- Hemi V-8 performance and character
- Feels substantial and refined
- Confident steering feel
- V-6 gets engine stop-start
- Third-row access is difficult
- Ride can be busy
- Gas mileage is so very low
The 2016 Dodge Durango hits a sweet spot between crossovers and SUVs—if you're willing to overlook the thirst, that is.
The 2016 Dodge Durango isn't a car-like crossover, and it isn't an off-road-focused SUV. Instead it's somewhere in between—a longer, three-row vehicle closely related to the Jeep Grand Cherokee and built from the architecture that brought us the Mercedes GL-Class and M-Class.
The Durango, to distill it down to the essence, is a utility vehicle with considerable rugged capabilities and exceptionally nice road manners. With handsome, suave styling, a refined cabin feel, and superb performance, it's one of the best ways to go if you have a growing family—and a boat to tow on the weekends.
Whether your idea of what a utility vehicle should be is soft and organic, or whether you're a fan of boxy SUVs with brush guards and roof carriers, you'll probably come to an agreement that the Durango is one of the better-looking three-row SUVs on the market. It combines some of the traditional, with a good dose of contemporary sculpting. The classic SUV stance is set up by the big crosshair grill, as well as a silhouette that doesn't arch too much in any way—or taper. It's just boxy enough without looking slab-sized. LED racetrack lighting, one of the latest Dodge family traits, forms a ribbon of light across the tail.
Inside, almost none of the truck-like heritage has been carried over. The soft, flowing dash has thin metallic rings framing the major controls and a large touchscreen to rule the infotainment world. With leather upholstery, woven red inserts and red stitching, and white trim rings on the dials, the Durango feels less like an on-a-budget utility vehicle and more like a luxury SUV, done right.
Last year marked the debut of a red Nappa leather interior for the R/T model; this year all models get new wheel finishes, four new exterior colors, and a few new appearance packages the combine gloss black and body-color details—aesthetically building a bit more on the Mopar motorsports and muscle-car cues elsewhere in the Dodge lineup.
The Durango includes the same, excellent new 8-speed automatic transmission that's used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and other Chrysler products. It's controlled via 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 (or 295 hp) and 260 pound-feet, and a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 making 360 hp and 390 lb-ft. Both are helped by the 8-speed auto to achieve acceptable fuel-economy numbers. Hemi engines feature so-called "Fuel Saver Technology" (cylinder deactivation), while V-6 models now include engine stop-start technology, and all models have a selectable Eco Mode that changes throttle sensitivity and transmission shift points to maximize fuel savings.
The thirstier V-8 may be worth it if you tow or need just an added amount of ruggedness, though. The Durango also offers a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD), 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.
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 6-foot couch and a coffee table, or to carry 10-foot two-by-fours.
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 smooth instrument panel resembles the one in Dodge's Charger sedan, and can house either a 5.0- or 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen in the center stack. As in other Dodges, the gauges are made up of a 7.0-inch configurable display screen.
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.
In recent years, Dodge has been pushing the Durango up the luxury ladder, first with a Limited model—leather upholstery, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and the 8.4-inch Uconnect system—and now with a Citadel model that piles on even more like the Beats by Dr. Dre audio system (10 speakers and a subwoofer). There's an available HDMI and Blu-ray rear entertainment system, with screens integrated in the back of front headrests and a remote. And 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 EPA rated the Durango at 19 mpg city, 27 highway, and 22 combined in rear-drive form. Those numbers slip to 18/25/21 mpg with all-wheel drive. With the V-8, ratings slide to 14/22/17 mpg. And with all-wheel drive, it's pegged at 14/22/17 mpg.
2016 Dodge Durango
The cabin of the 2016 Dodge Durango is one of the best in this class.
The Durango is one of the better-looking three-row SUVs on the market, and it combines some of the traditional, with a good dose of contemporary sculpting.
You might not even recall, but the Durango wasn't always this way. The original Durango was more of a rugged-looking truck with a wagon body—adding up, really to something quite homely, some of that time. In its latest generation it has transformed into one of the slicker unibody crossovers out there—even if it's kept the city slicker away from interfering too much with the look.
The Durango is one of relatively few models to pull it off—in looking contemporary will retaining that utility-vehicle look—but it certainly has a cleaner set of cues, as well as an overall shape that maximizes utility and space.
The classic SUV stance is set up by the big crosshair grille, as well as a silhouette that doesn't arch too much in any way—or taper. It's just boxy enough without looking slab-sized. From the rear it doesn't look quite as truck-like, although you wouldn't mistake it for anything else, really. Monochrome treatments and dual exhaust detailing do help to but a little sport, if not ruggedness, back into the design. And LED racetrack lighting, one of the latest Dodge family traits, forms a ribbon of light across the tail, with 192 individual lamps in all. While it's a nice touch on the Charger and Dart, it's big and bold here—an extra dose of something that we're not sure the already attention-getting Durango even needed.
