By on January 16, 2014

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002

Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the lines between a truck/SUV with a car/minivan. The reality of course is that the modern three-row crossover is just a front-driving minivan that doesn’t handle as well or haul as much stuff. In this sea of transverse minivans in SUV clothing lies just one mass-market vehicle that I can honestly call a three-row crossover: the Dodge Durango. Instead of a car that’s been turned into an AWD minivan with a longer hood, the Dodge uses drivetrains out of the RAM 1500 combined with a car-like unibody. While rumors swirled that the Durango would be canceled in favor of a 7-seat Jeep, Dodge was working a substantial makeover for 2014.

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So what is the Durango? Is it an SUV? Is it a crossover? In my mind, both. If a Grand Cherokee can be a unibody SUV and not a crossover, the Durango must be an SUV. But if a crossover is a hybrid between a car and a truck, then the Durango is one as well. While the first and second generation Durangos were body-on-frame SUVs based on the Dakota pickup, this Durango is a three-row Grand Cherokee, which is a two-row Jeep version of the three-row Mercedes ML which is quasi related to the Mercedes E-Class, which is quasi related to the Chrysler 300. Lost yet?

Exterior

2014 brings few changes to the outside of the Durango. The design first released in 2011 still looks fresh to my eye but that could be because I don’t see many on the road. Up front we get a tweaked corporate grille and new lamps while out back we get “race track” inspired light pipes circling the rump. Aside from a lowered right height on certain models and new wheels, little has changed for the Durango’s slab-sided profile, which I think is one of the Dodge’s best features. No, I’m not talking about the plain-Jane acres of sheet metal, I’m talking about RWD proportions. Bucking the trend, this three-row sports a long (and tall) hood, blunt nose, short front overhang and high belt-line.

To create the Durango from the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler stretched the Jeep’s wheelbase by 5-inches to 119.8 inches and added three inches to the body. The result is four-inches longer than an Explorer but two inches shorter than the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave triplets. Thanks to the Durango’s short front overhand, the Dodge has the longest wheelbase by a long way, beating even the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Speaking of the body-on-frame competition, the Durango may have been a size too small in the past, but this generation is just 8/10ths of an inch shorter than that Tahoe.

DG014_043DU

Interior

Body-on-frame SUVs have a practicality problem when it comes to space efficiency. Because the frame sits between the body and the road, they tend to be taller than unibody crossovers despite having less interior volume. Like the rest of the crossover crowd, this allows the Durango to have a spacious interior with a comparatively low entry height. 2014 brings a raft of much-needed interior updates to the cabin including a new soft touch dashboard, Chrysler’s latest corporate steering wheel with shift paddles, revised climate controls, Chrysler’s latest uConnect 2 infotainment system and a standard 7-inch LCD instrument cluster. Like the other Chrysler products with this LCD, the screen is flanked by a traditional tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Oddly enough, the standard infotainment screen is a smallish (in comparison) 5-inches.

Front seat comfort proves excellent in the Durango which was something of a relief, as the last few Chrysler products I have driven had form and oddly shaped seat bottom cushions that make me feel as if I was “sitting on and not in the seat.” As with all three-row vehicles, the accommodations get less comfortable as you move toward the back. By default all Durango trims are 7-passenger vehicles with a three-across second row. For $895 Dodge will delete the middle seat and insert a pair of more comfortable captain’s chairs and a center console with cup holders and a storage compartment. The third row is a strictly two-person affair and, like most crossovers, is best left to children and your mother in law. Those who do find themselves in “the way back” will be comforted by above average headroom and soft touch plastic arm rests. With large exterior proportions you’d expect a big cargo hold like in the cavernous Traverse, alas the RWD layout that makes the Durango so unique renders the interior less practical. With more of the body used up for “hood,” we get just 17 cubes of space behind the third row. That’s three less than an Explorer, seven less than GM’s Lambda triplets and about the same as a Honda Pilot. On the bright side this is more than you will find in a Highlander or Sorento and shockingly enough, more than in the Tahoe as well.

