New Car Review
2017 Dodge Durango: New Car Review
The 2017 Dodge Durango is the rare SUV that isn't just a tall station wagon with tough-guy styling cues. Based on the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango's robust platform gives it real credibility as a workhorse, whether you're towing things or heading off-road. The Grand Cherokee's car-like ride and handling are present here as well, but since it has a third row of seats, it competes quite well with the family hauling Ford Explorers of the world. Imagine that: an SUV that genuinely provides the best of both worlds.
Of course, the Durango isn't perfect. Its chief problem is its weight, which dulls performance, hurts fuel economy and makes it comparatively cumbersome to drive. And its third-row seat, which can actually accommodate adults, nevertheless lacks the three seat belts offered by top competitors. Having said that, at least it's more maneuverable and space efficient than a Chevrolet Tahoe or other truck-based SUVs.
Nevertheless, if you want a more macho family hauler -- in appearance and capability -- the Durango is in a class by itself. It probably isn't for everyone, but its unique talents should make it an especially perfect fit for many.
What's New for 2017?
For 2017, the base Durango SXT can be had with only two rows of seats. The previous Limited trim is also effectively known as the GT.
What We Like
Power towing capability than most crossovers, especially with its optional V8; secure ride; adult-friendly third row easily accessed by huge rear doors and flip-folding second row
What We Don't
The Durango's standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The Citadel trim has 295 hp. Like all Durangos, an 8-speed automatic transmission, automatic stop/start and rear-wheel drive are standard, while all-wheel drive is optional. Its towing capacity of 6,200 pounds bests most rivals, which typically max out at 5,000. Fuel economy with rear-wheel drive is 19 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined -- a few mpg worse than the class-best. All-wheel drive lowers estimates to 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.
Standard on the Durango R/T and optional on the Citadel trim is a 5.7-liter V8 that churns out a more satisfying 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. The V8's larger size and extra torque bump towing up to 7,400 pounds, but fuel economy drops considerably to 14 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/17 mpg combined with rear- or all-wheel drive. On average, that equates to spending $650 more per year on gas compared to the V6.
Standard Features & Options
The 2016 Dodge Durango comes in four trim levels: SXT, GT, Citadel and R/T.
The SXT ($30,000) gets things rolling with 18-inch alloy wheels, a load-leveling rear suspension, automatic headlights, tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless start, a height-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a 5-in UConnect touchscreen, a USB port and a 6-speaker audio system. Three rows of seats are standard, but two can be specified as an option on the SXT only.
The GT ($37,500) adds special exterior styling elements, 20-in wheels, LED running lights, a backup camera, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming driver mirror, power-adjustable front seats, driver memory settings, heated front and second-row seats, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, Bluetooth audio connectivity, two USB ports and the 8.4-in UConnect touchscreen.
The luxurious Citadel ($41,400) has a power liftgate, a sunroof, xenon headlights, automatic wipers, upgraded brakes, chrome-clad exterior trim, upgraded leather seating and extended interior leather trim, a power-adjustable steering wheel, ventilated front seats, a navigation system added to UConnect and a 9-speaker sound system. A version known as the Citadel Anodized Platinum essentially features different exterior and interior trim. This is also the first point where you can add the V8 engine.
Finally, the sport-themed R/T ($42,000) comes standard with the V8 plus sport-tuned suspension and steering, special styling elements and a Beats audio system.
Note that many of the upper trims' extra features are available on lower ones without option packages. Other options include second-row captain's chairs, a towing package and a dual-screen rear entertainment system. Available on the Citadel and R/T only is the Technology Group, which adds a variety of accident avoidance tech detailed in the Safety section below.
The 2017 Dodge Durango comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and driver knee airbag. A rearview camera is optional on the SXT and standard on all other trims. The Technology Group adds forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and keeping, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems. The latter two items are available on the GT.
In crash testing carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Durango garnered an overall rating of four stars out of five, including four stars for frontal impacts, five stars for side impacts and three stars in the rollover test. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had not posted updated scores for the 2017 Durango, but last year's got the highest possible rating of Good in every category except the firm's challenging small-overlap front crash test, where it earned a second-worst Marginal rating.
Behind the Wheel
The Durango traverses bumps gently and remains comfortable and secure at highway speeds. This is a large vehicle, though, and you'll never forget it from behind the wheel. Its steering is very slow for a crossover and you'll be constantly reminded of just how much weight you're lugging around. Not only can it be cumbersome around corners, but its standard V6 engine feels taxed despite having just as much horsepower as its competitors. Opting for the V8 corrects this issue, but then you'll be taking a massive fuel economy hit.
But then, if you're looking to tow something behind your three-row family crossover, the Durango is your best bet. It comes close to matching full-size SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe, but with a more usable and accessible third-row seat and (despite earlier criticisms) better maneuverability.
Speaking of space, the Durango is quite good for the segment despite only offering seat belts for seven. Adults can fit in the third row and getting back there is aided by a huge back door that opens nearly 90 degrees and a second-row seat that flips and folds far forward. The interior ambience is pretty dull and materials quality is unremarkable, though, seeding luxury ground to most competitors and its two-row cousin, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Ford Explorer -- Recently updated with a new look and new technology, the Explorer is a formidable rival to the more truck-like Durango. It's not as utilitarian as the Durango, but it's certainly more fuel efficient and maneuverable.
2017 Chevrolet Traverse -- The Traverse offers a comparatively hulking cargo bay, and its V6 drivetrain is perhaps a smidge better than the Durango's. Forget about off-roading or serious towing, though.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee -- If you don't need the Durango's third-row seat, we strongly recommend checking out the Grand Cherokee, which is basically a smaller, nimbler version of the Durango with a nicer interior.
Used Ford Expedition -- If you need more capability and space than the Durango provides, you'll probably need a full-size, truck-based SUV. In that case, try the Ford Expedition. Its cabin isn't as nice as the Chevrolet Tahoe's, but it has a smoother ride and a far more useable third row seat and cargo area. It'll be more expensive than a Durango, though, so consider a used one.
It's hard for us to recommend a vehicle that returns 17 mpg, so as much as we love the 5.7-liter V8, we'd have to go with the far more efficient V6. Its 8-speed automatic transmission and start/stop technology further increases efficiency, and it still can tow more than any of its crossover competitors. Beyond that, make our Durango a GT -- we think it's worth the price premium over the rather basic SXT model. It even looks better.