Dissecting those details, they do differ a bit between trims, and they have evolved somewhat over the past few model years. There 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 was slimmed and sharpened with a mid-cycle revamp a couple model years ago, while the hood and lower front fascia were resculpted slightly.
Inside, there's quite a different philosophy, and almost none of the truck-like heritage has been carried over. The soft, flowing dash has thin metallic rings framing the major controls and 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.
Last year marked the debut of a red Nappa leather interior for the R/T model; this year all models get new wheel finishes, and there are four new exterior colors for the lineup (Red Pearl, Luxury Brown, Light Brownstone and Ivory Pearl Tri-coat). Later in the year there will be a new Brass Monkey Appearance Package (with Burnished Bronze wheels, gloss black grille, and body-color details), while a monochromatic exterior appearance is now standard for the top Citadel model, with a Platinum Appearance Package optional.
2016 Dodge Durango
The V-6 versions of the 2016 Dodge Durango are plenty quick—although you do gain some ability to haul weekend playthings with the Hemi.
Yes, the 2016 Dodge Durango is more traditionally proportioned than most utility vehicles today; but don't let any preconceptions get in the way: The Durango has some of the sturdy towing ability of a truck, but it performs, for the most part, just like a crossover.
With a choice between V-6 and Hemi V-8 engines, both paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission, you'll get strong straight-line performance in either case.
For those who want the Durango's 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 when equipped with the Rallye Package) and 260 pound-feet of torque, it's quick enough and strong enough, and it's no longer boomy at mid-range speeds as we've observed in the past. It somehow feels a bit stronger than GM's V-6 of the same size in its crossovers; credit the Pentastar V-6's stout mid-rev performance, we suppose.
With the 8-speed automatic—which, by the way, is selected via a rotary shift controller—the V-6 models get up to 20 mpg combined. The 8-speed automatic even comes with shift paddles in some versions, but the programming could use some work. Instead of the 30-second cycle back into automatic mode that's common on many paddle-shifted non-sports cars, the Durango persists in manual mode until you hold the upshift paddle for three seconds—this is likely a concession to those who want to choose their own gear while towing.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is the one to get for those who tow or regularly haul a full load of cargo and people around. It's terrific for stoplight launches and interstate cruising. But even with the wide ratio span of the 8-speed automatic, it's pretty thirsty. We expect the engine stop-start system that Dodge is deploying to these engines this year to make some difference in low-speed stop-and-go, however.
With either the V-6 or the V-8, the Durango can be fitted with all-wheel drive; V-8s get a true low range, while V-6 models make do with a single-speed unit.
The Durango has a firm but supple ride from its independent suspension, as well as a hefty but precise steering feel, and big brakes. It's reassuring and stable on city streets and highways, and aside from some side-to-side head toss when you're venturing into pothole territory, the Durango has a very well-damped ride, even without the air suspension fitted to its Mercedes cousins (it remains related, somewhat, to the previous-generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class and GL-Class).
The steering is impressive, as is the Durango's maneuverability and handling at low speeds. The wheel unwinds with real feedback, and even if you add the larger 20-inch wheels the front end doesn't lose its composure. This year there's a new Sport mode that affects steering weighting and the shift pattern, among other things, so we'll update this with our impressions when we've been able to revisit the Durango. Ride quality is on the firm side but nicely damped, although the Durango's 5,000-plus-pound heft is still noticeable.
2016 Dodge Durango
Comfort & Quality
The cabin of the Dodge Durango is a knockout.
The 2016 Durango is a three-row utility vehicle, and measures up between larger crossovers like the Ford Explorer and full-size SUVs from Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, and Lincoln, among others.
Yet unlike all those others, the Durango is no longer truck-based. It uses a unibody architecture shared by the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Mercedes GL-Class and M-Class—and that translates to more usable interior space.
The driving position in the Durango is very good—and good for a wide range of driver sizes, we think. Seats are bolstered well enough on the backrests, but the leather seats can feel a bit on the flat side—possibly due to seat ventilation and its hardware.
Move back to the second row, and there's lots of space; it's good to accommodate three adults comfortably. You can opt to get bucket seats in the second row instead of the usual second-row bench; that version gets you a low console containing a cupholder between the seats. Or you can opt for a larger console containing dual cupholders, a 12-volt outlet for charging phones and gaming devices, and a second USB port.
Riders in the third row may find that getting back there is the toughest part. The seats themselves are respectably sized—large enough for adults in a pinch—but in some of the Durango's layout there's not an easy way to get in. The seats also don't fold way down into the floor like those in a minivan, either—so a Grand Caravan might be a better option if you're looking for more than the total of 84.5 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded down.
With its last full redesign, some years ago now, the dash and controls of the Durango were pushed back, with all the materials and trims thoroughly upgraded to business class.