DG014_030DU

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version of this system the Durango has ever had. Based on a QNX UNIX operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. For the second edition of uConnect, Chrysler smoothed out the few rough edges in the first generation of this system and added a boat-load of trendy tech features you may or may not care about. In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on (standard on Summit) and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your Cat Stevens CD by paying $190 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001Drivetrain

Dodge shoppers will find two of the Grand Cherokee’s four engines under the hood. First up we have a 290HP/260lb-ft 3.6L V6 (295HP in certain trims) standard in all trims except the R/T. R/T models get a standard 360HP/390lb-ft 5.7L HEMI V8 which can be added to the other trims for $2,795. 2014 brings a beefed up cooling system and a number of minor tweaks in the name of fuel economy. Sadly Chrysler has decided to keep the V6 EcoDiesel engine and 6.4L SRT V8 Grand Cherokee only options, so if you hoped to sip diesel or burn rubber in your three row crossover, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Both engines are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory. If you’re up to date on Euro inbreeding, you know this is the same transmission used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. To say this is a step up from the vilified Mercedes 5-speed or the Chrysler 6 speed (the 65RFE featured some of the strangest ratio spacing ever) is putting it mildly. Fuel economy jumps 9% in the V6, 10% in the V8. No small feat in a 4,835lb SUV (as tested). All Durangos start out as rear wheel drive vehicles but you can add a two-speed four-wheel-drive system for $2,400. Although Dodge bills this as AWD, it is the same transfer case that Jeep calls 4×4 in Selec-Trac II equipped Grand Cherokees. Thanks to the heavy-duty drivetrain towing rings in at 6,200lbs for the V6 and 7,400lbs for the V8. Like the Jeeps the Durango has moved to more car-like 5-lug wheels which should widen after-market selection.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior

Drive

The engineers took the refresh opportunity to tweak the Durango toward the sportier side of the segment with stiffer springs and beefier sway bars. While far from a night-and-day transformation, the difference is noticeable and appreciated out on the roads. While never harsh, it is obvious the Durango is tuned towards the firm side of this segment. Thanks to the long wheelbase the Durango feels well composed on the highway or on broken pavement.

With a nearly 50/50 weight balance, wide 265-width tires, and a lower center of gravity than a “traditional SUV”, the Durango is easily the handling and road feeling champion. That’s not to say the Durango is some sort of sports car in disguise, but when you compare a well balanced 360 horsepower rear wheel drive elephant to a slightly lighter but much less balanced front driving elephant on skinny rubber, it’s easy to see which is more exciting. Thanks to the Mercedes roots there’s even a whiff of feedback in the steering, more than you can say for the average crossover. Despite the long wheelbase and wide tires, the Durango still cuts a fairly respectable 37-foot turning circle.

Those statement may have you scratching your head if you recall what I said about Jeep on which the Durango is based, I must admit I scratched my head as well. Although the Dodge and the Jeep share suspension design elements and a limited number of components, the tuning is quite different. The Grand Cherokee Summit rides 3.1-inchs higher and was equipped with the off-road oriented air suspension.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005

When it comes to performance, the new 8-speed automatic makes a night and day difference shaving a whopping 1.4 seconds off the 0-60 time versus the last V8 Durango we tested. The reason is all in the gear ratios. While the 545RFE and 65RFE transmissions suffered from some truly odd ratios, the ZF unit’s ratios are more evenly spread and dig deeper in the low gears. The result is a 6.0 second sprint to highway speeds which finally nips on the tails of the Explorer Sport which we’re told will do the same in 5.9-6.0 (TTAC hasn’t tested one yet). This proves what extra gears can do for you because the Explorer is 200lbs lighter and has a far more advantageous torque curve thanks to the twin turbos.

You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers. V6 models are now rated for 6,200lbs while the V8 can haul up to 7,400lbs when properly equipped. That’s nearly 50% more than you can tow in any of the crossover competition and just 1,000 lbs shy of the average full-size body-on-frame hauler.

The transmission is also responsible for a whopping 20% increase in fuel economy. The last V8 Durango I tested eked out a combined 14.8 MPG over a week while the 2014 managed 18.0 MPG. While 18 MPG isn’t impressive in wider terms, it is 1/2 an MPG better than GM’s Lambda crossovers or the Ford Explorer on my commute cycle. The V6 yields improved fuel economy at the expense of thrust, but you should know that although the acceleration provided by the V6 is competitive with the V6 three-row competition, the 20 MPG average falls short of the new Highlander, Pathfinder and the rest of the FWD eco-minded competition.

After a week with the Durango I was no closer to answering the biggest question car buffs have: is this Dodge a crossover or an SUV? One thing is sure however, the Durango is likely the most fun you can have with 6 of your friends for under $50,000.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 6.0

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69dB @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 18 MPG over 811 miles

 

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60 Comments on “Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited V8 (with Video)...”


  • avatar
    NN

    looking forward to a test of the new Tahoe and how it compares to the crossovers. I’m not particularly impressed with 17/18mpg and don’t see much benefit, mpg wise, to choosing a “crossover” over a Tahoe.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    As long as the Durango is RWD with a longitudally-mounted engine, it’s an SUV in my book. The original 1984 Cherokee may have been unibody, but you won’t find anyone who considers it a crossover.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “When it comes to performance, the new 8-speed automatic makes a night and day difference shaving a whopping 1.4 seconds off the 0-60 time…You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers…The transmission is also responsible for a whopping 20% increase in fuel economy.”

