By on March 7, 2014

2014 Dodge Duranto_0014

It’s a shame about the 2014 Dodge Durango. Every car eventually gets wound down, but the Durango will be going out in its prime. If the way a vehicle drives is a high priority for you, it’s hard not to adore the Durango’s comportment. More tragic, the Durango has been the quiet way to get Grand Cherokee goodness with some bonus wheelbase and space for exceptionally-aggressive Dodge pricing. That’s going to be over soon.

If the Durango is so good, and Chrysler even bothered to update it this year, why is it going away? The answer: Because it’s a Dodge.

But the Durango won’t be gone for long.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0001

Soon, the vehicle we know as the Dodge Durango will go back from whence it came. It’s being re-absorbed into the Jeep line, which has aggressive volume targets and can command higher prices. Back in the mid-aughties, Jeep tried a three-row range topper. The Commander did not do well, but it’s where this generation of Durango came from. The story is brought to you by the letters W, X and K, but here’s the short version: When Jeep cleaned up the Grand Cherokee for the 2011 model year, the Dodge Durango took over as the three-row version of that WK2 architecture.

At one time, the Durango was booking nearly 200,000 sales per year for Dodge, but that’s ancient history. Those hot numbers happened back when the Durango was the latest masterstroke from Bob Lutz. Most recently, the Durango has been racking up the critical affection while actual sales seem asbestos-lined, with no heat going on. Despite the Durango’s roots, it’s a lot harder to demand premium pricing without the power of deep Jeep love. Dodge has to be a lot more aggressive about putting cash on the hood to move iron. If you want to feel smarter than the average bear, act now to get the best deal on what’s probably the best vehicle in this segment.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0005

You’re giving up a few things for the sake of the deal, chief among them is brand cachet. That might not be important to you, but it matters for resale. While the Grand Cherokee enjoys strong resale and sniffs of approval from the other twit parents at soccer practice, the Durango’s residual value drops farther, faster. Also, the Durango isn’t as space-efficient as other three-row family crossovers, and it can feel a little more trucky than the car-based competition. Fuel economy is also a challenge, though the new 8-speed automatic takes smaller sips.

Still, the positives of the Durango outweigh the negatives. There’s huge rear seat legroom, extra cargo space, a human-sized third row and composed highway ride thanks to the significantly longer wheelbase. Inside, there’s good materials, luxury touches like laminated side glass, universally-praised UConnect infotainment, now with an 8.8” screen and deeper functionality, and surprising quiet. I drove a V6 Durango dressed up like an R/T, but lacking the Hemi. I also had some time with a full-boat Durango Citadel that topped out over $52,000, but I spent the most time with this mid-$30,000s Durango with AWD, V6, 8-speed automatic with spiffy rotary shifter and utility-focused cloth upholstery. Unlike most models facing their sunset, the Durango is to-the-minute current in its level of competitiveness. You can be sure that when this vehicle is wearing Jeep emblems it will have a thicker bottom line and thinner incentives.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0028

It’s counter-intuitive, but the fact that Jeep is pulling a Godfather 3 on the three-row is an acknowledgement of its fundamental goodness. Coming back into the fold will give Jeep a comprehensive model range from Patriot/Compass, through to Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and on up. In spite of the looming change, because the Durango and Grand Cherokee are built together, it’s less expensive to give the outgoing model the same mechanical changes as the Jeep. Variations on the assembly line cost money. What the spec sheets can’t tell you is how well all the facts and features come together out on the road. Despite the unitized construction, the attitude of the Durango is more SUV than mall-trawler crossover. You feel it in the ride, which carries the feeling of weighty authority as it smothers bad pavement into submission. You’re up higher in the Durango, and while it’s smooth and quiet, she’s a big girl that’s clearly got some Ram in her family. There’s more rugged resistance than carlike compliance, but the structure is solid and the machinery feels refined.

Saddled with 4,700 lbs, the Pentastar engine does a lot better than you’d expect a 290 hp, 3.6 liter V6 could manage. That’s partly due to the new 8-speed transmission, but there are times where it feels like it shoulda had a V8. Of course, you can get one of the best V8s on the market, the 360 hp 5.7 liter Hemi. The V8’s fat torque is still blunted by the big-time curb weight, but it does enable quicker getaways and significant bump in towing capability to 7400 lbs. The table stakes for the Hemi are higher, with fuel economy taking a significant hit, even with MDS cylinder deactivation.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0018

The fuel economy numbers to pay attention to for the Durango are the city and combined EPA ratings. Family crossovers often do a lot of in-town driving, and that kind of use with a Hemi Durango Citadel had me staring at 14.5 MPG. The red Durango in the photos, a Pentastar-powered all-wheel driver with the 8-speed automatic returned a 19.5 MPG average with a heavy emphasis on secondary roads. That’s pretty good, though lots of stop and go will drive it down further. Either way, the claim of 25 MPG highway seems like fantasy.

