2014 Dodge Durango R/T
The best kind of overkill.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: May 19th, 2014
It's been given a huge dose of steroids over its outgoing version. It's been given a Hemi. And, best of all, it's been given a rave review from Ron Burgundy. It's the Dodge Durango, and it's a damn solid competitor in its segment.
The midsize, three-row SUV segment is a busy one - it's already home to the Ford Explorer, Mazda CX-9, and Toyota Highlander, among others. The Durango runs into that bunch swinging with its sharp exterior and equally good interior. It also carries that coveted Hemi badge in R/T trim, giving it a serious power advantage over the competition.
But what good is power in a segment that's geared towards the family? Well, it's not geared towards the whole family, just Dad. Its aesthetics and its underpinnings appeal to the man that has chosen to settle down with family, without yet sacrificing his desire for a fun car. You smash the gas pedal in the Durango R/T, and you smile. If an SUV can do that, it's already got one family member lined up and ready to sign on the dotted line.
The interior is a comfortable place to spend some time. The front row's optional, powered Nappa leather seats are a delight, although the front-row center console is embarrassingly incapable of holding anything beyond a No. 2 pencil.
The second row's captain's chairs are the place to be, though; if it weren't for the Hemi up front, I'd assume the Durango was more for the driven than the driver. When equipped with the rear-entertainment package, each second-row seat gets its own screen with Blu-Ray playback and HDMI video input. Combine that with a standard plug and a Wi-Fi hotspot (part of the Uconnect infotainment system), and your kids can stream high-def shows on Netflix through a PlayStation. We're in the future, folks.
Even the third row isn't bad. My six-foot frame, mostly composed of legs, managed to fit just fine. However, most of my time was spent with the third row dropped down to make for some serious cargo space. That said, if you keep the third row up, you can drop the rear headrests out of sight with one push on the Uconnect touchscreen. Speaking of Uconnect, if you've been in another recent Chrysler-family vehicle, you'll recognize more than half the interior's pieces.
Every inch of the Durango's sheetmetal is meant to make it look wide and mean. There are noticeable flares around both the front and rear axles. The 192-LED "race track" taillight design wraps around the rear of the car. Even the front grill and headlights are thin, but very wide. It looks like something a fraternity brother might design. But hey, that's what the target demographic is looking for.
On the Road
While I didn't get to test out the Durango's 7,400-pound towing rating, I did engage in a longer trip up to rural Wisconsin for the weekend. The Durango soaked up highway miles easily - the interior definitely helps here - but observed highway mileage rarely went above 20 mpg. The ride is a little on the firmer side of things, especially when compared to the air suspension on the Grand Cherokee, but it was easy to keep straight for the most part.
That said, it didn't like turning very much. Nor did it like braking - neither does Chrysler, evidently, based on how they built the pedal assembly in this car. There's no initial bite, just more pedal to push. Braking is a gradual process, requiring more pressure than you'd think for a given rate of deceleration. Thankfully, there's an optional automatic brake assist to step in if you've completely botched the landing.
The best part of the whole driving experience, though, is that Hemi. It starts up with an aggressive growl that comes back every time you skip down a few gears. It sounds like it wants to tear free from the car and shoot off into space.
Let's be honest: do you really need something this big all the time, or even some of the time? No. But that's how America buys - we buy things to grow into them, not outgrow them. Whether or not that growing actually happens is one thing, but either way, Dodge is building these because people are buying them.
No, it's not as capable as a proper 4x4, like the Jeep Grand Cherokee or the Toyota 4Runner. But it seats seven comfortably, and neither of those two do. Is it fuel efficient? Of course it isn't; you don't buy a Hemi only to concern yourself with fuel budgets. Can it turn or brake quickly? No; hopefully you won't need to.
That said, if you want a unibody-quality ride for seven people that's neither uncomfortable nor an eyesore, the Durango R/T is the way to go. It looks fast, it sounds fast, it's complete overkill. But it's great at what it does, and it's a million times cooler than a Toyota Highlander.
Specs & Price
Engine: 5.7-liter naturally-aspirated V-8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
Power Output: 360 hp / 390 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 14 city / 22 highway
Base Price: $41,395
As Tested: $49,965 (incl. $995 destination)
Rear DVD Entertainment Center Package: Blu-ray compatible dual-screen video, eight-way power front seats, rear seat video system
Technology Group: Adaptive cruise control, automatic brake assist, blind spot and cross path detection, forward collision warning
Premium Nappa Leather Group: Automatic high-beam control, leather-wrapped door panels, Nappa leather-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power tilt and telescope steering column, eight-way power front seats, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, front-seat ventilation
Trailer Tow Group IV: Seven-and-four-pin wiring harness, Class IV receiver hitch
Individual Options: Engine block heater, second-row console armrest, power sunroof, single-disc remote CD player, Uconnect navigation
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Dodge Durango, click here: 2014 Dodge Durango.