- 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 2015 Dodge Durango hits the sweet spot between crossover and SUV.
The 2015 Dodge Durango isn't quite a crossover, nor is it strictly an off-road-ready SUV. It's built from the architecture that brought us the Mercedes GL-Class and M-Class, as well as Jeep's Grand Cherokee, so it's a utility vehicle with considerable rugged capabilities and 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.
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. Attractive wheel designs, including a Hyper Black finish, help punctuate the look, and in back the Durango features LED racetrack lighting, which forms a ribbon of light across the tail with 192 individual lamps.
Last year, the Durango was updated with the same, excellent new eight-speed automatic transmission that's used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and other Chrysler products. The Durango gets a stylish rotary shifter like the one used in the Ram 1500 and Chrysler 200, as well as paddle-shifters for all models. A pair of strong engines is available: the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 making 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet, and a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 making 360 hp and 390 lb-ft. Both are helped by the eight-speed auto to achieve acceptable fuel-economy numbers. HEMI feature so-called Fuel Saver Technology (cylinder deactivation), and all models have a selectable Eco Mode that changes throttle sensitivity and transmission shift points to maximize fuel savings.
The Durango also offers a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, depending on the model. Two different AWD systems are used; V-8 models get a low-range transfer case, while V-6 models use a simpler a single-speed unit. Towing capability tops out at 7,400 pounds with the V-8.
The smooth instrument panel resembles the one in Dodge's Charger sedan, and can house either a five-inch or 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen in the center stack. As in other Dodges, the gauges are made up of a seven-inch reconfigurable TFT screen.
Seating for up to seven (or optional seating for six, with available second-row dual captain's chairs) is one of the Durango's top selling points. Its third-row seat is quite usable compared to other models this size, and it's split 50/50, able to be folded flat into the floor. The standard second-row layout folds forward, too, to greatly expand cargo space. Dodge says there's room for a six-foot couch and a coffee table, or to carry 10-foot 2x4s.
The Durango scores well in crash tests and comes 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 Durango is 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.
The 2015 model year brings some new options and packages. For those who want the R/T's look but aren't interested in the HEMI V-8, a new Rallye Appearance Package brings the monochromatic look, black 20-inch wheels, and a black interior to V-6-equipped SXT and Limited models. The Rallye pack also includes a dual exhaust that brings the V-6 up to 295 hp. There's also a new Blacktop Package, which includes a grille, badging, and 20-inch wheels all done in gloss black, as well as monochrome-painted ground effects and a dual exhaust. There's an optional Beats by Dr. Dre audio system with 10 speakers plus a subwoofer. It will have late availability and will be standard on the top Citadel and also optionally available on Limited models. For the interior, a new red Nappa leather package will be optional on R/T models, also a late-availability choice.