Another issue is visibility. The mirrors are large and forward visibility is good, plus the elevated ride height doesn’t hurt. But the back window is small and far away. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the constrained view to the rear has sunk more than one potential sale during the test drive. At 8.1”, ground clearance for the Durango is higher than in other competitors like the GM Lambda triplets (7.1”), the Nissan Pathfinder (6.5) or Ford Explorer (7.6”), so it’s not as easy to get in and out of as those vehicles, and you’ll also be perfecting your clean-and-jerk to load stuff in the back of the Durango versus the lower lift-over heights of the competition.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0012

With all these gotchas, it might sound like the Durango isn’t as good as those Crossovers that came from cars. The opposite is true. The ride is supple with disciplined control, and the whole vehicle feels solid. On smooth roads or the surface-of-the-moon byways that seem to cover 90 percent of the nation, the Durango chassis is always graceful. The steering, an electro-hydraulic rack and pinion, is precise and confident with good weighting but not a whole lot of feel.

The Durango is well screwed together, and it feels as good as the Grand Cherokee from behind the wheel. The Durangos which came before are really the issue here. The original sold really well, a bit of parts-bin genius, but it looked tougher than it proved to be. The second-generation Durango is best left out of this conversation, unless you’re trolling CraigsList for a bargain on a loaded-up truck-based SUV that looks Chinese. That leaves this one as the last, and best Durango. Hold on to your wallets, it’s gonna make one hell of a Jeep.

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101 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Dodge Durango...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Commander on estrogen.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    It’s the best damn vehicle in its class, and better than any I’ve driven or driven in costing 20k or EVEN 30k more.

    I had no idea it was being phased out after 2014?

    I’m absolutely not a SUV type person, but this might be my next new vehicle, purchased much (WAY) sooner than anticipated, if this is in fact true.

    When one likes a particular vehicle as much as like this one -JUMP is the verb.

    It rides like a Caddy should, yet does only marginally worse at the pump, while being built like a vault.

    How can I resist that combination on these crumbling American roads of ours?

    • 0 avatar
      jettaGL

      I’m concerned about service and body panel availability in the event of an accident if it is going to be discontinued. Is this worth worrying over?

      • 0 avatar
        Dan Roth

        No. It’ll be around for a while yet, and even if it does go, there’ll be a stock of replacement parts that will outlast most peoples’ ownership.

        It’s not going to Jeep for a while – maybe 2016-2017

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I doubt you would have to worry, unless your buying something as obscure as a rover, parts should be fairly painless to find.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Aren’t automakers required to stock parts for a certain number of years?

        • 0 avatar
          jettaGL

          I can’t imagine beyond much warranty of last model year produced, but maybe someone could enlighten us.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Kyree, I will try to find the statute (U.S. Code), but I believe manufacturers (with the exception of those successfully filing for bankruptcy – e.g. Saab) are required to reasonably estimate & stockpile enough replacement parts to last for 10 years post-phase out of any particular model.

          Danio, you are correct. The Durango won’t be phased out until MY 2015 (and possibly 2016; there’s some ambiguity in the wording of the articles that I researched on this topic after reading your post).

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            Don’t be so sure about the 10 years thing. I think the only categories of parts that have longer requirements are safety and emissions components. Try getting soft trim components at 3-4 years old if the model isn’t made anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        Would you worry about a car that was about to be restyled? No difference here, really.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      Completely agree DeadWeight. I rented one a few weeks ago and was shocked at how good it was.

      High quality interior with some of the most comfortable seats I’ve encountered in a long time, good power (even with the V6) that returned around 22 mpg over 300+ miles of mixed driving with the ride and handling closer to something German than Dodge.

      In the last six months I’ve rented almost every SUV/Crossover available but the Durango was the one that impressed me the most. It is going on the short list when it comes time to replace my wife’s minivan.

      • 0 avatar
        honfatboy

        Me too! So impressed by the one I rented last winter for a six hour drive up to NorCal. Stuffed four adults and two car seats and all of our stuff. Drove great and the interior was super nice. I was so surprised–I had worries when the rental clerk said, “Durango.”

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      @DeadWeight either there’s so much sarcasm here that it’s unclear whether you’re actually being sarcastic …. or …. you are taking the contrary opinion to end all contrary opinions. The Dodge [anything] is the best vehicle in its class. Do tell!

      The closeups of the center stack: have definitely seen those chrome tipped knobs in every single early/mid 2000′s midsized rental car I’ve driven. Chevy Malibu, Cruze, and venerable “Classic!”

