2014 Dodge Durango Limited RWDPosted on September 22nd, 2013
Refreshed SUV features new transmission, styling and connectivity
By Nina Russin
The Durango is Dodge’s seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle that shares underpinnings with the Mercedes-Benz GL and Jeep Grand Cherokee. A refresh of the 2011 model for 2014 includes new exterior styling, an eight-speed automatic transmission and the newest version of Uconnect infotainment.
The most obvious change on the exterior is lighting. Up front, new projector headlamps frame a revised grille and front fascia. In the back, LED tail lamps create a racetrack-style bar similar to those on the Charger and Dart.
New 18 and 20-inch wheels give the 2014 models a more aggressive stance. A capless fuel filler neck eliminates a piece of hardware that can get lost or damaged.
Under the hood, the newest Durango gets the eight-speed automatic transmission that debuted on the current generation of Ram light-duty pickup trucks. Together with the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, the new gearbox boosts highway fuel economy to 25 mpg.
On the inside, buyers can opt for Uconnect voice-activated infotainment that turns the car into a rolling hotspot. Drivers can customize a standard seven-inch thin film transistor display to include driving range, fuel economy, tire pressures, oil and transmission fluid temperature, etc.
The Durango’s biggest selling point for its core audience of growing families is the third row of seating: the feature that distinguished the first model when it debuted in 1998. Buyers can replace the standard second-row bench seat with captain’s chairs that create an extra pathway to the back. A second-row center console is available for all trim levels.
Base MSRP for the 2014 model is $29,795. There are five trim levels: SXT, Rallye, Limited (new for 2014), R/T and Citadel.
Test drive in Southern California
At a recent media event near Malibu, California, I had the opportunity to drive the 2014 rear-wheel drive Limited model on a route that included some winding canyon roads as well as the higher-speed Pacific Coast Highway.
The test car came with the Pentastar V-6 engine rated at 290 horsepower, eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and 18-inch alloy wheels. Base price was $35,995. An option package including bi-xenon headlamps, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, power liftgate and blind spot monitoring brought the final MSRP to $38,285.
The V-6 engine proved its worth on the canyon roads, which are full of hairpin turns and steep, pitchy hills. Granted it doesn’t have the brute force of the available 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, but in my opinion, it’s the better choice for anyone not planning on using the truck to tow, simply because of its gas mileage.
The eight-speed transmission is a beautiful piece of engineering, offering all the benefits of a CVT unit with considerably better performance. A rotary knob replaces the traditional shift lever, opening up extra space on the center console. Drivers wanting to push the performance envelope can do so by using the formula-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Manual gear selection enables the driver to use the engine to slow the car down on steep grades.
The test car comes with electric power steering, whereas V-8 models have a traditional hydraulic unit. Engineers like EPS because it reduces internal pumping losses and takes up less space under the hood. I’m not a huge fan of the systems’ on-center response that tends to be soft, but the one in the Durango is tuned well. I felt well in control of the truck through the hairpin turns on the test drive, and would not be uncomfortable having to perform an emergency evasive maneuver.
The suspension consists of a short and long arm setup with coil springs up front and multi links in the back. A stabilizer bar on the front axle keeps the chassis flat in the corners. I was impressed with the suspension’s performance on the hairpin turns: a situation in which it would be easy for the rear wheels to break loose.
Visibility around the perimeter is decent for a high-profile truck. The front cowl is high, but I was able to adjust the driver’s seat upward enough to get a clear forward view.
The standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the vehicle in the center stack screen when the driver shifts into reverse. The rearview camera makes it easier to see cross-traffic when backing out of a perpendicular parking spot, and also enables the driver to see the hitch when hooking up a trailer.
Optional blind spot monitoring on the test car illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. If I lived in a town such as Los Angeles where traffic is always a challenge, I wouldn’t be without it.
Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes stop the Durango in firm, linear fashion.
The current family of Dodge vehicles is consistent in its very aggressive, masculine styling. I think it’s a good move on the part of product planners, making the vehicles stand out in a crowd and giving the brand a strong identity. The new racetrack tail lamps assembly on the Durango makes the back end much more stylish than the outgoing model.
The wheels give the car’s profile more panache. The whole package is especially compelling with the black metal flake paint on the R/T model.
I think Chrysler designers do some of the best interiors because of their experience in packaging minivans. The Durango interior is spacious and versatile, with plenty of storage areas, power points, cup and bottle holders. A new Blue-ray DVD system utilizes screens mounted in the front seatbacks rather than a drop-down system, making room for the available sunroof.
I found the driver’s seat quite comfortable for the two-hour test drive, with ample lumbar support. Steering wheel diameter is a little large for a woman but not uncomfortable.
The new Uconnect system enables the drive to access a variety of smart phone apps including Pandora, iHeart radio, Slacker and Aha radio. A 911 alert automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision. Drivers can also use the system for voice texting, remote door lock and unlock and stolen vehicle assistance.
The 2014 Durango comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring, traction control, stability control, trailer sway control and front active headrests.
Like: The refreshed Dodge Durango is a more stylish vehicle than the outgoing model with some significant engineering changes as well, most notably the eight-speed automatic transmission.
Dislike: Ergonomics seem to favor larger male drivers, most noticeable in the high cowl and large steering wheel.
Base price: $35,995
As tested: $38,285
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Off-road: Yes (4X4 models only)
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway
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