2014 Dodge Durango Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 13, 2014

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.

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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.

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2014 Dodge Durango

Styling

Dodge's best interior gets better this year; is the Durango's LED racetrack tail too racy?

Dodge's Durango carries its toughness up front. In the past it's been even more a truck with a body, but in its 2011 redesign, it grew more mature, more handsome, in a less attention-demanding way. Though it's lost some of that old muscle tone as it's gotten bigger and longer, the shape still frames it as an SUV.

The big crosshair grille up front is mostly responsible for setting up the classic SUV stance. It makes all the difference in carving out a sport-ute silhouette for the Durango, distinct from the more carlike creatures in its class. Where it doesn't look quite as rugged is from the rear quarters: From some angles, there's plenty of Toyota Sequoia to go around, and not quite enough of the flared fenders and aggressive sculpting that telegraph "Dodge" to the eyeballs.

New for this year are hockey-stick-shaped LED running lamps on all but the base SXT, and HID headlamps on top R/T and Citadel models. The textured crosshair grille is slimmer, and the hood and lower front fascia have been resculpted in a minor way. LED racetrack lighting, as in the Dodge Dart, forms a ribbon of light across the tail, with 192 individual lamps in all. That's the detail we'd question--the racetrack shape might be more than enough.

There's more visual impact in the cockpit, where almost none of that more authoritative, truck-like heritage has been carried over. For 2014 the Durango has shucked its previous dash--which was nicely rendered--for a new one with serious touches of class--soft textures, thin metallic rings framing the major controls, a large touchscreen to rule the infotainment world. With leather upholstery, woven red inserts and red stitching, and white trim rings on the dials, even the R/T feels bold yet very tastefully done. In any case, the Durango feels less like an on-a-budget utility vehicle and more like a luxury SUV, done right.

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2014 Dodge Durango

Performance

A moderately talented off-road and towing machine, the Durango's at its best cruising interstates and pulling weekend toys.

For the 2014 model year, the Dodge Durango stands by its choices of V-6 or V-8 power, both in good form. New to the mix is an eight-speed automatic transmission that pairs with either engine for better gas mileage and in some cases, a little bit of sporty flair in the form of shift paddles.

For those who need the passenger space but don't need to tow thousands of pounds regularly--most of us--the 3.6-liter V-6 is the better choice. With 290 horsepower (295 in the R/T) and 260 pound-feet of torque, it's quick enough and strong enough, and it's no longer boomy at midrange speeds as we've observed in the past. Now coupled to the eight-speed automatic--with a rotary shift control, a nice touch--the Durango six-cylinder gets up to 20 mpg combined, too--not great by any means, but a solid improvement.

That new transmission even comes with shift paddles in some versions, but the programming could use some work. Instead of the 30-second cycle into manual mode that's common on many paddle-shifted non-sports cars, the Durango persists in manual mode until you hold a paddle forward for three seconds--kludgy, in UI-speak, for drivers but better for towing.

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. It's terrific for stoplight launches and interstate cruising. But despite the presence of the same automatic, it's still pretty thirsty; 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 fuel bills more often, since gas mileage can be as low as 14 mpg city.

With either the V-6 or the V-8, the Durango can be fitted with all-wheel drive; V-8s have real heavier-duty capability--i.e., a low range--to enable that big tow figure.

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.

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2014 Dodge Durango

Comfort & Quality

The knockout interior has excellent space, but the front seats aren't quite as comfortable as in some SUVs.

With the Durango, Dodge has a vehicle that's sized slightly larger than some mid-size crossovers like the Ford Explorer, while it's significantly smaller than the big SUVs from Chevy, GMC, Ford, and Lincoln, among others. Unlike the latter trucks, it's not based at all on a pickup truck--in fact, it's a cousin to both the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Mercedes GL-Class and M-Class.

What that means inside is plenty of crossover-style space to go with more manageable size. It starts in front, where the Durango has a very good driving position, with ample space in every direction and good adjustment range to the driver seat and steering wheel. The seats themselves are bolstered well enough on the backrests, but the leather seats we've been in more recently felt flatter and less supportive than prior versions--possibly because of the now-available seat ventilation.

In the second row, it's possible for three adults to sit comfortably. The Durango can be ordered with bucket seats in the second row instead of the usual second-row bench; so outfitted, it gets a low console containing a cupholder between the seats. 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.