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        The interior has better fit and finish than 90% of segment competitive vehicles I’ve driven, rented or otherwise experienced in the last 3 years, and in fact, it’s as good as many that cost far more, as I previously stated.

        The ride quality AND handling is better than in an Audi Q7, which is more harsh and stiff, IMO, better than the Enclave/Acadia, and makes the Pilot seem ancient.

        The 2014 refresh added a lot of padded dash, improved the tiller & improved the quality of materials significantly.

        I don’t know if you’re focusing on styling details or quality of actual materials, but I honestly can’t fault either, and you’d have to get into a Range Rover, MB, Audi to see any significant improvement in the quality of interior bits or any discernible improvement in fit/finish, IMO.

        The only real nitpick I had is that the red & white illuminated gauges don’t provide the level of contrast I prefer, but I feel the same way about MB’s or Cadillac’s silver/white on blue.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I think both the high end Durango and Explorer/Flex have their advatages over the Q7. The Q7 may have more expensive materials and some nicer touches, but the ride and drive of the domestics is better.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I agree and think the long wheelbase of each has a lot do with their high degree of ride quality. The Flex is probably the closest thing going in terms of offering minivan utility/seating, low level loading/ingress, and sedan like ride quality.

            I rented one for 3 days in St. Louis (free upgrade from midsize SUV/CUV since they were “out of” Edges) and it was one of the more comfortable and useful vehicles I’ve driven.

            Ford charges too much for them new, and they hold their resale value remarkably well, too, which I believe is why you intelligently chose its Lincoln stablemate.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yeah, the Flex my in-laws have right now stickers for basically $50K. Esh. That’s a lot of cash.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        @vbofw

        To be fair, the Explorer is pretty uncompetitive as it relates to pricing and feature availability and M’S Lambda crossovers are just too expensive for what you get.

        The Durango has better front seat room than the Lambda’s, UConnect is more responsive than Sync or My Link, and it’s all priced much more competitively.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Eventually this shift to sell underthing under the jeep name under the pretense of offroad capability is going to cause the brand image to drop. They have one vehicle carrying the name and an entire portfolio that keeps getting bigger resting on its shoulders. When the average person starts associating Jeeps with cute utes, its done. Not that the vehicles won’t sell but when your brand has the same premium as say daewoo, your sales start to thin.

    The Durango is the perfect vehicle in the wrong segment, it appeals to buyers who wants sports car handling, unfortunately those buyers don’t tend to buy CUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      For now, the Jeep brand will be just fine as long as there are:

      1) Wranglers, and
      2) Somewhat off-road capable versions of the other products.

      The real issue for Jeep will be if the association that formed in the consumer’s mind between “family vehicle” and “monster truck” in the ’90s SUV craze is finally broken.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I’m not sure I see your point, the majority of their products now are aimed at young women. Which encompasses just about everything considered a family vehicle. And jeep didn’t have anything “monster” on its lots after 91.
        And to that point anything monster would help the brand rather than hurt it.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The underpinnings are immaterial to my point. Jeep is marketing its stuff as tough, big, and off-road capable. You pay a real penalty for that marketing in fuel economy (tall and heavy = bad), handling, and space utilization (compare the room in a JGC with that in an equivalently priced Pathfinder).

          But there is only a tiny market of people who actually care about big, tough, and off-road capable for functional reasons. The majority care about those things because they associate them with how family vehicles are supposed to be. Which is completely silly, and is just a remnant of ’90s SUV marketing. Family vehicles should be space-efficient, safe, and economical. If consumers realize that again, a brand like Jeep that markets “big, tough, and off-road capable” is in trouble. If it weren’t for that marketing image, there is no way a 4000-pound, 22 mpg Cherokee could compete with a 3400-pound, 30 mpg Forester.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I doubt the average buyer of a offroad vehicle could give a flip about mpg. Sure the jeeple buying these utes may but they don’t help the brand name. The wrangler can’t support the entire brand forever, its like marketing chevrolet as a sports car company because they sell the corvette. If the company is selling a vehicle based off an image, what’s left after the image is gone?

            Mercury?
            Plymouth?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Face it, there’s just not enough of a market for off-roaders to support developing more than one vehicle for them. If Jeep developed another real off-roader other than the Wrangler, it would just cannibalize the Wrangler. The Wrangler will have to sustain the brand image, and it’s enough to do so.

            The competition isn’t having any better luck with off-road-ready vehicles. The XTerra is on life support. The FJ is dead. Most 4Runner sales are because people like the look. Everything else that used to be competition is now on-road focused.

