By on September 18, 2019

Let it be known that, in calendar year 2019, one is able to buy a large purple rear-drive SUV with near-as-makes-no-difference 300 horsepower for about the same starting price as a Camry Hybrid. It shares showroom space and DNA with psychotic coupes bearing 800 horsepower and, in a fit of brilliant marketing, is the recipient of Power Dollars.

Anyone who says the golden age of automobiles is any time other than right friggin’ now needs to have their head examined.

For 2020, the Durango SXT serves as that model’s base trim, starting at half a rent payment over thirty grand. The truck is rear-drive at this price, with all-wheel drive a $2,600 option. The base Durango seats five and is powered by the they-put-that-in-everything Pentastar V6. Your author has been running this too-common engine for seven years in a Dodge Charger and can report cheap maintenance and easy 30 mpg highway cruising mileage.

Eighteen-inch wheels are wrapped in 265/60 rubber and the door handles are body color, both of which hide your penny-pinching decision to scoop an SXT. Projector fog lamps fill those fascia buckets instead of leaving them sad and blank like so many other base vehicles. The bright LED “racetrack” tail lamps continue to amuse, many years after their introduction. It is a tremendous styling flourish that must have taken several attempts to get past the wretched beancounters.

Air conditioning is of the three-zone variety, a boon to family harmony. Pedals aren’t adjustable for the driver but the steering wheel is, as you’d expect. Infotainment is handled by the smaller of the three Uconnect units available, this one spanning seven inches instead of the 8.4 found elsewhere. Ram’s jumbotron remains a dream. At least it isn’t flanked by sad-looking buttons.

Push-button start and keyless entry is also standard, something I normally wouldn’t mention except for the fact that I dearly miss that feature on my own 2018 Sierra SLE 4×4 (GM found wiring hard back then, I guess). It is a bit of a faff to mess with keys all day, especially when one’s hands are full. Yes, first world problems and all that.

Today’s post comes with a caveat, of course, because the SXT is only an Ace of Base pick if one ignores the SRT trim. Packing a 6.4-liter Hemi making 475 horsepower and scampering to 60 mph from rest in just 4.4 seconds, that one is clearly the Durango to have if you’re part of the money-no-object crowd. But for the rest of us, this SXT is the best of its lot.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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48 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2020 Dodge Durango SXT...”

  • avatar

    All of FCA’s Rear-drive platforms are great. People love to complain about reliability, but I have had great experiences with all of them. I would take a Grand Cherokee/Durango/Charger/Challenger over any of the competitors.

    These vehicles have great engines with no turbocharging or direct injection, with proper longitudinal layout. The ZF 8 speed is still the best transmission available. Uconnect is my favorite infotainment system. Gas mileage with the pentastar is excellent. These platforms are old now, so parts are cheap and and these vehicles are simple to work on by todays standards.

    It will be a sad day when these vehicles are gone. They will likely be replaced with Fiat/Alfa platforms that will certainly be less reliable and much more complicated.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with what your saying about theGrand Cherokee/Durango/Charger/Challenger

      But what competitors?
      FCA is the only game in town for many of these products. Non-lux RWD products with normal sized engines, good fuel economy and good power simply don’t exist elsewhere.

      Matthew includes an opinion about the golden age of automobiles, well one brand does not account for the entire industry. Yea we have RWD V8s here but look everywhere else, GM has 32 flavors of minivans, Ford took the easy route out of engine development and added turbos to everything, Honda doesn’t even offer normal sized engines in its top cars anymore, Nissan is CVT everything. What Golden age? We have Big 4 Pickups and FCA, that’s about all America gets for vehicles built to our taste.

      • 0 avatar

        “FCA is the only game in town for many of these products”

        That’s right. That announcement was made by Sergio Marchionne years ago, as part of the Fiatsler turn-around: more emphasis on niche products.

        Worked out pretty good, I’d say. They sell every single one of those puppies they make and could sell more if they decided to make more of them.

        • 0 avatar

          Judging by the $4.5 billion investment in Michigan manufacturing plants, including the new assembly plant built from the bones of the Mack engine plant, suggests they have in fact decided to build more of them.

          No argument here. We’re a month into our first lease of our first ever new car, which is basically this Ace of Base, and we love it.

          • 0 avatar

            NoID, they may change their mind if the result of the 2020 Presidential election does not guarantee them a positive ROI.