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This year's thorough rework of the dash and controls pushes the Durango's interior a few more grades toward business class. It was good to begin with; now the shapes and textures are very rich-looking on most versions, though to get the pretty, bright 8.4-inch touchscreen, you'll have to upgrade the Durango's base audio system. The trims and materials are substantial to the touch, and the cabin is quiet and refined, with a tightly sealed feel that's still absent from some utility vehicles.
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2014 Dodge Durango

Safety

Updated safety scores aren't in, but the Durango hasn't changed much either.

The Dodge Durango earns good, but not excellent, crash-test scores.

The NHTSA has carried over the Durango's five-star rating for side-impact protection for the 2014 model year, and its four- and three-star rollover-resistance ratings. That gives it a total rating of four stars overall. The IIHS gives the Durango good scores in all tests performed--but because it hasn't tested the SUV for small-overlap impacts, it cannot be rated a Top Safety Pick+.

Dual front, side and curtain airbags are all standard on the Durango, as are anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. A blind-spot warning system, a rearview camera and parking sensors are available, as are adaptive cruise control and a forward-collision warning system that can fully stop the Durango at low speeds, if an obstacle is detected.

You'll probably need the extra electronic assistance of the rearview camera and parking sensors: outward visibility isn't all that impressive, though the Durango's squared-off corners do help in parking.

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2014 Dodge Durango

Features

Citadel Durangos are true luxury trucks; the new Uconnect infotainment system fits perfectly in its family-friendly interior.

Now offered in five trim levels, the Dodge Durango doesn't lack for functional standard features. It's extensively equipped in upper trim levels, and the Citadel model is a true luxury vehicle.

The base Dodge Durango SXT carries over with standard power windows, locks and mirrors; remote start; air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD player; 18-inch wheels, tilt/telescope steering wheel; and three-row seating. Bluetooth is now standard, and the audio system display is now a 5.0-inch touchscreen. The Rallye package builds on this base and adds 5 more horsepower; 20-inch aluminum wheels;  controls; and satellite radio. Options include a larger touchscreen with smartphone-app connectivity; second-row captain's chairs; heated seats and a heated steering wheel.

The Crew model is history; in its place, the Durango gets the upgraded Uconnect audio system; leather seating; a heated steering wheel; heated first- and second-row seats; power front seats; remote start; a rearview camera and rear parking sensors; and a 115-volt outlet in the cabin. The HEMI is an option here, as are second-row captain's chairs; a navigation system; a power sunroof; a power tailgate; and Alpine audio. A Blu-Ray DVD system is now an option on Limited models and above.

The R/T adds on a blended upholstery, a combination of suede and synthetic leather, and red interior trim. It also gets premium audio; remote start; 20-inch wheels; its own suspension tuning, and the HEMI V-8. Options include the navigation system; Blu-Ray; blind-spot monitors; and a towing package.

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For about $42,000 base, the Durango Citadel edition gets standard Nappa leather seating with ventilated front seats; 20-inch wheels; a heated and power-telescoping steering wheel; the Uconnect navigation system; remote start; and a sunroof.
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2014 Dodge Durango

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is better than ever, but it's still low.

With its new eight-speed automatic, the Dodge Durango posts better fuel economy figures for the 2014 model year. They're better, but they're still in what we'd consider the low range.

The EPA says the Durango with Dodge's V-6 engine is good for 18 miles per gallon city, 25 miles per gallon highway--both up 2 mpg--and for 20 mpg combined in rear-drive form. Last year, adding all-wheel drive made no difference; this year, it drops all those numbers by 1 mpg.

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 14/23 mpg, or 17 mpg combined, good for a 3-mpg highway improvement and 1 mpg combined. With all-wheel drive, it's pegged at 14/22 mpg or 16 mpg combined. That's better, but it still makes the HEMI Durango one of the biggest guzzlers on the market.

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April 28, 2015
2014 Dodge Durango AWD 4-Door Limited

Great vehicle - does everything I ask in comfort, style and good performance

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Extremely happy with this vehicle. Great styling (avoids the generic suv look), near luxury interior and ride quality. 3.6 V6 is more than adequate for most uses especially with the excellent 8 speed... + More »
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Styling 8
Performance 8
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