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The 2014 Dodge Durango isn't quite a crossover, yet it's less ardent about off-roading than some other SUVs. Instead, it lies somewhere in between those types of vehicles. It's built from the architecture that brought us the Mercedes GL-Class, so it's a utility vehicle with considerable rugged capabilities, but it also has exceptionally nice road manners. Top it off with grabby front-end styling, and it's neither fish nor fowl--it's more like SUV red meat done nouvelle Americain.
Dodge's Durango carries its toughness up front. In the past it's been even more a truck with a body, but in its 2011 redesign, it grew more mature, more handsome, in a less attention-demanding way. Though it's lost some of that old muscle tone as it's gotten bigger and longer, the shape still frames it as an SUV.
The big crosshair grille up front is mostly responsible for setting up the classic SUV stance. It makes all the difference in carving out a sport-ute silhouette for the Durango, distinct from the more carlike creatures in its class. Where it doesn't look quite as rugged is from the rear quarters: From some angles, there's plenty of Toyota Sequoia to go around, and not quite enough of the flared fenders and aggressive sculpting that telegraph "Dodge" to the eyeballs.
For those who need the passenger space but don't need to tow thousands of pounds regularly--most of us--the 3.6-liter V-6 is the better choice. With 290 horsepower (295 in the R/T) and 260 pound-feet of torque, it's quick enough and strong enough, and it's no longer boomy at midrange speeds as we've observed in the past. Now coupled to the eight-speed automatic--with a rotary shift control, a nice touch--the Durango six-cylinder gets up to 20 mpg combined, too--not great by any means, but a solid improvement.
That new transmission even comes with shift paddles in some versions, but the programming could use some work. Instead of the 30-second cycle into manual mode that's common on many paddle-shifted non-sports cars, the Durango persists in manual mode until you hold a paddle forward for three seconds--kludgy, in UI-speak, for drivers but better for towing.
With the Durango, Dodge has a vehicle that's sized slightly larger than some mid-size crossovers like the Ford Explorer, while it's significantly smaller than the big SUVs from Chevy, GMC, Ford, and Lincoln, among others. Unlike the latter trucks, it's not based at all on a pickup truck--in fact, it's a cousin to both the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Mercedes GL-Class and M-Class.
What that means inside is plenty of crossover-style space to go with more manageable size. It starts in front, where the Durango has a very good driving position, with ample space in every direction and good adjustment range to the driver seat and steering wheel. The seats themselves are bolstered well enough on the backrests, but the leather seats we've been in more recently felt flatter and less supportive than prior versions--possibly because of the now-available seat ventilation.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.