2017 Dodge Durango R/TPosted on February 2nd, 2017
Seating for seven and a HEMI to go
By Nina Russin
Who says family cars are boring? The 2017 Dodge Durango seven-passenger SUV is anything but, especially when equipped with the optional 5.7-liter hemi engine. The engine comes standard on the sporty R/T, priced from $42,095 excluding destination. Other standard features include 20-inch rims, heavy-duty brakes, trailer sway dampening and a 3.09 rear axle.
An eight-speed automatic transmission extends fuel economy with large overdrive gears for the highway. Average fuel economy according to the EPA is 17 miles-per-gallon. The rear-wheel drive truck tested tows up to 7400 pounds.
On the inside, the Durango gets heated and ventilated front seats, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, Uconnect infotainment, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, satellite radio, remote start and real-time traffic updates.
Options on the test car include a technology group that adds blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, front collision warning and adaptive cruise control that works to a full stop. Other options include a rear DVD entertainment system, second-row fold-and-tumble captain’s chairs, a power sunroof and third-row mini floor console. Final MSRP is $49,670.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week I drove the Durango around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley, through sections of the Gila River Indian Community skirting the San Tan Mountains and along the Bush Highway on the western edge of the Superstitions. The test drive included rush-hour traffic at the height of Arizona’s tourist season, rural two-lane roads, high-speed interstates and some elevation gain.
What I love about the Durango is its driver focus. Despite being a full-size SUV with three rows of seating, the Durango knows how to get up and go and thanks to its dual exhausts, make a little noise in the process. The guys at Dodge have figured out that having a family doesn’t mean jumping the shark.
The hemi engine develops 390 pound-feet of peak torque at mid throttle, for exceptionally good acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into highway traffic. The eight-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears with no hunting under normal driving conditions.
A standard rearview camera eliminates blind spots around the car’s rear pillars and under the back glass: an important feature for parents whose kids might run behind the vehicle in the driveway.
Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. It’s a bit overly sensitive when the driver stops at a traffic light with multiple turn lanes, but other than that, works well. The lane departure assist system is one of the better units I’ve experienced, gently guiding the vehicle back toward center without any shaking, chiming or jostling.
The electric power steering system provides ample assist at low speeds for maneuverability with a pleasantly heavy feel at speed. On-center response is a bit soft, but the driver by no means feels disconnected from the wheels.
A four-wheel independent suspension with stabilizer bars on both axles does a nice job of soaking up bumps in the road without feeling mushy. When I pushed the car in a cloverleaf exit ramp, the chassis stayed flat and in control. Ventilated disc brakes stop the Durango in firm, linear fashion.
Daytime running lamps make the vehicle more visible to other drivers on canyon roads with limited sight lines and in low light situations. At night, high intensity discharge headlamps project long beams of light that are close to daylight, illuminating the path better than traditional halogen.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior, so occupants in all three rows can enjoy the car’s Beats premium audio system.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the Durango’s red leather perforated front seats. Since I’m narrower than most of the population I tend to slide back and forth between the side bolsters, but the seats offered adequate lower back support, thanks to an adjustable lumbar.
A rotary dial on the center console controls the transmission, saving space as compared to a traditional shift lever. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view and safe distance from the front airbag. Formula-style shift paddles allow the driver to manually select gears for more aggressive performance.
Automatic windshield wipers are a nice add-in on days when the rain falls intermittently, as it did several times during the test drive.
Folding third-row seats flat makes the Durango bicycle friendly. A power liftgate makes it easier to load large items in back. Those who want to add an exterior bike rack should consider a hitch mount, since the R/T model doesn’t come with roof rails.
The Dodge Durango comes with seven airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control and tire pressure monitoring.
Dodge builds the Durango at its Detroit, Michigan assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, powerful sport-utility vehicle with seating for up to seven passengers and plenty of power for climbing in the mountains or towing a large trailer.
Dislike: Roof rails with cross bars are not available on the R/T.
Model: Durango R/T RWD
Base price: $42,095
As tested: $49,670
Horsepower: 360 HP @ 5150 rpm
Torque: 390 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 14/22 mpg city/highway2017, Luxury 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Dodge, Durango R/T, performance, pricing, standard safety