2017 Dodge Durango GT Blacktop AWD Review

The Durango goes dark and lights up our week

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Positives: Excellent passenger capacity and cabin space, long list of available technology, respectable handling for a three-row SUV, and sinister good looks from the Blacktop package
Negatives: Too much plastic in the cabin, very little storage space under the armrest.
Bottom Line: The Durango is an excellent, tough-looking SUV that can tow up to 6,200 lbs with the V6 engine and cart your whole family around without issue. It's large and capable like a body-on-frame SUV but has the smooth, more car-like ride of a crossover.
 View Our 2017 Dodge Durango Overview
Dodge has some high-power cars that garner plenty of attention, but the brand still has to sell a lot of vehicles to regular families, and that's where the Durango comes in. The model was once slated for death, but now takes on the long list of three-row crossovers and battles the large body-on-frame SUV crowd. It's more masculine-looking than many of the crossovers out there today and can back that look up when properly equipped.

For 2017, Dodge removed the Limited trim and added the GT trim level which has a sportier exterior and access to the Blacktop package, which brings it to the V6 Durango. Recently, we had the chance to drive the Durango GT Blacktop AWD. Read on for our full review.

Driving Experience



The Durango comes in a variety of trim levels and with either a V6 or a burly HEMI V8. Our tester had the 3.6-liter V6 engine. While it’s the lesser of the two engines, it’s still powerful (293 hp) and allows you to tow up to 6200 lbs. The engine feels strong and the Durango is a pleasure to helm. With the V6, it’s not crazy fast, but it does feel good to step on the gas.

Ride Quality: The vehicle is smooth over bumps even with its large 20-inch wheels. Dodge did a good job of tuning the suspension to soak up the bumps and gaps in the road.

Acceleration: The V6 engine won’t make your hair stand on end, but it’s excellent for everyday use. There’s plenty of power off the line and enough pull at highway speeds to pass without issue. Reported 0-60 times are about seven and a half seconds.

Braking: The brakes on the Durango are powerful and progressive with decent pedal feel. We had no issues slowing down or stopping the vehicle.

Steering: The electric power steering is well-calibrated. It’s nicely weighted and responsive, making the Durango enjoyable around curves.

Handling: The Durango handles well on tight curves for a three-row SUV. There is some body roll and understeer, though. It's not as good as something like the Mazda CX-9, but it does provide a reasonable amount of confidence.




There was a lot of technology on the vehicle we tested. The GT model comes with a fair amount of tech, and our tester came with a few available packages and options. Our test vehicle had Dodge’s Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system with navigation, HD radio, Sirius XM, Bluetooth, and a rear seat entertainment system with Blu-Ray and HDMI ports.

Infotainment System: The 8.4-inch screen is responsive and easy to use. The graphics are clear and crisp, and we experienced no issues with any of the features.

Controls: The Uconnect system is basically all touchscreen with the exception of the volume and tune knobs. We usually like there being a couple more buttons, but the Uconnect system is so well laid out that it didn't bother us too much.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone was easy, and we experienced no issues with connectivity. The system remained paired upon re-enty to the vehicle.

Voice Call Quality: Calls were clear on both ends with no transmission or volume problems.




The Durango is one of the more interesting to look at SUVs out there. In an age when just about everything looks the same, the Durango stays true to the styling that made it a hit back in the late 1990s. Its styling has evolved and modernized but it’s still easily recognizable.

Front: The front is dominated by Dodge’s crosshair grille and HID headlights with LED running lights. The fenders bulge a little and it stands tall, giving the model a serious presence on the road.

Rear: The rear utilizes wraparound taillights that connect with a light bar and give the vehicle a distinctive look. It’s something other Dodge models do as well. It’s easily identifiable and attractive.

Profile: The Durango has a kind of classic SUV look to it. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was a body-on-frame vehicle, but the model is actually unibody. It has a more intimidating look from the side than most of the competition out there.

Cabin: The Durango’s cabin is attractive, but there’s a lot of black and cheap-looking plastic chrome on the dash. Dodge could do a lot to spruce up the cabin by eliminating these cheaper-looking materials and adding some kind of wood trim or aluminum.




The designers of this vehicle definitely had comfort near the top of their list when they crafted the Durango’s interior. It offers a simple ergonomically designed layout with comfy seating and plenty of space. Surprisingly, the Durango has more third-row legroom than a Chevrolet Tahoe.

