compared to the other trims. All and all, this truck, without a doubt, looks the part.
Vast, the cabin is
As I stated earlier, the Durango is a true minivan alternative thanks to its six or seven passenger seating configuration and relatively vast trunk even if the 3rd row is in position.
There are plenty of spots to empty pockets into and the seats all around are comfortable. Chrysler continues to make efforts where fit and finish are concerned, as well as for ergonomics. On all of the latter the Durango wins, but one issue is a constant with every product I’ve recently driven: the Uconnect touchscreen display.
I’ve nothing negative to say about the Uconnect handsfree/wireless/communication system, once it’s up and running. Every Chrysler vehicle I evaluated during these weeks suffered a delay, nay lag, upon booting up. In some instances, I waited upwards of a minute for the 8.4” screen to come on line. In -10C weather, that’s an eternity to launch the heated seats and steering wheel. The cold may have had something to do with it, but I noticed a similar lapse in time while on the Jeep Renegade launch, in Southern California.
Taking the road
The 2015 Dodge Durango R/T and I spent much time together. Over a week’s time, I clocked over 750km, most on the highway. It pains me slightly to report that it averaged upwards of 16L/100km, but I will admit to being addicted to the HEMI’s growl and I did use it to move stuff…
And by “stuff” I mean a hot-water tank, chairs, and a number of other large bulky items. Regardless of the girth of the objects I threw in the trunk, the Durango proved to be as comfortable and quiet as many family sedans. The big lug stays true to its course and drives smaller than its outer dimensions suggest.
Passing power is more than plenty, and thankfully the 8-speed ‘box is always doing its job, unlike the far less agreeable 9-speed found in other Chrysler products.
The bottom line
It’s simple, really: The Dodge Durango is really good at what it does. On top of being capable of hauling up to 3,265kg (7,200lbs), it is a good driver. There are very few other large SUVs or CUVs capable of being this utilitarian and comfortable, in this price range.
The competition comes from the following: Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer, Mazda CX-9, and Hyundai Santa Fe XL. The powertrain options alone make it tops for me.