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2018 Dodge Durango: New Car Review

The 2018 Dodge Durango offers a skill set that none of its 3-row crossover competitors can match. Sure, it provides the interior space and feature content one expects (if not even more), yet its robust platform and available V8 engines provide the sort of capability that might otherwise lead you to a bigger truck-based SUV. If you need to tow something, or just want your family hauler to have guts, the Durango is an excellent way to go.

And it gets even gutsier for 2018 with the arrival of the Durango SRT. Boasting the Charger’s 392 Hemi V8, as well as many of its styling cues, the new SRT pumps out 475 horsepower and can rocket up to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Those are absurd figures for a 3-row family crossover — the previous horsepower champ, the Ford Explorer Sport, "only" has 365 hp.

Of course, most shoppers will be considering less hardcore Durango models. In that case, there are issues to consider. Its hefty weight dulls performance, hurts fuel economy and makes it comparatively cumbersome to drive. Its interior design is dull and its quality unremarkable. 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 SUV.

So although the Durango’s skill set is distinctive, it does come with trade-offs.

What’s New for 2018?

Every Durango now comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a backup camera and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The electronic shifter has also been redesigned. Front parking sensors were added to upper trim levels. There’s also the new Durango SRT, which boasts Dodge’s 392 Hemi engine, among other performance upgrades.

What We Like

More towing capability than most crossovers; secure ride; adult-friendly third row easily accessed by huge rear doors and flip-folding second row; unique SRT model

What We Don’t

Sluggish acceleration with V6; subpar fuel economy with V8; unremarkable interior design and quality; safety tech only available on top trims

How Much?

$30,000-$63,000

Fuel Economy

The Durango’s standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Citadel trim has 295 hp. An 8-speed automatic transmission, automatic stop/start and rear-wheel drive (RWD) are standard, while all-wheel drive (AWD) 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 in combined driving — a few mpg worse than the class-best. It’s basically the same with AWD.

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 RWD or AWD. On average, that equates to spending $700 more per year on gas compared to the V6.

If you want to spend even more, consider the new Durango SRT. Sure, it sucks down fuel to the tune of 13 mpg city/19 mpg hwy/15 mpg combined, but it also has a 6.4-liter V8 good for 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. AWD is standard. Dodge says the Durgano SRT will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, which is pretty much insane for a 3-row family crossover.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Dodge Durango comes in five trim levels: SXT, GT, Citadel, R/T and SRT.

The SXT ($30,000) gets things rolling with 18-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a backup camera, tri-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7-in touchscreen, a USB port, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto 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 ($38,000) adds special exterior styling elements, 20-in wheels, LED running lights, 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, two USB ports and an 8.4-in touchscreen.

The Citadel ($42,200) has a power lift gate, 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, an integrated navigation system and a 9-speaker sound system. A version that’s absurdly known as the Citadel Anodized Platinum essentially features different exterior and interior trim. This is also the first trim where you can add the V8 engine.

The R/T ($43,700) comes standard with the V8, plus a sport-tuned suspension and steering, special styling elements and a Beats audio system.

The new SRT ($63,000) adds further upgraded brakes and steering, a sport-tuned adaptive suspension, special styling, Nappa leather and simulated suede upholstery and second-row captain’s chairs. Full leather seats and a second-row bench are optional. You can also delete the third row.

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 rear entertainment system that features two screens, a Blu-ray player and an HDMI port. Available only on the upper three trims is the Technology Group, which adds a variety of accident-avoidance tech detailed in the Safety section below.

Safety

The 2018 Dodge Durango comes with a backup camera, front-side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags and a driver-knee airbag. The Technology Group adds forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and keeping, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems. The latter two items are available separately on the GT.

In government crash testing, the Durango earned 4-star overall and frontal ratings and a 5-star side rating. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Durango 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. Its crash-prevention tech was rated Superior.

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 one of the V8 engines 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 3-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. Plus, if you’re looking to smoke high-powered sport sedans at traffic lights, the new Durango SRT can do that, too.

In terms 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, ceding ground to most competitors and its 2-row cousin, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Ford Explorer — Recently updated with a new look and new technology, the Explorer is a formidable rival to the more trucklike Durango. It’s not as utilitarian as the Durango, but it’s certainly more fuel efficient and maneuverable.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse — The redesigned Traverse offers a truly enormous interior, and its V6 drivetrain is perhaps a smidge better than the Durango’s. Forget about off-roading or serious towing, though.

2018 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 a used Ford Expedition at this price point. 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.

Autotrader’s Advice

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 increase 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.

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