    Did you not get the B&B memo? All those extra gears are a waste and simply a marketing exercise – everyone knows that.

  • avatar

    I’m trying to get my arms around the “legitimacy” of the SUV as an automotive genre. These horrible vehicles were inflicted upon the market by automakers desperate for an alternative means to sell trucks because the couldn’t make a profit on cars. Sheeple bought the origin and vile Explorer, when for most any decent wagon would have been a better choice. This is not to minimize those who really do need a 4×4 or to tow a trailer, but how many of these things dowe need blocking city traffic?

    I’d give the Dodge its due for being an honest and modern RWD tall wagon; who gives a damn if it’s called SUV?

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      I’m trying to figure out of edgett’s comment is serious (and merely ridiculous) or a clever parody of the self righteous SUV haters (bonus points for using “sheeple”).

      SUV’s are bought by the millions worldwide because they provide the benefits of a truck (towing ability, large cargo area, greater power, ride height, truck appearance) with the benefits of an enclosed cargo area/three row seating. They meet a need for many vehicle buyers, including me.

      Sure, few things look more silly than a 110 pound woman driving her two 40 pound kids to soccer practice in a 5000+ pound truck…except for a 45 year old man driving a 911 to pick up his mail at the post office in 35 mph traffic. Many (most?) of us buy vehicles we like, not vehicles we need. Otherwise we would all drive Nissan Cubes.

      If you don’t like SUV’s, don’t buy one. Otherwise, leave the sanctimony at home.

      • 0 avatar

        @toad – I would be sanctmonious if the non-towing subset of SUV drivers was truly a minority of 100 lb women taking a kid to soccer practice. I find it crazy the number of people I’ve spoken with who have no need for towing or a truck, yet think they’ve bought them for “safety”. “Crossovers” are an expanding sub group because they actually drive like cars, for those who want a tall station wagon.

        As to roominess, the BMW club magazine once started an X5 review with the question, “What has less room than a 3-series wagon, yet weighs another 1000 pounds?”

        My point, and perhaps that of many perceived SUV haters, is that trucks generally make crappy cars, and vice versa. Tow on, dude.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          If you’re going to declare SUVs as “crap” for “sheeple” because something else is lighter with more room then put that BMW magazine down because there’s a Honda Fit with your name on it.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke

      For me, an SUV is a compromise.

      I switched from a 1/2 ton pickup to an SUV (Grand Cherokee) a couple years ago and have been very happy with the decision. Having an open bed there all the time that I wasn’t using very felt stupid, it took up too much space in my garage, and I didn’t like how big and ponderous the truck felt on urban streets and in parking garages.

      However, I do need real (i.e. low range) 4×4 capability a few times a year on our family’s land. And I live in Minnesota, so we contend with snow and ice for several months every year. I also need to haul stuff. Believe it or not there are a lot of “sheeple” in the world who do things – landscaping, remodeling, deck building, etc – by themselves. I have an old, old house and they know me well at my local Menards, Lowes, and Home Depot. The SUV is nice because it can haul A LOT of stuff inside, including surprisingly large pieces of dimensional lumber. What can’t fit inside can be hauled in a utility trailer on the hitch as needed.

      Overall it’s a really nice compromise – able to crawl around the rugged North Woods, surefooted in bad weather, easy to drive and park in the city, and surprisingly commodious for stuff. I’m very attracted to this Durango now that they’ve upped the specs on the hardware.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Edgett, not everyone lives in the city. Trucks are well suited to rural areas where paved roads have potholes, gravel roads are common, and snow removal on secondary roads is a low priority. The Chevrolet Suburban/Tahoe type BOF non-offroad type SUV has been popular for generations because of ground clearance and general ruggedness.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        George, what you say is true, as far as it goes. Certainly, when we lived in rural Ontario, on gravel roads, 4WD and high ground clearance were welcome features.

        But most of these trucks are actually bought bu urban folks, typically suburbanites, who have no need of these features. They pay the extra to get the image. And are blind to the wretched handling and other driving characteristics they have to endure, compared to driving a car that would actually meet their driving needs much better.

        Atlanta, during all the years we lived there, was full of shiny pickups and SUVs. Almost all of them 2WD, by the way, so forget about even the pretense of off-road or extreme weather capabilities.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          ect, why do you care? I make no pretense of needing 4×4 in my SUV; RWD works fine for me. I don’t care if people drive ridiculous sports cars with capabilities they don’t use; why should you (or I) care how people use their pickup or SUV?

          People (sheeple?) are not “blind” to how their vehicle handles any more than a Miata driver is blind to what will happen if their little skateboard on tires gets hit by a dump truck. People make choices and accept tradeoffs; just because they make choices you don’t like makes them neither stupid or blind.