            Real off-road capability imposes huge compromises on the things that actually matter to most buyers. “Off-road” look still imposes compromises, but they are much less. (Compare a Wrangler with a Cherokee with a Forester, all roughly the same size and all available well-equipped for under $30k. The Wrangler is an actual off-roader, the Cherokee tries for a bit of off-road image, and the Forester doesn’t bother at all.)

          • 0 avatar

            > The competition isn’t having any better luck with off-road-ready vehicles. The XTerra is on life support. The FJ is dead. Most 4Runner sales are because people like the look. Everything else that used to be competition is now on-road focused.

            Ya know what the problem is Jimbo? Damn gubmint buildin’ all these here roads so the free god-fearing folk don’t take to good honest trucks anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            THERE IS NO COMPETITION, seriously the wrangler has absolutely nothing fighting it for sales.
            The FJ is a compromise family hauler with running gear too weak to support continued offroading and a body that has tendency to rip sheet metal. It would be fine with an overbuilt front end, but its not, the only way to save it would be a stronger frame and a solid axle up front.
            The 4runner has the same plastic setup as every other CUV on the road.

            Both of them compete with each other rather than competitors vehicles, which is why the FJs cancelation is nothing surprising.
            When was the last solid axle BoF jeep fighter built? 1980 with the loss of the scout?

            Wrangler can’t sustain an image alone, sure it’s a huge profit center, but if Toyota started sending us vehicles made by nomadic tribes under slave labor, there’s a good chance people would stop associating them with being reliable. Likewise the wrangler is getting drowned out by cute utes. Theyre sacrificing the brands future for today’s paycheck.

            How do you know another true offroader would hurt the wrangler? What if it provided just as many sells as the wrangler. The wrangler is one vehicle one compact vehicle, the market for fullsize solid axle BoF offroaders is completely void, what do you lose to test it?

            All they need to do is affix an SUV body to the small cab long bed 4×4 2500 Ram. If it fails at very least it would help share costs with the 3/4 trucks.

          • 0 avatar

            > How do you know another true offroader would hurt the wrangler? What if it provided just as many sells as the wrangler.

            The overarching prob here is the same as for sports cars: people imagine themselves driving that ideal, but in reality they’re all quite ordinary so the mere *image* is enough.

            4×4 enthusiasts would be well advised to read juicy sushi’s articulation of the matter, for they are in a different yet all too familiar camp:

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/slow-sales-of-scion-fr-s-disappoint-toyota-jeopardize-engine-upgrades/#comment-2838609

          • 0 avatar
            tuffjuff

            The JGC is a midsized crossover. The Pathfinder is “full sized” but has a penalty to front and middle leg room as a result of that third row.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      What was the Dodge Durango will probably become the Jeep Wagoneer…at $20k higher price point. The Wagoneer still has a lot of brand equity, and trimmed out as well as a Tahoe or Denali should do well with the upacale suburbanite crowd.

      If I remember correctly the old Wagoneers are so well thought of that the Hamptons crowd is paying $50k plus for restored versions from the 1970′s and 80′s. I’m sure Sergio would like to get some of that money back in Chrysler/Jeep/Fiat’s pockets.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I’m sure Sergio realizes he’s not going to get a dollar of that money. Unless he builds something that is worth restoring, people with money don’t get that way by being dumb.

        Large brash used SUVs are going for a premium right now because there’s no market supplying new versions that the people want.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          I think Sergio will get a lot of that money in the form of new Wagoneers; the market is just too rich to ignore. We will find out in a couple of years.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Don’t you think there’s a reason people spend 50k for a used vehicle with old technology over a new Mercedes or w/e else?

            These customers aren’t going to trade their wagoneers for a CUV with independent suspension.

            Don’t get me wrong I’m sure they will sell, just as well as every other fad, but they won’t become some aspirational vehicle of the people buying those restored trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            tuffjuff

            @Hummer

            You’re the only person I’ve seen that genuinely seems to want a traditional SUV. Everybody else? We don’t care. I’m 6’5 with bad knees. My next vehicle is going to be a a a JGC because it’s similar in size to my Equinox, I can get in and out of it comfortably, it rides as nice as the Cadillac XTS I test drove a few months back and it has a hell of an interior.

