- A sophisticated, refined Dodge
- Strong HEMI performance
- Good SUV steering
- Calmed-down ride
- Stylish SUV cues, more inside than out
- Not easy to climb into third-row seat
- Some side-to-side ride motion
- Low gas mileage; needs more gears
- No SRT8 model, unlike Jeep
A composed family hauler most of the time, the 2013 Dodge Durango isn't afraid of getting its hands dirty when it needs to.
The Dodge Durango is the gateway to true SUVs. With its custom architecture that is neither car nor truck, available all-wheel drive and the ability to two up to 7,400 pounds while carrying up to eight passengers, it's 95 percent of the way there. Other big utility vehicles have drifted into crossover territory, but the Durango keeps itself anchored to the right of center, somewhere between infotainment nirvana and rock-crawling bliss.The Durango gets few changes for the 2013 model year, mostly in the form of some rejiggered equipment and trim lines. It's still a segment splitter, hovering somewhere between the truly big Suburban and Expedition, and the largest crossovers--vehicles like the Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and the GM crossovers (Enclave, Traverse, Acadia).
Handsome but maybe a little less distinctive than in the past, the Durango wears its most SUV-like cue right on its face. The tall grille and its crosshair are pure sport-ute, but from there, the Durango smooths out and calms down, and ends up reminding us of the Toyota Sequoia more than it does of the old flared-up ute that it replaced. More lithe than muscular, the Durango shows off inside, with authoritative touches like a big bin of gauges with big red needles, large round knobs for major controls, and a wide stack of controls at the center of the dash, all clad in tightly grained materials and highlighted by glints of metallic trim. Those drab Durango cabins of the past needed to be erased from memory, and here they are--even in the R/T, where the dollop of red stitching and white-trimmed instruments comes off tastefully bold.
Either of the Durango's drivetrains will satisfy, so long as you have the right mission in mind, but fuel economy's still an Achilles heel. The 3.6-liter V-6 suits light-duty tasks, with 290 horsepower that makes it strong enough for a full boat of passengers but not much more. It's teamed to an older five-speed automatic, which is fine and smooth, but can't deliver the high fuel economy of the new eight-speed automatic you'll get in the Ram pickup with the same engine. Anyone who tows or totes lots of people and cargo on a regular basis should pick the snarly HEMI 5.7-liter V-8. It's terrific at stoplight launches and interstate cruising, but its fuel economy is disappointing, as low as 13/20 mpg--it too misses out on Chrysler's new eight-speed automatic, said to be coming sometime in 2013. Towing is rated as high as 7,400 pounds, and any Durango can be outfitted with all-wheel drive with a true low range, good for those outsized outdoor activities, if not those mega-tasks better left to something like a Suburban or Expedition.
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. The steering unwinds with real feedback, and doesn't go numb on versions fitted with 20-inch wheels.
The newly passenger-friendly Durango isn't quite as large as a Tahoe or Suburban, but has interior space about the size of a Ford Flex or Chevy Traverse. Close to the Benz GL in wheelbase, width, and in its 84.5 cubic feet of cargo room, the Durango has an excellent driving position and wide front seats with good give and ample side bolsters. In the second row, it's possible for three adults to sit comfortably; there's a two-seat option with a center console divide, too. It's less easy for full-size people to get into the third-row seats, which seem a little more difficult to access than in the GL. Nonetheless, some of the features of the fold-down rear seats are identical, like the way the third-row headrests flip out of sight.
The Durango earned the IIHS' Top Safety Pick award for 2012, but the latest scores aren't in, though the NHTSA gives it four stars overall. It has standard curtain airbags and stability control, while blind-spot monitors, a rearview camera, and adaptive cruise control are options.
Other standard features for the sub-$30,000 Durango include power windows, locks and mirrors; a CD player; cruise control; and air conditioning. Stepping into higher trim levels adds Bluetooth; 20-inch wheels; a music hard drive; and leather upholstery. For more than $40,000, the Citadel edition gets those features plus a navigation system; a sunroof; and a heated steering wheel.
2013 Dodge Durango
It might be less Ram-like than ever, but the Dodge Durango's a handsome SUV from almost every angle, and it has one of Dodge's best interiors.
Handsome in a less attention-grabbing way than before, the Durango was redesigned in the 2011 model year and hasn't changed much since. It's somewhat less muscular than before, maybe a bit less distinctive--but still identifiably an SUV, while most every other big crossover has softened its standards.
The Durango's lost some of its bulk and bravado in translation. Now that it shares the Jeep Grand Cherokee's underbody structure--itself related to the Mercedes M and GL Class SUVs--some of the brawny, bulging character's also gone. From some angles, especially at the rear, there's plenty of Toyota Sequoia to go around, and not quite enough of the flared fenders and aggressive sculpting that gave Dodge its niche in the class. Still, there's a big crosshair grille up front, and that sets up the classic SUV stance. And that makes all the difference in distinguishing the Durango from the more carlike creatures that don't have its more rugged underpinnings.
2013 Dodge Durango
The Durango's a bridge between crossovers and SUVs, with strong HEMI acceleration, decent V-6 mileage, and moderate off-road capability.
The 2013 Durango carries over its choices in engines, and both are good ones. The expected upgrade in transmissions hasn't happened just yet, though, which means gas mileage is still more of a concern for some than it would be in a lighter-duty crossover.
With either the V-6 or the V-8, the Durango can be fitted with all-wheel drive with real capability--i.e., a low range. The engine choice determines exactly what kind of Durango you'll have, though, and the two versions have distinctly different driving feel and missions.
