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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

2018 Dodge Durango Review

2018 Dodge Durango Review
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The 2018 Dodge Durango prioritizes fun over practicality, but we’re fine with that.

The 2018 Dodge Durango blends athleticism and family life like Serena Williams. It's muscular and affable, but long in the tooth.

This year, it’s even stronger thanks to the addition of a new Durango SRT with a 475-horsepower V-8 under its hood. Durango SXT, GT, R/T, and Citadel variants all have a host of minor, trim-specific updates for 2018, too.


Every Durango rides on a stretched version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s underpinnings, but the Dodge is the only one with a third row of seats. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. Most Durangos use a 3.6-liter, 293-hp V-6 paired to an 8-speed automatic, but the R/T comes with a 360-hp V-8 that endows it with a 7,400 pound maximum towing capacity.

With its rear-wheel-drive design, the Durango is inherently sportier than competitors like the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder. However, the driveline hump covering the driveshaft that shuttles power rearward intrudes into the cabin, reducing its passenger and cargo-hauling utility. Still, the Durango can seat up to seven with some luggage room behind the third row.

Unfortunately, the Durango’s design dates back to the 2011 model year, and although it offers some advanced safety equipment like automatic emergency braking at a reasonable price, its subpar crash-test scores reveal its age. Similarly, its fuel economy is toward the bottom for three-row crossovers, especially with the optional V-8 engines.

That’s the price to pay for what’s basically a hot-rod in family-friendly clothing.

Styling
The 2018 Dodge Durango’s muscular look pairs nicely with a clean, conservative interior.

Graying nicely at its temples, the 2018 Dodge Durango still wears its big-rig styling with bravado.

We give it a point for its good-looking interior, too, which elevates it to a 7 out of 10 in our eyes. 

Things are a bit different, if not necessarily any better or worse this year. The basic Durango SXT and GT carryover unchanged. Their long-roof look straddles the line between SUV and station wagon by channeling a little of the long-departed Dodge Magnum. Up front, Dodge’s crosshair-style grille still pokes gently above the headlights for a tall, Peterbilt look. Durango Citadels keep the same shape but sub in perhaps too much chrome.

Now, the Durango R/T and SRT have their own styling that helps cement their sporting status. A widebody design and a lowered suspension give them more gravitas than the workaday models and they feature a functional hood scoop. More aggressive front and rear fascias complete the look.

Inside, the Durango’s dashboard is more conservative, but arrayed in a wonderfully logical, simple fashion. There’s little truckiness to this car-like arrangement. Fabric covers all three rows at the bottom end, while two grades of leather dress things up as you work your way to the top. This year, the Durango GT adopts leather and synthetic suede upholstery for a sporty appearance. Durango Citadel and SRT trims can be dressed up even more with a suede-like headliner that feels far more bucks-up than their price tags would suggest.

Performance
Plenty of muscle at every level makes the 2018 Dodge Durango a hot-rod among family haulers.

The 2018 Dodge Durango can be as tame as you’d like it to be, or it can tame life a quarter mile at a time.

We like its choice of V-6 and V-8 engines, its advanced 8-speed automatic transmission, and its terrific towing ability. Those assets would give it 8 points, but we’ve peeled one off for its firm, almost harsh ride quality. It’s a 7 out of 10 on our scale.

Most Durangos to leave the automaker’s Detroit factory will feature a 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated at 293 horsepower. That’s not a ton of power to motivate an SUV that easily crests 5,000 pounds with optional all-wheel drive and a load of passengers, but the V-6 is smooth and quiet.
Better for those who may tow or lug around a full load of passengers is the 5.7-liter V-8 that’s standard on the Durango R/T and optional on the Durango Citadel. With 360 hp, this muscular V-8 helps the Durango tow up to 7,400 pounds. That’s a figure on par with some full-size pickups but in a more manageable, passenger-friendly size.

This year, the automaker’s 6.4-liter V-8 makes its first appearance in the Durango SRT. It didn’t take Nostradamus to predict this engine’s arrival under the hood of the Durango since it’s used in the Grand Cherokee SRT, but we’re not complaining. With 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque shuttling power to all four wheels (there’s no rear-drive version of the SRT, unlike other Durangos), this is one fast three-row vehicle. Dodge quotes a 0-60 mph sprint of just 4.4 seconds and a sub-13 second quarter mile time. Moreover, the big V-8 endows the Durango SRT with an excellent 8,700 pound maximum towing capacity.

All Durangos use variations of the same 8-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox is one of our favorites for its buttery smooth, fast gear changes and predictable nature. It’s a terrific companion to any engine.

The Durango’s steering is hefty but delivers precise handling in all models. Ride quality from SXT and Citadel models is firm but sufficiently supple; other models are stiffer with the SRT bordering on harsh. You’ll find some annoying body drumming over particularly poor pavement with the available 20-inch alloy wheels, however, so shop carefully if you live where frost heaves are a fact of life.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Dodge Durango delivers excellent comfort for four; less for more.

If there’s a price to pay for style and swagger, it’s in the way the 2018 Dodge Durango treats its occupants. There’s good room here, but the optional third row is an occasional use item.