      • 0 avatar
        zbnutcase

        There is, and never was, an “off road ready” vehicle from any manufacturer. Our boyz in WWII tweaked the Willys MB to their liking. Look at any early ’70s OFF ROAD or PV4 magazine. (Remember those rags?) The 4WD scene really started to get pussified with the 84 Cherokee…but at least it had a solid front axle. Toyota really blew it with FJ, if it had a solid front axle,they would be running the plant at full capacity instead of dropping it. Solid front axles sell to real truck/off road people, and one only has to look at the success of the Ford Super Duty to see that. IFS does not belong within 5 miles of any real 4WD off-road vehicle.( Ford TTB excluded,I am referring to SALA designs) Around here, solid axle swaps are everywhere.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    “because its a dodge” save your cash and pick it up 5 years from now for 1/4 the price.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Once it becomes the Jeep Wagoneer you know it’s going to cost one hell of a lot more, but it will make a great Wagoneer. One that won’t get beat-up as bad as the other namesakes

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    I am going to have to disagree with the back seat room assessment. I drove one of these a few weeks ago at my local auto show here in Jax FL and at only 6’1 and had only about as much room as I have in my CX9 sitting behind myself. Overall a really, really nice vehicle with great looks however the Pathfinder had more room in second row.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      And that’s what a FWD-based crossover gets you when compared with a unibody truck.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      I rode about 600 km in the back seat of a current Durango, and found it very comfortable – *much* more comfortable than doing the same trip in the back seat of the outgoing Highlander.

      I also agree with all the comments here about this being solid, well screwed together truck. I prefer the similar but smaller Grand Cherokee, but I have never needed seating for more than four in a rented SUV. If you must have the extra room and third row, this generation Durango is an excellent choice.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    A Mercedes GL with better reliability for about half the price? Sign me up! Recently spent 4 hours in the third row of a Tahoe, I’m certain the Durango would blow it out of the water in terms of space and comfort. Pentastar+ 8 speed sounds like a winner, although I do wish the low range transfer case could be coupled to it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Feet? Who needs feet when you have a live axle to make you feel manly?

      The Tahoe’s third row is a torture device.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        It was interesting to compare it to my old Mazda MPV, one of the old RWD-929 based ones. The Mazda is actually smaller in terms of length and width. Yet despite also having a solid axle out back, and all the other 4×4 hardware, it has a much roomier interior. A lot of that comes from not having a frame I think, although I’ve experienced a similar lack of third row space in a full size Mitsubishi Montero. The difference is that the Mazda’s third row is positioned to sit on the ‘hump’ where the floor pan kicks up to accommodate that rear axle, you sit in a chair position, rather than with your knees at your ears so to speak. I can sit “behind myself” starting from the driver’s seat to the second row captain’s chairs, to the third row, with an okay amount of leg room. Also, the Mazda’s seats are softer and have wider seatbacks. I did love the quiet highway ride and smooth burble of that chevy small block. I also think they look great.

        I see the Durango as a pretty close replacement for that old Mazda, in terms of driving dynamics superior to BOF peers and better use of space, at the expense of ruggedness.

  • avatar
    arj9084

    Like the GJC it still benefits from the German chassis.

    Also, Jeep’s range will actually be bigger than indicated; it will go from “Fiat 500X Plus”-Renegade-Cherokee-GC-”Durango/grand wagoneer”. Pretty impressive. Plus of course the Wrangler. With Toyo killing off the FJ they will actually have more SUV thingies than any other brand by my count. Throw in a few more polar vortex years in NA and growing sales in rest of world with the lower end products filling into global distribution channels and it will probably be an interesting sales chart in 6-8 years. Oh, and of course ever-expanding diesel options across the line (the one handicap on the Durango still).

    I can’t believe the Italians seem to know what they are doing with this brand.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      It absolutely does feel like the best cross-breeding of German (rigid yet refined) & American (robust& beefy) chassis engineering, if that makes any sense.

      Normally, people wouldn’t think to marry those two qualities, I wouldn’t think.

      It absolutely suffocates road imperfections without being “floaty.”

  • avatar
    jettaGL

    I looked over the models online. It looks like you have to jump into the limited level to have leather seats…not a checkable option. LAME!

  • avatar
    EX35

    Nice review. I agree, the Durango is easily the best in its class. It’s not even close. I was absolutely stunned how much better it is than the Pilot, Highlander (even the 2014), Pathfinder, and Explorer. How in the world Dodge made such a good SUV, I have no idea.

    I’m hoping the 2015 Pilot drives as nicely, or else I will likely have a Chrysler product (shiver) in my driveway.

  • avatar
    koshchei

    I cross-shopped this one with the Chrysler Town & Country I eventually ended up getting. As nice as it was, I couldn’t ultimately justify paying the manly man tax for worse fuel economy and less space.

    They are super nice though.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I don’t blame you. The only real reason to pay up for the Durango (other than subjective aesthetic reasons) would be if you required the significant extra towing capacity of the Durango. Otherwise, the minivan makes a lot more sense.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I would justify it in Michigan based on the fact the suspension and undercarriage are more robust, and given the horrific road conditions, I’d feel less worried about those parts breaking or getting smashed to oblivion over the typical 8 to 10 years I keep a vehicle.

        I’m not sure if this is a reason that could logically be justified based on frequency of repair data, though.