            With auto sales in Europe taking an 8.4% nosedive for Aug and a 15.1% collapse in Asia, sales in the US and NA are not going to make up for that. EV sales are down the toilet.

            So I believe that until AFTER the US elections in Nov 2020, auto sales will be slowing further. People shuffling money into other priorities.

            Politics drives consumer confidence because not everyone is lifted up by the current great economic times of the Trump presidency.

            Millions of Americans now employed would love to return to the socialist-welfare state of the previous administration where reallocation of America’s wealth from the working to the chronically unemployed freeloaders was their source of income.

            My take is, between now and Nov 2020, it may be an excellent time to buy a new car AND get your financial ducks lined up. If things go sour, car sales in the US will be impacted first, just like in Europe and Asia.

            And I’m living it to the max every day. Cramming in as much as I can in each day because all these great times can change if the administration changes after Nov 2020.

            I think President Trump will be re-elected by a landslide, but you never can tell. No one thought Trump would ever be elected to begin with.

            Surprise, surprise.

        • 0 avatar

          Certainly has worked out lots better than Mazda’s turn to the exact opposite: Away from “niche” products.

          Although I have to admit Subaru’s turn from “niche” demonstrates you can win both ways.

    • 0 avatar

      Can confirm. Zero issues on the GC Summit V8 I have owned for 3 years. Love the trans, infotainment, and stereo system. I may buy another one soon, hopefully in SRT guise if the money Gods are good to me.

  • avatar

    Quote: Anyone who says the golden age of automobiles is any time other than right friggin’ now needs to have their head examined.

    Maybe the golden age of trucks and SUV’s. I’ll buy that. But it’s far from a golden age of the automobile when sedans, coupes, sticks shifts and literally every choice we used to have are all but gone or disappearing. Even a once common thing as a mid size V6 sedan is a pretty rare thing unless you want a 32K on up Camry. I’m not even going to get into today’s piss poor visibility and blind spots, tacked on iPads and confounding controls that force eyes and attention off the road, lack of interior and exterior color choices, terrible packaging and option setups that force customers to buy thousands of dollar equipment groups just to get a leather steering wheel or radar cruise control etc.

    This vehicle also glosses over the other problems with many of today’s vehicles- terrible transmissions with poor shift quality and too many gears, tiny stressed turbo engines and direct injection among other things. Well you simply get one of FCA’s best power train combos the 3.6 and ZF 8 speed in a rear drive based platform that is time tested and generally reliable with plenty of aftermarket support.

  • avatar

    Didn’t we already do the Durango as an AoB?

  • avatar

    Thanks for going with purple for this AoB. So sick of black, white, and 50 shades of gray.

  • avatar

    This is a good product. Time may be attenuating the Durango’s mullet image, which I think derived mostly from the second and third owners of first-generation examples. But I expect most people would still rather be seen in a Grand Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar

      I think all of Dodge, mullets and all, are starting to benefit from a building backclash, against the near complete takeover of faux-picked-local-organic-fences-and-happy-dogs and turbodullery across every segment of autodom.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey, I am a second owner of a first gen (2000) Durango and I have no mullet! Then again, I have no hair at all. :)

      It has 194k miles and still going strong. Though the passenger front fender is rusting through but it was a replacement from an encounter with a deer one evening.

    • 0 avatar

      You are correct, the 1st generation in particular. I owned a 2003 (and no, I never had or wanted a mullet) but the car conjured that vibe, especially among those still running. It wasn’t a bad car at all, reached 200,000 miles with minimal issues before an armed car-jacker (I’m not kidding) in LA took it out while fleeing from the police.

      The gen 2 was, ah, well, fuggetaboutit – I don’t know what to associate with that monstrosity.

      • 0 avatar

        I also had a nice first gen, a 2001 “SLT+”, the Slut Plus as we called it. 2-tone, burgundy over champagne lower, 4×4 with the 4.7L V8. Man that was a smooth, sweet engine. Honestly Lexus-like, and I have owned a few Lexuses.

  • avatar

    “Anyone who says the golden age of automobiles is any time other than right friggin’ now needs to have their head examined.”


    Now, if you said it was the golden age of minor school bus SUVs and trucks, I might agree with you. Automobiles, as in cars, are fading away with the trends of the times, so this is hardly their golden age.