We’ve rated the Durango at 7 points, giving it extras for the classy feel on higher-spec versions plus good first- and second-row space, but dialing one back for a tight third row.

The Durango delivers a refined, upmarket feel with soft-touch materials nearly everywhere. Higher-end versions like the Citadel and SRT toss in fragrant, soft leather upholstery and even some hints of synthetic suede. New this year is a suede-esque headliner for a decadent feel.

Firm, chairlike front thrones offer good long-distance support, even if the view out is a little constricted by beefy roof pillars. The second row is similarly comfortable and can be outfitted with a three-place bench or individual captain’s chairs. Select the latter and there’s acceptable, but not generous, room to crawl back to steerage.

The third row is optional on the SXT and standard elsewhere. Two individual seats are habitable for short distances by adults, but the space is narrow and toe room is negligible. The seats drop down easily at the tug of a lever or the press of a button, but the load space isn’t totally flat like you’d find in a minivan. Overall luggage capacity is nearly 85 cubic feet with rows two and three dropped and out of the way.

Safety
A dated structure keeps the 2018 Dodge Durango from performing better in crash-testing.

Where the 2018 Dodge Durango really shows its age is in its crash-test scores. They’re not great, despite the presence of lots of standard and optional safety tech, which is why it merits a 4 out of 10 on our scale.

All Durangos come equipped with a full complement of airbags and whiplash-reducing active head restraints. More advanced safety tech is optional, although the entry-level SXT misses out on many of the more high-zoot features.

The gateway package to more advanced features is the Safety, Security, and Convenience Group that bundles automatic high-beams with blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts. Next up is the Technology Group that adds in important features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, active lane control, and automatic emergency braking.  

All that tech is pretty much par for the course among three-row crossovers these days, but what’s less impressive are the Durango’s crash-test scores.

The IIHS rates the Durango as “Good” in most tests, except for a worrying “Marginal” in the challenging small-overlap test. The IIHS also says that the Durango’s headlights are “Marginal” regardless of design, but it has not yet evaluated its automatic emergency braking system.

Federal testers aren’t all that kind, either. The Durango rates four stars overall, with five for side-impact, four for frontal crash, and either three or four for rollover, depending on all- or rear-wheel drive, respectively.

Features
Many 2018 Dodge Durango configurations are available so that yours doesn’t have to look like your neighbor’s.

The 2018 Dodge Durango can be outfitted as a budget-friendly family hauler, a luxurious highway cruiser, or a drag-strip champion.

There’s a lot of standard equipment, a high degree of customizability, and an excellent available infotainment system baked into every Durango trim level. Those accolades earn it an 8 out of 10 on our scale.

All but the SRT can be had with standard rear-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. With its 475-hp V-8, the SRT is smartly available only with all-wheel drive.

The Durango lineup starts with the SXT, a V-6-only model. It offers a third row as an option but comes standard with a 7.0-inch infotainment system, plenty of USB inputs, 18-inch alloy wheels, three-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, and manually adjusted front seats.

Aside from captain’s chairs for the second row and a third row, the Durango SXT also can be equipped with several appearance packages and one that pairs heated front seats with a power liftgate.

Next up is the sporty Durango GT. It’s only available with a V-6, but it adds to the SXT leather and synthetic suede upholstery, a firmer suspension, special steering tuning, and rear parking sensors. The GT serves as the gateway to more advanced safety tech like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. A far more sophisticated 8.4-inch infotainment screen is also on the options list and it includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.  

The Durango R/T subs in the V-8 engine, a Beats audio system, upgraded leather upholstery, and cooled front seats but is otherwise quite similar to the Durango GT in terms of optional and standard equipment.

The luxury-oriented Durango Citadel does duty as one of two Durango flagships. This one’s equipped with a softer suspension than the Durango SRT, lots of chrome, a moonroof, nine Alpine speakers, and a handful of other goodies. The Durango Citadel can be ordered with either the V-6 or the smaller of Durango’s two V-8s.

Only the Durango SRT includes the optional 6.4-liter V-8 engine. It’s paired here to a track-oriented suspension with special steering and upgraded brakes, plus its own styling. Optional equipment here includes a third-row delete and carbon fiber interior trim.

A trailer hitch paired with rear load-leveling shocks is optional on every trim level.

Fuel Economy
An 8-speed automatic helps the 2018 Dodge Durango earn better fuel economy than you might expect, although V-8s are predictably thirsty.

The 2018 Dodge Durango is the muscle car of crossovers and SUVs, with the fuel economy to match.

Still, things aren’t all that bad if you stick with the base V-6 engine. Our 6 out of 10 score reflects that model, which outsells other Durangos.

Durango V-6s come in at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined with all-wheel drive. The rear-wheel drive version nets 19/26/21 mpg.

The optional 5.7-liter V-8 guzzles quite a bit more and is formulated to run on mid-grade fuel, not regular. It’s rated at 14/22/17 mpg regardless of drive wheels.

The news on the Durango SRT isn't good. The EPA rates the big, fast SUV at 13/19/15 mpg.

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