        The Durango manages to feel very beefy and robust, while refined at the same time.

        I’m going to look at one on a hoist one day and see how much it has in common with the RAM suspension and you undercarriage.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Not a whole lot is my guess. Multi-link independent rear suspension from the Mercedes GL, although a front is an SLA rather than the Machpherson strut I had expected. I agree on the point that in our current state of infrastructure decay, SUVs make more sense than ever.

          Last year when I was driving my old Mazda MPV , I hit a nasty pothole with the front left wheel. In short order the following things went bad: blew the strut, wheel bearing started to howl, lower ball joint started to go bad. To be fair the wheel bearing was due for replacement soon anyhow (the other side’s bearing had gone out not a year ago at 150k miles). And those stock struts still worked with 150k on them just fine prior to the incident. I have faith in my current 4Runner’s meaty 265/70R16 tires suspended on a SLA front end mounted to a frame withstanding such a pounding a bit better. I can always have the option of upgrading to even sturdier lower ball joints off of a Tacoma as well.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Yet another reason I’m a contrarian with my love of smaller wheels and tires, with their much better ability to absorb nasty & sharp road imperfections, especially at 50 mph speeds or greater.

            Give me 17″ or even 16″ wheels and soft sidewalls over blinged 20″ or low profile 18″ minders any day.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Well the Mazda had on 225/70R15 tire on it, it was just a really nasty pothole I guess. But I agree, had I been driving something with low profile tires, I may have had a tire and cracked rim to add to the list of casualties.

        • 0 avatar
          koshchei

          I’d agree with you on the feel vs actual empirical data perspective:

          The minivan’s suspension is incredibly simple – I’d argue that there’s almost nothing to go wrong, and if anything does, it’ll be downright cheap to repair. So far, it’s performed admirably on Ontario’s frost-heaved roads.

          A Durango certainly does give the driver a greater sense of confidence though – I attribute it to the aggressive grille, long hood, and awareness that you could cause some serious mayhem with it if your outlook in life was a little more slanted towards that of Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V. It’s all perception though, and certainly not enough to justify the price difference (at least for me.)

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        “The only real reason to pay up for the Durango (other than subjective aesthetic reasons) would be if you required the significant extra towing capacity of the Durango.”

        Another reason is the availability of AWD. When I rent SUVs, it is often to travel on rough roads in remote areas, and sometimes in poor weather. In this case AWD and the improved capabilities on rough roads mentioned by others are a significant advantage.

        But on smooth roads and in good weather, I agree that a minivan is the better choice – and the Town & Country is a very nice one.

        • 0 avatar
          koshchei

          There seems to be a major disconnect about what AWD actually does. Honestly, all that matters is a good set of snow (or “winter” if you’re a quibbler) tires, and sensible driving to suit available visibility and traction.

          The van lives in Canada, and is absolutely caked with dirt from a recent trip up north, through some brutally rough terrain. No issues whatsoever, other than getting turned around in some places — the thing’s a lot longer than you’d think. Thank goodness for the backup camera (and enough available clean snow to keep that little eye clean).

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            The AWD on the Durango is the same system Jeep terms 4×4 on their standard system.

            As someone mentioned above, the other benefit, especially since these are only available with automatic transmissions,is that the Group IV Tow Package is a $995 option, yet it gets you an extra transmission cooler, which I would want, since I am leery of ALL automatic transmissions (a major reason my last 3 cars have been manuals).

            I’d like to believe that extra transmission cooler will at least statistically improve the odds of the transmission having a long, uneventful life, plus the Tow Package is good for resale value.

          • 0 avatar
            PenguinBoy

            Winter tires + AWD > Winter tires

            I live in Canada also, and have three cars that are driven in winter. All have good Winter tires, ABS and traction control. All are in good mechanical condition and have manual transmissions. Two are FWD, one is AWD. The AWD has a significant advantage in deep snow or on icy roads.

            That said, winter tires alone are probably better in winter than AWD and all seasons, and AWD doesn’t give a car magical superpowers on poor roads.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I rode 2000 miles in the first generation model with a Hemi, and enjoyed the trip thoroughly. As the basis for a Wagoneer? Great, but do not leave off the wood paneling. And the glovebox controls for the Quadra-Trac. And call it the Wagoneer Canyonero. Plus, it has to be priced like the G-Wagons so the suburban wanna-be’s can compare who paid most. Jeep, your new boutique con, brought to you by an Italian-Canadian. Next, we’ll see Alfa-Jeep duals, right next to those FIAT stores in the mall. These are the guys who convince otherwise rational humans to pay four times the price for a white label on an Armani. On second thought, it will probably work. We’re doomed.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      You must have taken that trip in a second generation Durango. The first gens had Magnum V8s.