The shapes and textures are very rich-looking on most versions, though to get the best system, with the bright 8.4-inch touchscreen, is an upgrade. 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 many other utility vehicles.
2016 Dodge Durango
Although there isn't a full set of crash-test scores, what's there so far is good.
The 2016 Dodge Durango is a big, sturdy, family-sized crossover. Based on the collective advice supplied by U.S. occupant-safety tests, it's a pretty strong pick for the safety-conscious.
First off, the list of safety features is solid. Dual front, side, and curtain airbags are all standard on the Durango, as are anti-lock brakes, and 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.
That latter item, the forward collision warning that's part of the optional Technology Group, is what allows the Durango to earn an "Advanced" rating for front crash prevention by the IIHS in 2015. If it weren't rated "Marginal" in the small overlap frontal test, it would have achieved the Top Safety Pick+ rating last year. Otherwise, the IIHS rated the Durango's performance as top "Good" in all four tests it has conducted—moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats.
The NHTSA gives the Durango four stars overall, with four in frontal crash and five in side crash. The rollover ratings depend on the number of driven wheels; rear-drive models score four stars, while all-wheel-drive versions get only three.
One thing to keep in mind: Without the assistance of the rearview camera system and parking sensors, the outward visibility afforded by the Durango is rather lousy.
2016 Dodge Durango
The Durango Citadel is a true luxury trucks, while Uconnect infotainment systems are standouts, even compared to luxury-brand models.
SXT, Limited, R/T, and Citadel trims are offered for the 2016 Dodge Durango. And between them, there's quite a bit of difference, ranging from purposeful to plush.
Those upper trim levels—especially the Citadel—are especially well-equipped, rivaling the content in some luxury sedans.
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. It's available on SXT, Limited, and R/T models.
Audiophiles will enjoy an optional Beats by Dr. Dre audio system with 10 speakers plus a subwoofer. That comes later in the year and will be standard on the top Citadel and also optionally available on Limited models.
But stepping back to the base level, the 2016 Dodge Durango SXT includes standard power windows, locks and mirrors; remote start; air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD player; 18-inch wheels; a tilt/telescope steering wheel; and three-row seating. Bluetooth is also standard.
SXT models are the only ones in the lineup to include a smaller 5.0-inch touchscreen. The rest of the lineup gets an 8.4-inch Uconnect system that fully integrates audio, climate, phone, and vehicle functions, as well as navigation if upgraded to the Uconnect Access system.
Other options on the SXT include a larger touchscreen with smartphone-app connectivity; second-row captain's chairs; a heated steering wheel; and heated seats.
The Durango Limited is the well-equipped middle model in the lineup. It gets the upgraded Uconnect audio system; leather seating; a heated steering wheel; heated first- and second-row seats; power front seats; a rearview camera and rear parking sensors; and a 115-volt outlet in the cabin. The Hemi V-8 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 an option on Limited models and above.
Those wanting more of a sporty flavor should head to the R/T, which adds blended upholstery, a combination of suede and synthetic leather, and red interior trim. It also gets premium audio; 20-inch wheels; its own suspension tuning; and the Hemi V-8. Options include the navigation system; Blu-ray; and blind-spot monitors; and a towing package is available.
Dodge also points to a rear entertainment system—including dual 9.0-inch screens and a Blu-ray/DVD player as being a class-exclusive, and new for this year is a Uconnect Access Via Mobile feature for streaming audio.
At the top of the lineup, the Durango Citadel could easily carry a luxury brand badge and fit right in. It includes standard Nappa leather seating with ventilated front seats; 20-inch wheels; a heated and power-telescoping steering wheel; the Uconnect navigation system; and a sunroof.
2016 Dodge Durango
The 2016 Dodge Durango doesn't make fuel economy a priority, it seems. And Hemi versions are very thirsty.
It's only been a couple of years since the Durango adopted a new 8-speed automatic transmission for both its V-6 and V-8 models. It definitely improved both acceleration and fuel economy ratings, although its EPA ratings remained a bit disappointing for some families.
The EPA rated the Durango at 19 mpg city, 27 highway, and 22 combined in rear-drive form. Those numbers slip to 18/25/21 mpg with all-wheel drive.
One change on the V-6 for 2016 is the introduction of a new stop-start system, which smartly shuts down the engine when you're waiting at a stoplight, restarting the engine when you lift off the brake. While we're not yet sure how much this system will upgrade the Durango's ratings, if at all, it should provide owners a boost in mileage during low-speed stop-and-go driving.
And actually the Durango isn't much lower, by the ratings, than most large crossover vehicles tend to have similar gas-mileage ratings—despite the Durango's sturdier towing credentials.
That said, HEMI V-8 models are guzzlers. With the V-8, ratings slide to 14/22/17 mpg. And with all-wheel drive, it's pegged at 14/22/17 mpg.