2014 Dodge DurangoPosted on January 3rd, 2014
Six-passenger crossover combines value and versatility
By Nina Russin
Of all new car buyers, the group that seems most focused on value is parents with growing families. It’s not cheap raising kids these days, as the recent holiday season has reminded us. When I was a kid, getting a baseball mitt and an Erector set was considered an epic Christmas. These days, parents who don’t deposit a new cell phone and iPad under the tree are bah humbug.
Unfortunately, full-sized crossover vehicles don’t come cheap, with most models costing upwards of $40,000. One notable exception is the Dodge Durango. This week’s test car is the rear-wheel drive Rallye model, starting at $32,990.
Power comes from a 295-horsepower V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. For those who don’t need the brute force of the available Hemi V-8, it’s a great alternative. Average fuel economy for my 250-mile test drive was 23 miles-per-gallon.
The test car comes with an appearance package that adds 20-inch alloy wheels and a monochromatic exterior with dual chrome exhaust tips, bringing the final MSRP to $34,480.
Comfortable seating for six passengers
It was kismet that I had the Durango to drive on the week my cousins were visiting from Philadelphia. I love spending time with eleven year-old Lucas, eight year-old Isaac and their parents, Jon and Blan. Since this was their first visit to Phoenix, Arizona, we had a lot of sightseeing to pack into a few sunny days.
Although we never ventured out of town, we did our share of motoring along roads in the east valley through holiday season traffic, en route to the zoo, the university area, parks and ice cream stops. The kids found the third-row seats easy to get in and out of, thanks to the easy-access center console between the two second-row captain’s chairs.
Standard equipment on the Rallye model includes apps, satellite radio and navigation, all of which we used. The 8.4-inch center stack touch screen is easy to see in a variety of lighting conditions and intuitive to program.
Although some buyers might prefer leather upholstery, I like the idea of easy-to-clean cloth seats for families with growing kids. I found the driver’s seat quite comfortable for trips lasting upwards of an hour.
Styled to stand out
The 2014 Durango has been redesigned, with a more aggressive exterior than the 2011 model. Designers used the same track-style rear tail lamp assembly as the current Dart and Charger. Not only does it look cool, but makes the back end of the vehicle easier to see at night.
The crosshair grille is slightly slimmer than on the outgoing model. The blacked-out grille is tilted forward for a more sinister appearance. All models now feature projector fog lamps and headlamps, and a raised front bumper.
Large fender arches and a narrow greenhouse accentuate the car’s profile.
Power for the open road
Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 engine that also powers the current Jeep Grand Cherokee is an impressive piece of machinery, with plenty of power for the open road and towing capability of 6200 pounds.
The eight-speed automatic transmission extends gas mileage with large overdrive gears. The driver uses a rotary knob to select gears, saving space over a traditional shift lever.
When Dodge engineers say the Durango will go 600 miles between fill-ups, they mean it. After 250 miles, the gas tank on the test car was still more than half full. Although we spent more time on the highway than surface streets, we encountered our share of stop-and-go traffic, including one lulu of an accident that took about 30 minutes to circumvent.
Visibility around the perimeter is decent for a high-profile vehicle of this size. I had no problems parallel parking on the streets of Tempe and backing into a perpendicular parking spot at the Phoenix Zoo.
The Durango’s unibody construction gives it a more car-like ride. Engineers used high strength steel in key areas to make the chassis stiff enough to do a truck’s work, including towing.
The four-wheel independent suspension incorporates a stabilizer bar on the front axle to keep the chassis flat in the corners and automatic load leveling in back to prevent the vehicle from becoming unbalanced when towing a trailer.
An electric power steering system saves some space and weight under the hood to boost gas mileage. Steering response is pleasantly heavy at speed. The Durango’s 37.1-foot turning circle is exceptionally good for a vehicle with a 119.8-inch wheelbase. I was able to perform a U-turn on a wider two-lane surface street.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Durango in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did an excellent job of isolating passengers from road, wind and engine noise. We had no problems holding conversations on the highway with passengers in all three rows.
The Dodge Durango comes with front, side, side curtain and passenger knee airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control with roll mitigation. The Uconnect system on the test car automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision. Other standard safety features include hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, projector headlamps and fog lamps.
Dodge builds the Durango at its Jefferson Avenue assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan.
Like: A value-packed crossover vehicle with seating for six passengers, excellent fuel economy and 6200-pound towing capacity.
Model: Durango Rallye RWD
Base price: $32,990
As tested: $34,480
Horsepower: 295 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway2014, Best Value 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Dodge, performance, pricing, standard safety
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