- Strong HEMI performance
- Feels substantial and refined
- Good steering feel
- Gas mileage is improved
- Tough to access the third row
- Somewhat busy ride
- Gas mileage is still low
- Shift paddle logic needs work
The 2014 Dodge Durango is a great family hauler, and a top-notch utility infielder when you need extra brawn—made better this year with some important upgrades.
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.This year it gets even better, with a new eight-speed automatic transmission, a distinctive new front and rear look, and new infotainment systems.
On the outside, the Durango gets projector-beam headlamps plus hockey-stick-shaped LED running lamps on all but the base SXT. Top R/T and Citadel models get HID headlamps, while projector foglamps and the slimmer new textured crosshair grille, in combination with a resculpted hood and lower front fascia, makes the Durango look brawnier. New wheel designs, including a Hyper Black finish, help punctuate the look, but it's in back where the Durango's look changes most. LED racetrack lighting, as in the Dodge Dart, forms a ribbon of light across the tail, with 192 individual lamps in all.
Most notably, from a performance standpoint, the 2014 Durango gets the same, excellent new eight-speed automatic transmission that's used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and like in the Ram 1500 it gets a stylish rotary shifter (with paddle-shifters for all models). Although engines are carried over—a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 making 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet, or a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 making 360 hp and 390 lb-ft—the fuel economy boost from the new transmission alone totals up to nine percent. HEMI models continue with their so-called Fuel Saver Technology (cylinder deactivation), while the 2014 Durango gets a new Eco Mode that changes throttle sensitivity and transmission shift points.
Otherwise the Durango continues with its choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, depending on the model. Two different AWD systems are used, with V-8 models getting a low-range transfer case and V-6 models having a single-speed unit. Towing capability ranger up to 7,400 pounds with the V-8—which Dodge says is more than enough for a 24-foot boat and trailer.
Inside, the instrument panel has been reshaped and redesigned, so as to fit right in alongside the recently refreshed Dodge Charger, and new five-inch or 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screens are housed in the center stack; the Durango gets a new SD card slot, USB outlet, and aux input, with a redesigned media storage bin. As in the Dodge Dart, there's a seven-inch reconfigurable TFT gauge screen to customize your info displays.
Seating for up to seven (or optional seating for six, with the available second-row dual captain's chairs) is one of the Durango's top selling points. Against many other models, its third-row seat is quite usable, and it's split 50/50 or folds fully flat into the floor. The standard second-row layout folds forward, too, to greatly expand cargo space for moving large items. Dodge says there's space for a six-foot couch and a coffee table, or for carrying 10-foot 2x4s.
The Durango has been an IIHS Top Safety Pick in previous years, and it remains offered with a very impressive set of safety features, including seven standard airbags, full-length three-row side-curtain bags, and active front headrests. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross path detection are available, as are adaptive cruise control with stop, and Uconnect Access, which includes some emergency and roadside-assistance services.
The 2014 Durango will be offered in SXT, Rallye, Limited, R/T, and Citadel models, with all but the SXT and Rallye getting the 8.4-inch Uconnect system that wraps together audio, climate controls, calling functions, and in some cases navigation. Turn instructions, audio info, or trip info can be displayed on the gauge cluster as well. A new Limited model has been added to the lineup and includes leather upholstery, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and the 8.4-inch Uconnect system. Newly available this year is an HDMI and Blu-ray rear entertainment system, with screens integrated in the back of front headrests and a remote. Uconnect Access Via Mobile also has voice-command capability (including to read text messages) and enables media apps for streaming audio like Pandora or Slacker.