Lighter-duty drivers will want to swing toward the 3.6-liter V-6. It's rated at 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and it's strong enough to make the Durango a passenger hauler of a higher order. The powerplant's become Chrysler's mainstay over the past two years, and in this installation, there's less exhaust boom than we've found in the similar Grand Cherokee. The V-6 still teams here with an older five-speed automatic that ends up being smoother than the new six-speed in other Chryslers--but its highway fuel economy tops out at 23 mpg. That's 2 mpg lower than the same engine coupled to a new eight-speed automatic in the Ram 1500 pickup. The Durango will inherit a version of the same eight-speed soon enough, but likely, not until the 2014 model year.
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 (rated at up to 7,400 pounds), you're going to feel the sting of its disappointing fuel economy figures, which fall as low as 13 mpg city. As with the V-6, the V-8 now couples to an eight-speed automatic in the pickup trucks, and it'll make an excellent companion in the Durango, when it arrives.
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. Ride quality is on the firm side but nicely damped, although the Durango's 5,000-plus-pound heft is ever-present.
2013 Dodge Durango
Comfort & Quality
Three rows of very comfortable seats and great cargo space are standard on every Durango; so's a well-trimmed cabin.
Shorter than the Suburban or Expedition, but more rugged than the similarly sized Traverse and Flex, the 2013 Dodge Durango is one of the more passenger-friendly SUVs on the market--much more so than the purely truck-based ute that preceded it.
It's nearly identical to the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL Class in width, wheelbase, and in the total interior cargo space of 84.5 cubic feet--ahem--and that gives the Durango some of the same great selling points we've appreciated in the Mercedes ute. The Dodge has a great driving position, and the front seats have ample space all around for even large drivers. The same goes for the seats themselves: they're wide, decently bolstered, and this year, the top versions add ventilation for the ultimate in comfort.
In the second row, it's possible for three adults to sit comfortably. During the 2012 model year, Dodge introduced an option for the second-row bench that swaps it out for a pair of bucket seats. In between there's a low console containing a cupholder; optionally, the console can be a larger one that has dual cupholders and a second USB port and a 12-volt outlet for charging phones and gaming devices.
It's less easy for full-size people to get into the third-row seats, which seem a little more difficult to access than in the GL, but not by much. The seats don't fold out of the way like those in a minivan, either--so if you're looking for more than the total of 84.5 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded down, you're probably better off with the flat cargo floor of a Dodge Grand Caravan.
2013 Dodge Durango
The Durango's earned good crash-test scores from the NHTSA, but we're waiting on updated IIHS ratings.
The Dodge Durango scored very well in crash tests but not quite as well as we'd expect for a large crossover.
The Durango--a close relative of the Jeep Grand Cherokee--earns fairly impressive scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but they're not as strong as the ones received by crossovers like the GMC Acadia. The NHTSA gives the Durango an overall rating of four stars, with four stars of protection for frontal impacts, five stars for side impacts, and a lower score of three stars for rollover resistance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) upgraded the Durango to a "good" score on its roof-strength test last year, which earned the SUV a Top Safety Pick award. However, the IIHS recently added a new small-overlap front crash test to its regimen, but hasn't tested the Durango as such--which means it's not yet a Top Safety Pick+.
2013 Dodge Durango
The Durango's base model has enough useful features to please; the Citadel's a suitable replacement for a true luxury ute.
It can be relatively spartan, but in top trims, the 2013 Dodge Durango could wear a luxury badge, so extensive are its standard features. It's so well-equipped, it makes for a reasonable argument to skip a luxury-brand SUV altogether.
The Durango comes in four trim levels--SXT, Crew, R/T and Citadel--and even the base SXT model sports a reasonable amount of standard equipment for its roughly $30,000 sticker price. It includes power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; remote start; an AM/FM/CD player with satellite radio; tilt/telescope steering wheel; and three-row seating. Bluetooth is an option, however, and some features offered on other trim levels aren't available at all--features such as pushbutton start, power front seats with seat heating, and a power telescoping steering wheel.
The SXT offers a new Rallye appearance pack with 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, black body trim and grille, voice controls and Bluetooth with streaming audio--effectively, it's an R/T look without the R/T's HEMI engine.On Crew models, leather seating is newly standard for the 2013 model year. So are power front seats with memory; heated first- and second-row seats; roof rails; a cargo cover; rear parking sensors and the rearview camera; a power liftgate; and remote start. Options include the HEMI V-8, second-row captain's chairs, blind-spot monitors and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The R/T adds on a blended upholstery, a combination of suede and synthetic leather. It also gets standard remote start, 20-inch wheels, a hard drive for music storage, its own suspension tuning, and the HEMI V-8. Options include a navigation system, Bluetooth, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, blind-spot monitors, and ventilated Nappa leather seats, as well as a towing package.
2013 Dodge Durango
The Durango V-6 gets gas mileage as good as many big crossovers, but the HEMI's a downer at the pump.
Gas mileage isn't too bad in the V-6-powered Dodge Durango, but the combined figure for the V-8 version drops a little for the 2013 model year--and it wasn't very high to begin with.
The EPA rates the Durango V-6 at 16 miles per gallon city, 23 miles per gallon in rear-drive form, or 19 mpg combined. The numbers stay the same when all-wheel drive is specified. Those figures aren't great, but they're competitive with some seven-passenger crossovers with much less off-road capability.
Opt into the HEMI-equipped Durango and fuel economy slides to 14/20 mpg, or 16 mpg combined; it's rated at 13/20 mpg with all-wheel drive, or 15 mpg combined, making this SUV one of the biggest guzzlers on the market.
Chrysler promises the Durango and its kin, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, will receive a version of the new eight-speed automatic that's new in the Ram 1500 pickup for the 2013 model year. It's likely the utes won't receive the upgrade--and better fuel economy--until the 2014 model year.
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