          Life would be a lot easier if more people just tended to their own business. We have plenty of real problems to worry about.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            ect and others:

            What gives you the right to decide who can and cannot buy an SUV?

            I don’t think anyone deliberately buys SUVs to antagonize the haters, but based on some of these comments, my next vehicle may be a Suburban 2500 LTZ 4×4 that never leaves paved cement.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            toad and mandalorian, I don’t hate SUVs, and I don’t care if people want to buy them. It’s a free country, have what you want.

            In my adult life, I’ve owned 3 SUVs (Cherokee, Explorer, Grand Cherokee) and 2 pickups – including an F-250 Supercab 4×4 with a 460 V8.

            At the other end of the spectrum, my first car was an Austin-Healey Sprite. Which means don’t say “Lucas Electrics” in my presence! But when it was properly tuned and the electrics were working, it was a total joy to drive.

            People buy what they want, but the laws of physics dictate that, other things being equal, the responsiveness, handling and other driving characteristics of a large, heavy vehicle with a high centre of gravity must inevitably be inferior to those of a lighter vehicle with a lower centre of gravity.

            People are not “sheeple” (a term I despise). They make rational decisions, using the information they have. Having spent most of my career in businesses that were marketing- or sales-driven, I am genuinely interested in why consumers make the choices they do.

            My own bias is towards cars that will be fun to drive – peppy, responsive, great handling. But that’s me, not necessarily the market as a whole.

            And despite my preferences, when we lived in rural Ontario, on gravel roads, I did the necessary. A country road in Ontario, during the 2 months after the snow melts and it’s raining regularly, is a unique driving experience. Especially during that period when the frost hasn’t completely come out of the ground.

            Ditto when it snows, which seems like 9 of the other 10 months.

            But I digress. I do find it interesting that so many people will sacrifice driving fun, practicality and money to cultivate the “Marlborough Man” image, or the sense of being in a cocoon. I don’t condemn them for it, but neither do I understand how it could make sense.

            I know nothing of you gentlemen (assuming you’re male), so I have no idea why you make the choices you do. But I’d be the first to agree that those choices are yours to make. As are mine.

            Cheers

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      “Sheeple bought the origin and vile Explorer, when for most any decent wagon would have been a better choice.”

      Uh, no. And this is from someone who loves his wagon; but his wife drives a 2007 Durango.

      Does your decent wagon have individual vents for all three rows? None of the wagons I owned ever did; the second row passengers in the Taurus got heater vents under the front seats and whatever air blew from the dashboard vents past the front seat passengers. The Durango has floor and ceiling vents for all three rows.

      Does your wagon have cupholders for all three rows? None of the wagons I have sat in had them except for the front seat; the Durango has two for each row.

      Does your wagon have a cigarette lighter outlet, or even better a 110V outlet for all three rows? The Durango has a 110V plug in the front center counsole, and cigarette ligher type outlets for all three rows.

      Is your wagon easy to slide into, or do you fall in and climb out? That is the biggest advantage of the Durango as far as my wife is concerned; she does have to climb up into it; but it is easier than falling and climbing out of the Taurus. (Step rails would make it easier.) She also commands a good view of the highway; a big deal to most 110 pound woman you are referring to.

      I love my wagon because it is great as a 1-2 person car, and can carry up to seven or cargo in a pinch. But there is a reason besides the fact it is the younger of the two that we take the Durango on trips.

      The aging Taurus does not even get better marks for handling. There is a 270 degree banked exit ramp that I love to dive into with the Taurus, and let it scrub off speed before accelerating onto the highway. To my surprise, when I borrowed the wife’s Durango one day; it took the same freeway ramp just as confidently as the Taurus did, with no excess body roll. My main peave with it is that side winds on the crowded freeway keep you busy; and it has a profusion of blind spots to watch out for; the Taurus has a Fiat 500 sized one on the left side behind the driver, and that is it. The Durango also averages about 5 MPG less than the Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      Eric

      edgett – Blame the people, not the car. Or pick a more suitable target. Maybe a SUV that does not tow well or haul well. (See BMW X5, X6, or gasp X6M).

      I am also a person who needs seating for 5, 6, 7….and to tow a camper. So, there is a need and I’m glad that there is a solution. When my kids are out of the house, and I sell the camper, you’ll see me in the nearest Leaf.

      • 0 avatar
        Funkyjunkiejoe

        I always get a kick from people making remarks of what people should and shouldn’t buy. From my experience and somewhat anecdotal perspective, I find that people bashing other people’s choices rarely are from anywhere but ignorance. How can edgett possibly know the circumstances why someone would buy an SUV? A bike riding hipster in Seattle who loves IPA’s, Starbuck, flannel, and bio-diesel cannot possibly know other’s circumstances. No more than I can possibly know edgett is all those above. My point is, you have the right to your opinion, but you should be respectful that others may think you’re a nimrod.