  • avatar

    This is my jam right now, except we sprung for the 3rd row and tow package. My only complaint is that the “In-Violet” paint is not nearly as vibrant as what is pictured. Under anything but the most direct of light it looks black, especially if it’s covered in a thin film of dirt from our unpaved road.

    We’re one month into lessee-ship and we’re quite pleased.

    • 0 avatar

      I will say FCAs tow packages (for the Durango) are very good considering the amount of equipment for the price.

      • 0 avatar

        Ours is rated for 6500 pounds, though I’m sure we’ll never exercise it to that extent. Our only expected usage will be a hitch-mounted cargo carrier for family road trips, since the cargo carrying capacity is significantly limited when using all three rows.

        • 0 avatar

          I was thinking of how the tow package includes the hitch, wiring, trans cooler, upgraded alternator, and load leveling suspension all for roughly $1000. That’s a pretty good deal and even if I never towed with it I’d still want that for the goodies that come with it.

    • 0 avatar

      Everyone I know who lives off a gravel road buys silver or white vehicles.

  • avatar

    You can’t buy a better SUV for the $, and it’s even better than many costing 2x as much.
    -Very high torsional rigidity. This thing is built like a tank and handles road imperfections fantastically.
    -Great ride quality
    – Super quiet interior
    -Capacious interior (get 2nd rowcaptains chairs, 3rd row is actually one of the best ever)
    -Totally fine interior materials in even least expensive trims and good materials in higher trims
    -Fantastic number of features even on least expensive trims
    -Tows more weight than most SUVs with either V6 or V8, and tow package is inexpensive
    – Very good fuel economy with the V6
    – Great gauge cluster that is really custom configurable
    – Best infotainment system in biz (COnnectoR especially with larger screen
    – Available in badassery trims that actually look great a d not over the top for not much $
    – Mucho power is available in R/T trim for not much more $ (SRT is a lot more but massive power)

    The biggest complaint I would have is that these need better standard headlamps (as many SUVs and pickups do) if one does not spring for the HID option

  • avatar

    These are just flat out good looking trucks and I’m surprised I see so few of them on the roads. Other people don’t share my style, news at 11.

  • avatar


    – Fantastic transmission. The 8 speed ZF clone is about as good as an automatic gets in a SUV rig matched to either the V6 Pentastar or V8.

  • avatar

    p.s. X2 – The plasti chrome grille on base models does this no favors from the front stylistically. It looks FAR better with the black grille and mesh.

    The “Blacktop” appearance package looks fantastic for not much more $.

  • avatar

    I really wanted a Durango a couple of years ago when we were shopping for a replacement for my aging Honda Pilot. The Pilot was the best vehicle I have ever owned, so naturally we shopped the Honda store for a new Pilot. There was nothing about the Pilot that really stood out, and overall we couldn’t get over the pedestrian body-style and ended up with a Grand Cherokee, which we (especially my wife, who daily drives it) are please with.

    There were two things that bugged me about the Durango:
    1. The round dial gear selector (this was 2017 – since changed to a more traditional gear selector). We could have lived with it, but we though it was weird.
    2. You can’t slide a 4-foot wide sheet of anything up the middle of the cargo area. Why FCA couldn’t add another 2-3 inches to the interior width of the cargo area to make this possible is a mystery. Same for the Grand Cherokee, which shares the platform.

    I LOVED this aspect of my Pilot, so much that I kept it until two days ago. I nearly shed a tear when I sold it.

    The Durango is truly an exceptional value, and maybe I’m an outlier in thinking that the appearance has aged well. FCA could apply a refresh that would probably hold up even longer if it were to live on in present form. Something else is coming, that’s for sure, I just hope it compares.

  • avatar

    Deja Vu

  • avatar

    If you want to see something funny, head over to and price a base Durango SXT: 47,390 CAD.

    With taxes in Quebec: 54,488 CAD.

    Let that sink in for a moment. Nearly 55k CAD for a BASE Dodge Durango.

    I know there must be a lot of money on the hood of these ancient SUVs if you even try to haggle. But how many credit-challenged BHPH-type folks actually do pay MSRP? I’d bet there is a lot more than we think.

