The 2014 Dodge Durango is the rare SUV that isn't just a tall station wagon with tough-guy styling cues. Based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango's rear-wheel-drive platform gives it real credibility as a workhorse, whether you're towing things or heading off-road. Yet the Grand Cherokee's carlike ride and handling are present here, as well, so the Durango gives up nothing to the Ford Explorers of the world as a suburban errand-runner. Imagine that: an SUV that genuinely provides the best of both worlds.

Of course, the Durango isn't perfect. Its chief problem is a thirsty V8 -- an issue that remains even after Dodge replaced last year's outdated 5-speed automatic with a new 8-speed for 2014. Also, while the Durango's third-row seat is handy, it's far from the roomiest you'll find.

But one look at the Durango's striking styling -- or one prod of the V8 model's accelerator -- might be enough to sell you. If you want a real SUV without the usual compromises, the Durango is among the best of its breed.

What's New for 2014?

The Durango is slightly updated for 2014, offering revised styling and, most importantly, an 8-speed automatic transmission.

What We Like

Serious power and towing capacity from optional V8; pleasant ride; 3-row flexibility; handsome styling

What We Don't

Subpar fuel economy with V8 engine; third row is pretty tight

How Much?

$30,500-$44,000

Fuel Economy

The Durango's standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that registers 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Those are competitive numbers, especially considering the Durango's 6,200-lb towing capacity with its standard engine. With rear-wheel drive and the new 8-speed automatic, fuel economy is 18 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway; opting for all-wheel drive drops those figures to 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.

Standard on the Durango R/T and optional on the Crew and Citadel is a 5.7-liter V8 that churns out a that's-more-like-it 360 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. The V8's larger size -- and extra torque -- bumps towing up to 7,400 pounds. But it drops fuel economy to 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with rear-wheel drive, or 14 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with optional 4-wheel drive.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Dodge Durango comes in four trim levels: SXT, Crew, Citadel and R/T.

The SXT ($30,500) gets things rolling with 18-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control, a manual tilt-telescopic steering column, cruise control and a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input jack.

The Crew ($36,000) adds rear parking sensors, a power lift gate, power front seats with driver memory, keyless entry and ignition, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity (optional on SXT), a 9-speaker audio system and a 6.5-in touchscreen display with voice-command capability, a rearview camera and 28 GB of digital music storage.

The luxurious Citadel ($42,000) tacks on 20-in wheels, xenon headlamps, adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, a power tilt-telescopic steering column and a navigation system.

Meanwhile, the sport-themed R/T ($40,000) loses some of the Citadel's standard luxuries but gains a sport-tuned suspension, digital-suede upholstery, various sporty styling cues and, of course, the 5.7-liter V8 engine (optional on the Crew and Citadel).

Safety

The 2014 Dodge Durango comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags.

In government crash testing, 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 independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Durango a rating of Good -- their highest possible rating -- in every category.

Behind the Wheel

The Durango traverses bumps gently and remains quiet at highway speeds. This is a large vehicle, though, and you'll never forget it from behind the wheel. Still, the Durango handles better than something this size has a right to, especially with the R/T's performance-oriented suspension. Among tough rear-wheel-drive SUVs, the Durango's driving experience stands out as one of the very best.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Explorer -- Recently redesigned and now based on a front-wheel-drive car platform, the Explorer has become a full-on crossover SUV. It's not as utilitarian as the Durango, but it's certainly more fuel efficient.

Chevrolet Traverse -- The Traverse offers a comparatively hulking cargo bay, and its V6 drivetrain is perhaps a smidgen better than the Durango's. Forget about stuff like off-roading or serious towing, though.

Jeep Grand Cherokee -- If you don't need the Durango's third-row seat, we strongly recommend checking out the reinvented Grand Cherokee, which is basically a smaller, nimbler version of the Durango with a nicer interior.

AutoTrader's Advice

It's hard for us to recommend a vehicle with a fuel economy of 14 mpg city/22 mpg hwy, so -- as much as we love the 5.7-liter V8 -- we'd have to go with the moderately more efficient V6. That's especially true since its new 8-speed automatic makes it feel even faster than before. Make ours a Crew. We think it's worth the stretch over the rather Spartan base model.

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