        Eric, I LOVE my X5 (gasp) M! It hauls plenty, tows very well, hauls ass, and comfortably seats 5. And on track day it routinely demolishes the M3′s, hangs with the vette’s, and can push about any 911 to the limit. And very comfy for the drive home.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Hmmm, color me intrigued. I liked the last redesign, but this seems even better. I’m a “wagon guy” who is slowly trending more towards the need for a minivan and SUV/truck. I’ve toyed with the idea of the R-class, which comes close (too frumpy, impractical, slow, and potentially expensive down the road). These days I’m thinking more like a minivan and a small pickup like the Colrado. Maybe.

    With RWD, optional V8, and wagonlike proportion, this might well be the most practical alternative to alleviate my lust for a Mercedes E63.

    Mental exercise: Imagine this thing sitting 2″ lower to the ground, with an inch or two less body height, and tell me it’s not the evolution of the Magnum. Great job so far, Chrysler…er, ben fatto, Sergio! (or something like that).

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Agreed. I think that Dodge improved on the formula the Suburban pioneered to get so many early SUV sales. The latest Durango has great presence, and the modern drivetrain with the exceptional ZF box puts it solidly in the lead.

      If I had a big family and/or want to take the extra kids on the field trip, I think it would be at the top of my list. Obviously, a minivan is more practical in some areas – and the E63 is more flat-out awesome – but it’s a pretty good middle ground.

      In many ways, it’s the modern family truckster, in a good way.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      “Mental exercise: Imagine this thing sitting 2″ lower to the ground, with an inch or two less body height, and tell me it’s not the evolution of the Magnum.”

      The Durango also has a third row; if I recall, the Magnum did not even have a third row jump seat.

  • avatar

    People buy crossovers because they think they are more comfortable than a frame on body SUV and think they are more stylish than a minivan. It’s an image thing no different to why people drive hybrids and trucks. If we all were sensible and practical, there would be no crossovers. But there also would not be the variety of cars we have today and we’d all be driving non-SE Camrys and base Dodge Caravans.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    In Canada these $60,000 monsters depreciate down to $24K in two years and $6,000 in five years.

    • 0 avatar
      pdieten

      Well, that may be, but those numbers would have to be for the second generation Durango. I have one, an ’05 Hemi Limited, for which I paid 25% of original MSRP when it was six years old. And it’s been an excellent truck for me. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

      This review makes me think that maybe the ’14 Durango can successfully replace the ’05 when that time comes. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the ’14 will depreciate just as quickly……

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “Both engines are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 and diesel models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory.”

    No diesel. I wonder if they’ll make that and the SRT version available in a few years?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I think I was either channelling my inner Grand Cherokee or was hoping to see a diesel version soon. Darn it! I agree with you, a diesel and an SRT Durango should be on Chrysler’s short list.

  • avatar
    arun

    Can some one give me a quick crash course on what are the benefits and disadvantages of unibody vs body on frame?

    I am not even sure I fully understand the difference b/w the two! Any truck or SUV related article has these terms being thrown about like they are supposed to imply something..

    P.S: I am a car guy because I love cars, not because I know everything there is to know about them..

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Let me know if this analogy makes sense. There are two ways of making a car out of a cardboard box. You can attach the wheels to the box, or you can attach the wheels to some form of frame and then attach the box to the frame. There are pros and cons to both setups so this is just a very generalized commentary. Body on frame vehicles tend to allow higher payload capacities because you can make the frame “beefy” in a relatively simple and straightforward process. Pickup trucks, full size SUVs and things like Toyota’s 4Runner are body-on-frame. On the downside, depending on how the body and frame are attached the design can result in movement of the body in relation to the frame where as a unibody vehicle moves as one unit. Unibody vehicles in theory can be lighter, but I tend to discount this thought as weight savings are so nebulous. Because unibody designs can make the entire vehicle structure stiffer, Jeep preferred to use this method when designing the original Grand Cherokee and Land Rover has used unibody designs for some time.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Philosophically, many unibody vehicles these days are something of a blend, using separate front and rear subframes to connect the suspension and drivetrain to the vehicle body proper.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        In the past, the thin sheet metal in car bodies used to rust through while the thick metal in car frames retained it’s strength. Having a separate frame was associated with long-term strength in spite of body rust.

      • 0 avatar
        arun

        Thank you. Yup, that made a lot of sense. So, theoretically, if I am looking to tow stuff, a BOF SUV is better than a unibody but if I want a sharper ride, a unibody is better…you learn something new everyday!