    • 0 avatar

      1) These can be had in GT AWD trim with an MSRP of 44k-46k USD for 33k USD plus TTL. I’ve had 1 family member (cousin) and 2 acquaintances get into these based on my recommendation. I do not work in the auto industry (totally different field), but many people solicit advice from me on vehicles

      2) Calling this ancient is a big misnomer. While the platform was developed a long time ago, it’s an excellent chassis/platform, that is more rigid and has better/more/more precise weld points than many more expensive SUVs (this was a major advantage to using the excellent Mercedes GL/ML architecture). This allows it to have a much more composed, controlled yet compliant ride quality than competing vehicles from GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota etc. – even significantly more expensive ones.

      3) Dodge has done a laudable job keeping the exterior, interior materials, gauges, features, infotainment system, seating, engines (mpg in the V6, especially) etc fresh.

      This along with the 300 are my preferred STANDARD rental whips of choice on a standard per diem – I do go for more exotic or esoteric choices often and when available just because variety is the spice of life and all, but the Durango is prob one of the most underappreciated vehicles of the last 30 years, hence the great deals available.

      I haven’t yet went the SUV way for my daily driver, but honestly, I’d prob go for a GT V6 or R/T AWD with the Blacktop appearance package and upgraded head unit/speakers if I were to daily a SUV, because WHY SPEND $60K-70K on something inferior when this is available in the trim and with the features I want for 35k-41k OTD and it’s better as a daily driver.

      It’s no stretch at all to state that this is a far better choice as a daily driver than a 85,000 Escalade, as it simply does most things better (and in some cases, much better).

      • 0 avatar

        I like to imagine what the 1st-gen Cadillac SRX could have become if it had remained on its RWD platform. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too unlike the Durango SRT or CItadel trims. Cadillac could always have slotted in the 2nd-gen FWD SRX as a different model, the ven diagram of the two designs do not overlap much at all.

  • avatar

    God bless Mopar, and all who sail there in.

  • avatar

    A few years ago, my Challenger R/T was recalled for the timing chain replacement. It was supposed to take a few days, so I told the service writer I needed to rent something. He said, “Well, you’ve bought your last 3 cars from us so I can get you into something better than a Compass, I think!”. He walked back and disappeared and I was shocked when he appeared with a brand new Grand Cherokee. One with a Hemi, and equipped exactly as I would have if I had bought one myself, in a nice darker blue color. Only catch, I could only have it 4 days, on Friday, I had to bring it back by 5pm. Why? Don’t know, but when I brought it back, I got….a Compass. It wasn’t new, and I didn’t like it much at all. I was stuck with it until the next Wed.

  • avatar

    not a durango, but others have mentioned the related LX cars here.

    on my 2nd 300 already (bought, not leased). wouldn’t have even considered taking a look at them back then, but for DW’s write-ups. not just liking it, but still loving everything about it. every time i get behind the wheel, i feel like i just picked up a new car. drives like a million dollars, seriously it does. solid, tight, responsive and quite efficient. this car still forces me to take a look back at her when walking away in a parking lot.

    1st 300= RWD V8 ‘S’ model

    current iteration= AWD V6 (required) ‘S’ model Maximum Steel

    Thanks again DW. have not loved any vehicle this much in a long, long time.


  • avatar

    Can’t be beat, won’t be beat!

    Though the Hemi could stand to be a little more fuel efficient.

  • avatar

    The SRT has best in class towing as well. I keep telling my wife that is why we need the SRT version.

    The funny thing is, the V6 base model with a tow package can tow a couple hundred pounds short of our V8 first gen Durango.

    In a perfect world I would have a Pacifica and a Durango in the garage.

  • avatar

    Anyone do any towing of about 5000-6000lb with one of these? Curiuous to hear how the rear IRS does with it in terms of squat and handling loaded up.

    • 0 avatar

      I will note that the Durango has a longer wheelbase than the Tahoe so I’d imagine that it is fairly stable and tracks well, beyond that I couldn’t tell you.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve ridden shotgun in a Durango SRT towing 7000+ pounds and it didn’t squat excessively or feel squirrely, but that was with load-leveling bars. Pulled like a champ, but 475 hearse purrs and a 3.70 axle ratio makes for easy pulling.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’ve only ridden but not driven in a Hellcat and mid level v6 300S. I get it.This a legitimately solid platform, I’ve owned a 2nd gen ML. Even if the only thing they did to the platform was shorten the wheelbase on the Chally they’d have my business.

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