2014 Dodge Durango Review
We want size, presence, on- and off-road capability, power, towing capacity, room…and so on. Once we met those requirements, is there room for the icing on the cake?
The Dodge Durango offers plenty of icing. The amount of icing depends on which model you choose. In the case of the R/T, you get a huge helping of the frosty stuff. This is now true for the revised 2014 version of the sportiest three-row crossover in Chrysler’s arsenal.
The first thing you need to know about the Durango is its largess. Visually, it looks longer than its 200-inch length states. In truth, the Durango’s length deceptive as Chrysler put more space in the cabin than ahead of the firewall. To access to this cabin, four very large doors open wide for seven people to pile into three rows of seating.
Up front, the Durango R/T sports an evil look – just like the current Dodge Charger. A huge crosshairs grille greets you with headlamps that could be mistaken for its large sedan cousin. The R/T adds ground effects below the bumper for a very low stance. To finish off the package, twenty-inch alloy rims give it a modern aggressive look.
For 2014, the Durango got a huge design boost by adding the brand’s new signature full-length tail lamps. The new lamp cluster and design serve as a bridge between the past when they shaped the iconic Charger’s rear end to today’s new brand design language. It finishes a look that is aggressive, bold and very attractive.
Jump inside, and you are treated with more of the R/T’s aggressive theme. A mix of black leather with red stitching welcomes all seven passengers on board. Room is classified as gigantic. Front seat occupants will get used to the right-sized and firm seating. There was some bolstering available to keep the driver in their seat. Second row occupants enjoy the same firmness as up front, without any bolstering. However, leg, shoulder and headroom were very generous, even for larger adults. If you think you could get adults into the third row – maybe smaller ones, but not everyone would be comfortable in the back for longer journeys.
Chrysler’s improved interior design and quality are evident in a very accessible instrument panel with easy to understand readouts and switches. From the soft touch materials to the clear instrumentation, the Durango is a very easy vehicle to live with. Wiper controls, turn signal and headlight beam control are situated on the left stalk only. The speedometer on the R/T is now a TFT screen with various customization options. Within the screen is an overload of information that keeps you informed of every aspect of the vehicle from trip information and fuel economy to oil temperature and pressure.
Infotainment comes from the 8.4-inch UConnect screen, pumping a beautiful noise through nine speakers throughout the cabin. Sirius satellite radio is one of the options aside from a CD player, a hard drive for music and images for the screen’s wallpaper, and USB connectivity. The Bluetooth works extraordinarily well for phone connectivity. Add navigation and UConnect apps, and Access – the latter being Chrysler’s new telematics program with buttons for navigation and vehicle assistance.
Under the hood is the amazingly potent 5.7liter HEMI V8 engine. It is easy to say how powerful it is – one has to experience it to understand why this engine is being touted as “the one to get.” Right off the bat, there is 360 horsepower on tap, with 390 pounds-feet of torque under your right foot. If you push it hard, you will hear its roar. Once its roar is announced, then it becomes a quiet tourer. You never call any SUV or crossover a “tourer.” It is simply impossible – except in the Durango R/T.
Variable-valve timing and cylinder shut-off balances the performance with some efficiency. Still, the HEMI’s roar makes up for any so-called efficiency the engine needs to stay competitive in this market.
A buttery smooth-shifting ZF eight-speed automatic makes the V8′s work simply effortless. Instead of a traditional shifter or a complicated toggle lever, the eight-speed gearbox is actuated by a knob on the console with only four options to Park, Reverse, go into Neutral or Drive. You could also go through the gears by two paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The power is distributed to all four wheels with the option of a Low Range for getting through some tougher conditions.
On the road, this combination of HEMI thrust and quiet touring was channeled though a firm, but compliant and smooth suspension. Despite feeling large, there was a sense of maximum control when maneuvering through parking lots or around road hazards. The Durango R/T went about its business without a care by soaking up road imperfections and other hazards through its low-profile Goodyear Fortera tires and twenty-inch rims. There were occasions when some road feedback was transmitted into the cabin, but the Durango R/T dealt with these instances quite well.
Even with over 5,000 pounds of SUV/crossover to haul around, the Durango R/T felt relaxed and at ease on the highway. You felt plenty of roll in the corners and banks, but the Durango controlled every move without fear.
The steering action felt heavy yielding a bit more effort in tighter turns. However, the Durango R/T tracked extraordinarily well. The brakes worked extremely well with linear and direct stops in both normal and panic stopping.
One drawback of driving a large, heavy, V8-powered SUV/crossover is the impact at the fuel pump. The Durango R/T turned an average of 14.7MPG – an expected figure for a big, V8-powered crossover/SUV.
The Durango lineup starts at under $30,000 for a rear-wheel drive SXT model. Though the base price for the R/T reached $39,000, our AWD tester had a sticker price of $45,630 for a well-equipped example. Durango prices top out at around $53,000 for a HEMI-powered AWD fully loaded Citadel model.
The Durango R/T is made for a certain kind of driver. He or she is a person who loves the sound and fury of a HEMI V8, the heritage of Mopar’s baddest machinery and the ability to cart family and friends across miles of asphalt knowing they own every inch of the hard stuff.
You are absolutely right in concluding that the Durango R/T is more of a road-going, seven-passenger, three-row muscle wagon. I will even throw in a couple of more words to describe the Durango R/T: “Bold” and “Brawny.” Come to think of it, those two words describe a muscle car to a “T.”