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Does this unibody Durango have deep door sills? The Taurus gets most of it’s body stiffness from thick door sills; the floorboards are “pockets” you have to lift your feet out of and over the door sill to get out and in.

        On the other hand, the wife’s BOF Durango has perfectly flat door sills, which make it easy to slide your feet in and out, once you lift yourself up onto the seat.

        What kind of door sills does the unibody Durango have? Once again, it is the height and the flat door sills that make it much easier for wifey to get in and out of than a unibody wagon.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    While I believe the best alternative to get a car-like SUV is a real station wagon, and I think SUVs/CUVs/SAVs/whatever are a blight on the American highway, if I were forced to get an *UV I’d have a black or dark gray Durango R/T. I think the styling is done very well and I like the engine they went with for it.

  • avatar
    Arminius

    I was recently in the market for a three row AWD/4×4 (4 kids plus wife, living in upper Midwest, snowing as I type). It came down to the Acura MDX and the Dodge Durango. While it was a very close call I went with the MDX. The main tipping points for the MDX were gas mileage and resale value. Subjectively the Dodge also felt a bit more cramped on the inside, it was harder to get into the 3rd row, and while based on the reviews it is almost a second quicker to 60 than the MDX, it didn’t feel that fast. Perhaps it was higher expectations of a more visceral acceleration. Granted, the growl from the V8 was awesome and is something the MDX cannot match. Other factors were dealer experience and, I hate to admit it, image. The dealer experience between Acura and Dodge was night and day. I was treated like an adult at Acura whereas at Dodge I felt like just another sales number. And yes, the image conveyed by an Acura vs a Dodge did come into it (cue flames).
    All that said, there are many times I have buyer’s remorse. It also speaks volumes that Dodge can be taken as a serious competitor to a “near luxury” brand like Acura. Although if that is a complement to Dodge or an indictment of Acura I’ll leave to the experts.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The dealer and brand are all part of the equation, no matter how much we may try to deny it.

      I think the bigger takeaway here is that a mass market brand like Dodge has a product that stacks up well with a near-luxury brand.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Resale is no small issue. As has been mentioned earlier, Durango’s have depreciated much faster than Acura’s in the past. Image aside, at similar pricing the Acura is probably a better financial bet.

  • avatar
    RS

    Every time I see a Durango I think of the Ron Burgundy ads.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Nailing down a solid definition of SUV/crossover is definitely not easy.

    Take my old 98 mazda MPV Allsport 4×4 for instance. The original design is a minivan to combat the Caravan, but based on the unibody, RWD 929 luxury sedan with B-series truck parts thrown in (solid rear axle, other stuff). The Allsport is a butched up 4wd variant with a suspension lift and a separate transfer case with a center locking differential. Fender flares and beefier tires complete the transformation into some sort of pseudo-SUV. Quite a cocktail, and I must say, a compelling one. The third row space was more van like than the cramped accommodations of a Tahoe or other SUV with a third row. But it had the durability and ease of maintenance of a solid rear axle, longitudinal-engined SUV. Handling was inspired compared to my current 4runner, owing to the 929-derived macpherson struts and rack and pinion steering.

    I’d call the Durango an SUV given its shape and mercedes GL rwd roots. The fact that it has an SUV-like tow rating cements this in my mind. The new Pathfinder with its fwd design and exterior is solidly in crossover territory. The Explorer straddles the line, with SUV looks but fwd roots.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I hear you. I really just go by architecture. The Asian people-carriers (Highlander, Pathfinder, Pilot, Santa Fe) are super-sized versions of their respective companies’ midsize sedans, and for that I would definitely call them crossovers. The Explorer is of course on the Volvo-derived D3/D4 platform, along with Ford’s full-sized sedans, and are also crossovers. Ironically, despite being based on a larger vehicle class, the Explorer actually has *less* usable interior space than its midsized-sedan-based competitors, because nothing on that Ford/Volvo platform is even remotely space-efficient. In stark contrast, I’m not sure where the GM Lambdas’ roots lie, but suffice it to say that they are like minivans without the sliding doors. In agreement with you, its really only the Durango and Grand Cherokee that I would consider to be SUVs, partially because of their architecture and partially because of their rugged virtues.

      At the same time, it is somewhat disingenuous to reserve the SUV moniker for truck-based vehicles when those vehicles are rapidly dying out or are being shrunken back to just the fullsized class. There are no small truck-based SUVs on the market, and the only midsized ones left are the 4Runner, GX 460 and Wrangler. Besides, when cars like the original X5, MDX and RX 300 came out, they were still considered SUVs, and what makes them fundamentally different than what are on sale as crossovers today? (Okay, so the X5 and MDX *did* remove the standard AWD, but still…)

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Maybe a better way to clarify this issue is to rephrase the divide as being between “tall cars” and “off-road vehicles.”

