2014 Dodge Durango

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Date Posted: September 22, 2013
By Zack Spencer

Based on the Mercedes GL platform, this updated Durango is a very stable three row SUV

Malibu California

Longtime friends and neighbors of ours are on the hunt for a full-size, three-row SUV to use for their family. As is often the case, I get called upon to help wade through the complex task of picking out a new vehicle. What are the high and low points of each vehicle and is a product a good fit for their lifestyle? You see, they live near a major transit route (Canada Line) and have only one vehicle for the family. Their two kids need to get to activities, plus they ski several times throughout the winter and they want three rows for the times when Grandparents come to town.

Our friends are not alone; there are many families with similar objectives trying to find the right mix when choosing a three-row SUV.

High on my list of vehicles to try along side the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9 is the Dodge Durango. I told them it has features and a ride and handling that the other products just don't offer. The feedback from the father and son was positive, the love the look but mom cannot get past the whole American muscle feel that Dodge portrays.

Well, new for 2014 is a heavily updated Durango and the launch was held in the Malibu area just outside Los Angeles. For those that have not driven north of L.A. through the twisty mountain roads, it is a driver's paradise. Switchbacks abound, along with elevation changes; it is a perfect place to highlight a sports car, but a full size SUV? As it turns out, yes.

Underneath the Durango is a Mercedes derived platform, shared with the GL-Class three-row SUV. This was developed before Daimler-Chrysler (Mercedes-Chrysler) divorced several years ago. The 5-passenger Jeep Grand Cherokee also uses a shorter version of this platform, which is shared with the Mercedes M-Class. The way each company went away and developed their individual vehicles is very different but the underlying goodness is still there.

2014 marks a mid-cycle refresh for this product, including exterior updates and interior refinement. The front end has been given a slightly narrower grille that is available in different textures and colours depending on the trim. The new LED daytime running lights bring the Durango up to date and the lower air dam is either painted or left black, also depending on the trim level chosen. Overall the new grille dimensions and headlights help to make the front look wider and less chunky.

Around the back, there is the inclusion of Dodge's LED ''racetrack'' tail lamp design first found in the Dodge Charger and Dart sedans. There are 192 individual LED bulbs used in the light bar but the way they reflect inside the housing produces a uniform glowing effect that is rather dramatic at night.

Wheel sizes vary depending on the trim chosen from 18 to 20-inches and several finishes are used including silver, polished aluminum and black.

The inside of the Durango now has many of the updates found in the smaller Jeep Grand Cherokee. The base $39,995 SXT trim comes nicely equipped with cloth seats, Bluetooth and the Uconnect system driven through a standard 5-inch centre screen. All models get a new 7-inch fully customizable screen between the speedometer and tachometer. This has hundreds of individual screens and settings, getting the driver just the information they require. In order too operate the Uconnect and instrument cluster screen, a classy looking and feeling steering wheel has been fitted with good results. The model Dodge hopes will sell the most is the $43,995 Limited trim with heated front and rear seats that are covered in leather, a heated steering wheel, eight-way power driver's seat, plus a rear backup system and camera. The R/T model, seen here, is the sportiest looking of the bunch because of its 20-inch hyper-black wheels, power lift gate, painted front grille and lower spoiler, plus a performance tuned suspension, for $48,995. The top $51,995 Citadel trim ups the centre radio/navigation screen to the 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen along with better leather seats, leather door panels and a power lift gate.

In order to help minimize the amount of fuel it takes to move three rows of passengers around, the Durango has been fitted with the same 8-speed automatic used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. This is standard equipment and is offered with both the 290hp V6 and 360hp Hemi V8. The Rallye V6 model gets a 5hp jump to 295hp.

On the twisty mountain roads outside of L.A., the 20-inch wheels, sports suspension and Mercedes Platform all come together to develop what might be the best handling full-sized SUV on the market. Mercedes uses a full adjustable air suspension on their GL-Class but the Durango with regular passive shocks and springs does a very admirable job in the twisties.

The 8-speed automatic helps to keep the engine in just the right gear for either cruising at low revs to save fuel and can jump down three or four gears in a fraction of a second for quick acceleration. I did notice at low RPM (1200), there was a bit of vibration from the driveline but it might have been my particular vehicle. Pay attention to this if you are test-driving this 2014 model.

Another thing that sets this truck apart from the competition is the 6200lb towing capacity of the V6 model and the 7200lb towing of the Hemi V8. The Explorer and Pathfinder can tow just 5000lbs.

Overall the 2014 Durango builds on what I think is a very good option for families looking at a three-row SUV. The handling is very good, the cabin has been nicely updated and the improved fuel economy (12.4L city and 8.3L highway) helps ease the price of this stylish truck. I'd like to see the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen used on more trim levels than just the top Citadel model. The vibration in the driveline might be an anomaly but it is worth checking out. Another thing to note is the $39,995 starting price, a full $10,000 more than the Explorer and Pathfinder. Dodge says that most people end up buying a much more expensive truck, around the price of their $43,995 Limited model, which is why they equipped it so nicely.

My friends have still not chosen a vehicle yet but I will encourage them to try this new 2014 Durango. You never know, mom might end up liking the beefy styling too.

 

The Lowdown

Power: 290hp 3.6L V6 or 360hp 5.7L V8

Backup: 3-year/60,000km

Fill-up: 12.4L/8.3L/100km (city/highway V6)

Sticker price: $39,995-$51,995

 

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