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        It was 2006. Which was it? I thought it had the hemispherical engine, but the memory is the first to go.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan Roth

          FIrst-gen Durango had the 318 or the 360. Second-gen had the 4.7 and Hemi, IIRC. Oh, and there was supposed to be a two-mode hybrid, too.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Just a few of the two-mode hybrids were actually built. A brand-new Chrysler Aspen Hybrid (rebadged second-gen Durango) parked on a street where I walked during my commute in 2006. I had no idea at the time that I was looking at a unicorn.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          I have a 2005 Durango with the Hemi that I purchased new exactly 9 years ago. Surprisingly it will get about 22mpg on the highway at about 75mph; not so hot in city traffic.

          The interior was designed by Playskool but mechanically it has been excellent. I keep getting tempted by new vehicles but nothing on my current Durango seems even close to failing. If the 2014 version is as durable as my 2005 it should be a very good vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            pdieten

            Toad you sound like me with my 2004 Limited with the hemi. It came with the 2-speed transfer case and full offroad and towing packages, though I haven’t called on their capabilities very much. I bought it used for my wife a few years ago, and despite all the poor opinions about those trucks, mine has been so useful, durable and reliable it’s impossible to justify getting rid of it (it only makes about 5K miles/year, so the fuel bill isn’t out of line.)

            But I did drive a new 3rd-gen in 2012, and that car really does deserve all the praise it gets. When the time comes to replace the ’04, a used 3rd gen will probably be the choice for me.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            Yup, I’ve also got the Limited but with 2WD. It’s just nice enough and useful enough that I can’t justify making payments on something newer. After buying lots of cars you learn that every new car is old to you after 6 months anyway; why restart the debt clock?

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    GREAT review. Straightforward, informative, concise, and most of all, easy to read. No unnecessary embellishments that detract from the content. Nice!

  • avatar

    I can’t help but wonder if Dodge will eventually be phased out. All their trucks are now Rams. The Durango is leaving to become a Jeep. The Caravan may not continue past its current version. That leaves, what, the Dart, Charger, and Challenger after 2015?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My buddy rented basically the same vehicle and we generally liked it even though we got nowhere near the highway mileage. The rotary knob for shifting was kind of dorky though and we both agreed the cloth seat material was a bit too cheap and utilitarian for our liking.

  • avatar
    charlie986532

    I think the Durango is quality but needs a big styling update. As the Grand Wagoneer with the Ecodiesel, nice. I have the JGC Eco and am loving it. 23/24 in the city and better than 32 on the highway. Pulls from the line like a V8 and sips like a V6.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I’ve noticed several new Durangos out here in farming country. Non-diesel, 2WD Ram trucks seem to be going to retirees who longer care about brand image, have the money to concentrate on ride quality and interior refinement, haul an occasional Bradford pear and a bag of mulch, and leave their boats at the lake. The 20-50 crowd tend to still flock to Chevrolet, GMC and Ford–the younger they are, the taller they get, just like it was 30 years ago.
    That is what has impressed me about the Durango. Dodge’s image is relatively good. Farmer’s wives with the most hair appointments used to not worry about the stigma of Navigators or Escalades, while the husbands of the other 80% apparently won the argument that a Suburban could be optioned the same without looking snotty at the diner. And why would you want an Acadia? It’s been the same for 7 years and never had a V8. The other odd thing is that while most guys here will meet the family for social events by driving separately in their trucks, I keep noticing that the Durango families are arriving in a single vehicle with the husband driving.
    In my head, I think of Dodge being more driver oriented like Pontiac was for awhile. Durango/Bonneville SSE vs Tahoe/LeSabre.
    It was sealed that Dodge’s cheap stigma was broken when my ‘Merican automobile hatin’, Lexus loving, “You just can’t beat this Sequoia, etc.”, friend, who works for a conglomeration of dealerships, picked out of 20+ brands, a new Grand Cherokee as his demo driver. He gets it for 1500 or 3000 miles before turning it in. The GC is white and he got the interior in the brown, and he’s never spoken more highly or more often of any vehicle. While 300s are still crap to him, he is looking forward to exchanging for a Durango so the kid’s car seats fit. He was a tough nut to crack, but it was the driving experience, styling, U-connect, and interior that won him.
    It is sad to see Dodge lose this vehicle after winning the battle, and worse to consider the rumors of the brand being phased out completely. But I can see heavier chrome on the leading edge of the grill and some woodgrain on the sides if I squint.

    • 0 avatar
      Reicher

      back home (farming country/cottage country ontario canada), the retirees generally go GM, recreational enthusiasts and younger people go Ram and construction guys and bigger haulers go Ford. Contractors were mostly GM but now the big 3 sit about 33% each. Toyota is a rarity and some farmers have bad stories….