        Viewed this way, there’s very little doubt: The only ones in this discussion that really qualify as the latter are the Chrysler products and the 4Runner/GX.

        I’ll also take this opportunity to chime in on arun’s question above concerning body-on-frame vs. unibody:

        Body-on-frame is traditional for trucks, whereas unibody is more weight-efficient for cars. If you don’t really need the functional traits of a truck (rough-trail worthiness and big payload/towing ability), you’re usually better off with a unibody, although the Chrysler products are the exception.

  • avatar
    bikemobile

    We bought a 2013 hemi durango crew loaded in may for 32k. Great vehicle. Roomy quiet and quick. We get 20 mpg highway and around 15 in town. Avg summer mpg was 18 or so. Winter tires and fuel cut the winter avg closer to 16.

    Really happy with it and after almost a year of ownership, 11k miles, no issues to report. The 8 speed would have been nice but i figured the 2013 was the last year of that generation and transmission. Which to me equals the most engineered and improved model. Im not a first year adopter of cars.

  • avatar

    If we go for 3 (kids, that is), this goes on the cross-shopping list. I’m hoping depreciation will be my friend.

    I’d love to see a non-SRT 392 Durango. No need to set Burgerkingring records or spec 22″ wheels with supercar tires.

    Once you’re talking about 3-row vehicles, fuel economy goes almost all the way out the window: it takes ###kW of power to push a box about that big down the highway at 75mph, regardless of how many cylinders or driven wheels are doing it. You’re gonna get ~20 at best and low teens at worst.

    • 0 avatar
      Eric

      mad_science
      If mpg is a concern, look at a Highlander Hybrid. We always get 25-26 mpg on mixed driving for our 2008. Even though toyota worked hard on the aerodynamics on this car, 75mph on the highway does diminish the effectiveness of the hybrid drivetrain, and mpg drops to about 22.

      It’s also roomy, comfortable, and well-designed.

      They will depreciate much less than the Dodge. Yes, they are expensive to begin with…..

  • avatar
    frozenman

    I thought the whole idea of the rotary shift knob was to free up the console space? Oh, lets put the drive select there as well, wth?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I will second this. I’d rather have a pass through to the second row, with arm rests built into the seats. Same goes for the second row, why not ease entry into the third row by removing that middle console and putting armrests on the seats. Those are far and away more comfortable than the shared center armrests on top of consoles.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      It’s a relatively mild refresh honestly. An entire redesign of the center console wasn’t in the cards. I’m glad the spent the money on better seats, and on NVH improvements.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    While I have not been inside the new Durango, I went and looked at the new Grand Cherokee Overland last weekend. A couple of my neighbors got them so I figured they must be good. To make a long story short, the interior was full of cheap plastic and hard plastic and the seats were flat with no support. A terrible vehicle for the money. I assume the Durango is no different. I found this odd because I have been in the new 300 and while it is somewhat cheap inside compared to the Germans, it was nowhere near as cheap inside as the Grand Cherokee is. How much more money could it cost to put better support and bolstering for the seats and some better plastic or pad that plastic?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I thought the Overland was supposed to be all fancy and soft-plastic filled?! For what they charge, it should be.

      And for the record, I do like the looks overall of the Overland trim level.

      Or maybe it was Summit that was the top level.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    GM’s 2013 refresh did not swap the Lambda vehicles over to the newer Global-A electronics architecture, so the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse still are quite dated in a way that LEDs and dash-stitching can’t mask. They have that same matrix display in the instrument panel, the same older key fob, and an infotainment system that is “MyLink/IntelliLink” in name only. GM *was*, however, able to swap the Holden Commodore and its Chevrolet/Buick derivatives to the Global-A architecture for 2014, so it’s not like it was impossible to retrofit it to a pre-existing vehicle. At any rate, I wouldn’t buy the Lambdas, because they are delicate.

    The Explorer certainly looks cool enough and has plenty of features, but the ones I’m seeing at 50K miles have overly-worn interiors—especially those with black leather—and the entire car just seems to be built like a tank, with visibility to match. And for all its heft and bulk, it really isn’t roomy inside.

    I don’t know if Toyota has released the new Highlander just yet, but I think it’s hideous, so…pass. Ditto for the Pilot, which I think should never have been released in its current form in the first place, and needs to be redesigned immediately.

    The Pathfinder—essentially an enlarged Murano, which is itself a modified Altima—seems to do everything right and has reliable underpinnings, plus I’ve seen a ton of them around. It surely can’t be the most exciting thing to drive, but I’d at least consider it.