Front Seats: The front, leather-trimmed seats offer plenty of padding and bolstering. There’s also a lot of adjustment, including lumbar. The seats are comfortable for short trips or long.

Rear Seats: Our tester came with the rear captain’s tumbler chairs and those seats are very comfortable as well, offering similar levels of support and as the front seats, just less adjustment. The third row of seats was actually comfortable. Many automakers cram the third-row seats in the back of their vehicles, but the Durango’s third-row seats actually felt like they belonged there. Taller passengers (anyone over about 6 ft) will be cramped, but otherwise, the seats offer enough room.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Durango GT is a quiet vehicle. Whether you’re cruising on the highway or making your way through town, there isn’t much noise that makes it to the cabin. When you really get on the gas, you can hear the smooth 3.6-liter V6 doing its thing, but even that isn’t loud.

Visibility: All of the Durango's pillars are on the thicker side. Front and side visibility are good, but the rear window felt a little too small. Checking your blind spots also proved more difficult than we expected due to the relatively thick B and C pillars. The blind spot sensors and camera come in handy often.

Climate: The three-zone automatic climate control system does an excellent job of cooling off the cabin. The front and second row of seats had heating functions and that worked fast and was powerful.




The Durango recieved adequate ratings from the IIHS and the NHTSA. The vehicle comes with enough safety equipment to earn decent marks, but Dodge could stand to improve the SUV in this area.

IIHS Rating: The Durango scores “good” in all crash tests except the small overlap front test. This paired with its “basic” rating in crash avoidance and mitigation, its “marginal” rating for headlights, and its “acceptable” rating for the child seat anchor ease of use keeps it from achieving Top Safety Pick status.

NHTSA Rating: The government awarded the Durango four stars overall. It got four stars for frontal crash, five stars for side crash, and three stars for rollover.

Standard Tech: Despite the Durango’s average safety ratings, we felt like it had a fair amount of standard safety technology. This included a number of airbags, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear backup camera, rear park assist, trailer sway damping, and a security system.

Optional Tech: The Durango we drove also had a fair amount of optional technology, including auto-dimming side mirrors, automatic high-beam headlight control, automatic headlight leveling, blind spot and cross path detection, low beam HID headlights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.




The Durango does a good job when it comes to cargo space. We were a little disappointed with the interior storage space, though, and would have liked some additional storage compartments in the cabin.

Storage Space: We were put off by the placement of the Blu-Ray player in the front center console. With the Blu-Ray player in that location, there isn’t much room for anything else in that compartment. There are a few bins by the shifter knob but they're not very large.

Cargo Room: The cargo area behind the third-row of seating was 17.2 cubic feet. With the third-row seats folded, there is 47.7 cubic feet, and with the second and third-row seats folded there is 84.5 cubic feet. That’s more than much of the competition, like the Mazda CX-9, but less than a few vehicles, like the Chevrolet Traverse. We found the small storage space beneath the cargo area floor to be handy as well.

Fuel Economy



The Durango is on par with much of the competition when it comes to fuel economy, but some three-row crossovers beat it, including the Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander. Still, it did pretty well over the course of the week, especially for an SUV with a reasonably powerful V6. We saw an average of over 21 mpg, and that was without us trying to get the best gas mileage. We’d consider the EPA estimate of 21 combined to be right on the money.

Observed: 21.8 mpg

Distance Driven: 510 miles

Driving Factors: We drove a long trip on the highway and then in the city for the rest of the week. If you were to do more city driving, you’d likely see the mpg average decrease dramatically.




The Beats premium audio system is excellent. It has six speakers and a subwoofer that offers clear sound at basically any volume and there’s plenty of treble and bass for all music styles and genres.

Final Thoughts

The Dodge Durango GT Blacktop is an excellent all-around SUV for a family that needs a lot of seating, space, and plenty of technology. It drives better than large body on frame SUVs and has a smooth, compliant ride like a crossover. It also comes with plenty of attitude, and makes most family three-row crossovers look boring. If you’re sick of looking at crossovers with style blander than plain toast, you might want to consider it as an option. If the GT blacktop isn’t your flavor, then maybe one of the other Durango trim levels will suit your wants and needs.

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