2012 Dodge Durango Performance

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Performance
There are two engines offered in the 2012 Dodge Durango. Both offer refined performance and available all-wheel drive with a low range; but otherwise, they carry very different missions.

The 3.6-liter V-6 is for lighter-duty users. Its 290 horsepower (and 260 pound-feet) pull the Durango strongly enough for passenger duty, and in the Durango there's less of the exhaust boom we've noticed with the same engine in the Grand Cherokee. The five-speed automatic's also smoother in shifting than the new six-speeds in Chrysler's revamped car lineup, while refinements this year have added a mile per gallon to its highway fuel economy.

Drivers who tow or regularly carry a full load of cargo and people should opt for the strong, snarly HEMI 5.7-liter V-8. Its six-speed automatic is updated this year for better performance, but while it's terrific at stoplight launches and interstate cruising, if you're not in love with the sound of the engine or don't really need it for towing (up to 7,400 pounds), you're going to feel the sting of its disappointing fuel economy figures (of as little as 13 mpg city).

The 2012 Dodge Durango is a little more trucklike than some crossovers, but handling is very good, and the strong HEMI V-8 offers compelling performance.

The Durango's independent suspension, hefty but precise steering feel, and big brakes mean it's never felt better to drive. Aside from some side-to-side head toss, the Durango has a very well-damped ride, even without the air suspension fitted to its Mercedes cousins (it's related, somewhat, to the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and GL-Class).

The steering is impressive, as is the Durango's maneuverability and handling at low speeds. It unwinds with real feedback, and even if you add the larger 20-inch wheels the front end doesn't lose its composure.

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