The Durango mates better with the essentially carryover five-speed automatic in the Durango than it does with Chrysler's new six-speed gearboxes. The gears are spaced well enough, and the V-6's 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet or torque spin out predictable mid-range acceleration in the 8-second range—and with a little less of the exhaust boom we found in the Grand Cherokee.
Step up to the Hemi, and you still get the five-speed—and while that likely brings a fuel economy penalty, the V-8's mammoth, accessible power and torque (360 hp, 360 lb-ft) brings excellent performance. Accompanying the drive are fantastic HEMI drivetrain noises. With the six, it's good enough, but with the V-8 the Durango is great—and it's rugged enough to tow up to 7400 pounds.
With its new everything underneath—independent suspension, big brakes, meaty steering feel—the Durango's never felt better to drive, and it's nothing trucky like the vehicle it replaces. There's some head toss to deal with, the kind that comes from lateral stiffness induced to create more carlike driving feel, but the steering winds and unwinds with more precision than in a Caliber hatchback, and ride quality's tremendously good even with the optional 20-inch wheels and tires. There's none of the bounding you'd find in a Grand Caravan, which also seats seven—the Durango's heft mutes it out, even without the optional, advanced air suspension of the Grand Cherokee and the GL-Class.