    Oh, but the Durango. First of all, it’s pretty awesome to see a RWD-biased crossover. It has proper proportions and I think its styling somewhat echoes the departed Magnum. This would be at the top of my list if I were in the market for this kind of car. My only complaint with it—and the Grand Cherokee—is that the 2014 model looks like what the pre-facelited model should have been in the first place. IIRC, the Grand Cherokee and Durango rolled out in the same year as the new Charger, new 300 and refreshed Journey. Those vehicles all had the newer (non Mercedes-Benz-derived) key fob, Uconnect, and a few other things. Aside from the TFT instrument cluster screen that is now making its way across the Chrysler Group lineup—which, ironically, now needs to be ported over to the 300 and Charger—everything that the Durango and Grand Cherokee are just now getting would have been presumably available while they were being developed, so why are they just now getting the new tech bits for 2014?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I can’t get into the fishy side view of the new Pathfinder. Other than that, I’m glad they finally modernized it to keep up with the competition. My mom’s 08 (or maybe it’s 09) Pathfinder is trailing by quite a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      zoomzoom91

      (to Kyree S. Williams) This was a really good comment so I wanted to respond. You are right about the electrical architecture in the Lambdas. While dated, however, it is very functional and user-friendly. For the vast majority of customers, this trumps snazzy graphics, sports scores, and a weather app. My experiences driving MyLink-equipped cars have been underwhelming. I will also agree with you that the Lambda platform is getting a bit dated. I too wished for a more comprehensive refresh/redesign for the 2013MY—something along the lines of the Grand Cherokee/Durango refresh. However, my dad drives an Acadia and has no real inclination of switching back to Ford (previous car: Explorer). The Lambdas sell because they have so much cargo space. And, I think MFT would cause him to return an Explorer. He does like the Grand Cherokee.

      Speaking of, I also think the current Explorer looks nice, and at least has some pretense of off-road ability…even though it probably couldn’t handle anything past a decently maintained logging road. Agreed about the visibility. Needs bigger rear windows.

      The new Highlander is indeed very ugly, but the interior is very roomy and has tons of space and nice features. Sat in one at an auto show. Wouldn’t buy one but also won’t be surprised if it sells.

      I had the same opinion as you about the Pilot until I rode in one 10 hours each way on a 5 day skiing trip. It’s shaped like a refrigerator, but it’s a really nice car. Smooth, pretty comfortable with 4 guys and a bunch of skiing gear (all inside the car, not on roof), and way quieter than any other Honda I’ve ever been in. Feels almost body-on-frame in its solidity. Very un-Honda like. Needed a 6-speed auto badly, was the one thing I noticed. Would’ve helped highway mileage.

      I have heard/read that the Pathfinder’s chassis controls are very unimpressive/spongy. Nissans in my experience look good on paper but don’t have long term durability.

      The Grand Cherokee and Durango are both pretty solid products. If I needed three rows, the Dodge would probably be my pick in this class.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    So it’s a Jeep Commander without so much ugly? Interesting… But it’ll be more interesting when it gets the diesel, of course!

  • avatar

    If Ford doesn’t revive the V8 for the next Expedition and Navigator (if they happen), Dodge and Jeep are going to be laughing their heads off. It’s no wonder Chrysler group is doing so well. Their cars are the best looking on the American market, the BEST equipped and the BEST priced. The only competition is the German SUV and Crossovers which cost WAY MORE.

    The one thing I’m not crazy about is these new/ non-traditional gear shifters. I wasn’t a fan of the Jaguar XJ’s knob and I’m not a fan of the 9-speed transmissions dials – especially since there are so many other dials in use.

    ALEX DYKES;

    Why is there no simple snapshot rating of these cars reviewed? Why no “5/5 Star” rating?

  • avatar

    I have an uncle who put over 150,000 miles on his 09′ Navigator that would abandon Lincoln, run out and buy the Durango right now…

    …if it had the 6.4-L and an SRT badge.

    He has two growing kids and a wife and he says my Jeep isn’t big enough. They take road trips alot. I told him he should keep the Navigator and buy the Jeep since the Durango isn’t scheduled for an SRT.

  • avatar
    kam327

    “You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers. V6 models are now rated for 6,200lbs while the V8 can haul up to 7,400lbs when properly equipped.”

    Uh, those tow capacities are unchanged from 2013 with the previous transmissions. This statement is just plane egregiously wrong. Please do some proper research Alex before writing your articles.

    “2014 brings a raft of much-needed interior updates to the cabin including a new soft touch dashboard”

    My 2013 has a soft touch dashboard. So do you mean a soft”er” touch dashboard? I’d have to get in a 2014 to actually feel the difference, but short of doing that I also call BS on this statement.


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