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    The Durango is becoming an enthusiast car. Unfortunately, that means it’s bad for Dodge. If we want to save it, we have to call it Vanilla and Mall-Cruiser and hate it.

    • 0 avatar
      koshchei

      Hopefully it won’t go the way of the Magnum. I loved my 2008 – I just didn’t have enough confidence in the downright shitty pre-bankruptcy fit and finish to hold onto it for the long haul. The new Chrysler products are literally orders of magnitude better.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I was sort of under the impression that there would be two cars at Jeep based off this. Whatever regular “Commander” thing, and then a larger, luxury Wagoneer version.

    Also, it looks very odd in this red color. And needs running boards.

  • avatar

    It can be disheartening to be known as mostly critical, so to balance it out w/ some wobble it’s worth commending Winston Braithwaite for balanced yet pointed reviews. They don’t waste time on the small stuff and actually go somewhere. Keep it up and you too can graduate to a proper pub someday. :)

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I had a 2012 Durango when in Hawaii and I surprisingly didn’t find it at all exceptional or exciting one bit.

    I’m wondering if it was the price that made it attractive, similar to the Grand Cherokee here.

    I actually think it’s on par with a Toyota Kluger, except a Kluger would probably be more expensive than it needs to be.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I think the Durango is a much better vehicle than the Highlander/Kluger. I haven’t driven the 2014+ Highlander though. Bark said it was very nice in a recent review.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @bball40dtw
        I find that the suspension tuning on these vehicles don’t work well at higher speeds.

        I have driven a 2014 Kluger.

        As I was saying the Kluger at higher speeds of around 90 mph seems less stable than my pickup. Plus they chew up massive amounts of fuel. The ride wallows alot at these speeds, but that is with the Australian suspension tuning.

        The 2012 Durango I had was terrible to drive in the heavy traffic in Honolulu, from Pearl into the downtown district.

        I didn’t experience the Durango much above 75mph.

        As for Jack, his opinion is subjective like mine.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          The Durango has a really good suspensions setup. It reminds me of a cross between a Grand Cherokee and the former Magnum wagon, because of its long wheelbase.

          It has a lower center of gravity than many would expect given its height, and this dramatically improves the handling versus many competitors.

          I drove the V6 with the 18″ wheels, which probably has at least a noticeably better ride quality than the higher trim versions with the 20″ wheels.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          These vehicles tend to be soft sprung. This class does not inspire driving above the speed limit. There are a few exceptions (Current Durango and Explorer/Flex), but I mostly agree with you.

          I’d also like a T6 Ranger or BT50 in my driveway.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @bball49dtw
            That’s roughly the speed limit (85mph) where I live.

            Once when in a bit of hurry to get home before nightfall I did speed, I was sitting between 100 and 110 mph.

            At these speeds you do see a significant difference in vehicles. We get to use hire cars and all different work cars.

            The roads are also single lane highways, not multi-lane divided highways.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @bball40dtw
            Where I live speed can also be your enemy due to the cost of fuel. Even driving a Kluger at around 140kph for 360km will use 80 litres of fuel.

            My normal run from Darwin is about a 240 (360km) mile drive. In 2006 a friend of mine did the run in 1 hour and 40 minutes on a bike. But that was prior to the speed limit be introduced.

            My diesel pickup uses around half a tank or between 40-45 litres, much cheaper than a V6 or V8. At 120kph I use 3/8 of a tank.

            Most of us only drive at around 140kph.

            Overtaking road trains can get your speed up to 185kph or more which is 115mph.

            I know many would think the speeds are incredible, but there is not much up here, especially when stations (ranches) are bigger than some countries.

  • avatar

    To nitpick though I don’t see how this looks Chinese:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2nd-DodgeDurango.jpg

    > The second-generation Durango is best left out of this conversation, unless you’re trolling CraigsList for a bargain on a loaded-up truck-based SUV that looks Chinese.

    Perhaps the ref was intended for your Cherokee review and got mixed up here?:

    http://image.motortrend.com/f/roadtests/suvs/1310_2014_jeep_cherokee_first_drive/55366147/2014-Jeep-Cherokee-Limited-front-three-quarters-view-01.jpg

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    I just leased a JGC, had them look up the price on the Durango too, no difference on the lease price. I don’t know about the incentives between the two, but they are very close on MSRP. When the JGC lease is up I’ll definitely be looking to see if I can get into a discontinued used Durango for cheap.

  • avatar
    Atum

    I honestly think one would buy the Grand Cherokee over the Durango for only two reasons: name, and the SRT variant. You get an extra row of seats and other features in the Durango for less than the GC.


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