2017 Dodge Durango Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
June 6, 2017

Buying tip

If you're towing often, the V-8-powered Durango makes the most sense, which means you're locked into the R/T trim level. GT Durangos have the

The 2017 Dodge Durango tows like an SUV, drives like a crossover—but crash test scores are a dull spot.

Somewhere in the gray zone between body-on-frame SUV and car-like crossover, sits the Dodge Durango. The 5- or 7-seater isn't exactly either: it's a unibody SUV with real towing ability, on the same blurry part of the spectrum as its stablemate, the Jeep Grand Cherokee (and the old Mercedes M- and GL-Class, too). 

Ambiguity is its essence, but the Durango does lots of things well enough to masquerade as both. It has exceptionally nice road manners and considerably rugged talents to go with its contemporary styling and its refined feel. The big letdowns: gas mileage, of course, and sinking crash-test scores.

For 2017, the Durango comes in SXT, GT, R/T, and Citadel trims. The GT takes the place of the former Limited. Otherwise, a new Citadel trim package gets nappa leather and a wrapped instrument panel; there's a trailer view for the rearview camera; and standard 5-passenger seating on the Durango SXT, with an option for a third-row seat.

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We rate the 2017 Durango at 6.7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Dodge Durango styling and performance

The Durango remains a classy, understated piece, even with a big crosshair grille up front. There's contemporary surfacing across a profile that doesn't arch or flex much in any direction; it's hardly slab-sided, just boxy enough to connote "SUV." The LED rear lights are supposed to make other drivers think "racetrack," but we're not sure why. Inside, the Durango goes as subtle as Dodge can, with a flowing dash covered in soft-touch materials, and metallic-ringed gauges, and a big touchscreen interface on most 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 shift via an 8-speed automatic and accelerate well, but have middling fuel economy, from 17 to 21 mpg combined. Base V-6 versions are fine for everyday needs, and can even tow up to 6,200 pounds—but the thirstier V-8 may be worth it if you tow regularly, or need your own theme music for sliding into parking spaces (it's that loud). Towing capability tops out at 7,400 pounds with the V-8.

The Durango also offers a choice between rear- 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.

Durango utility, safety, and features

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 no longer fares very well well in crash tests. Its advancing age means it's just marginal for small-overlap protection, and rear-drive models have a 3-star rollover resistance rating. Most versions come with a standard rearview camera; blind-spot monitors are available, as are adaptive cruise control with stop, and Uconnect Access, which includes some emergency and roadside-assistance services.

The Durango is offered in SXT, GT, R/T, and Citadel models, with all but the SXT 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, with features such as leather upholstery, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, the 8.4-inch Uconnect system, even a 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.

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2017 Dodge Durango

Styling

The Dodge Durango's straightforward sheet metal pairs with a nicely rendered cabin.

The Dodge Durango spent its former lives as a direct offshoot of the old Dakota pickup, with the Ram trucks adopted as its spirit animal.

This Durango? It does all it can to hide its wild-child roots under some conservatively stamped sheet metal, and mates it with a cabin that's easily one of the brand's best.

We give the Durango a 7 for styling. Like most of us, it's aging better on the inside than on the outside. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Durango pulls off a nice balance of imposing SUV size and tidy crossover detailing. 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.

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.

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2017 Dodge Durango

Performance

Its V-8 and 8-speed are potent pieces, and the Dodge Durango can tow.

The Dodge Durango is one of just a few vehicles to pull off a neat trick: it can tow like a traditional SUV, but drives more like a car-based crossover.

We give it a 7 for performance, thanks to its strong V-8 option, its transmission, and its towing capability. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Most drivers will find the Durango's base powerplant to be plenty. It's a 3.6-liter V-6 with 290 hp, a version of the same engine found in other Chrysler products, just less noisy and boomy. It has strong, stout mid-range performance, and delivers at least 6,200 pounds of towing—and up to 21 mpg combined.

The Durango's 8-speed automatic is actuated by a rotary shift controller, and some versions come with shift paddles.

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, and has the muscular V-8 engine noise we're all going to miss in a few years. With the V-8, the Durango can tow  7,400 pounds, on par with some Ram 1500 pickup trucks.

The down side: even with the wide ratio span of the 8-speed automatic, it's pretty thirsty, even with the addition of stop/start.

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 former Mercedes-Benz ML-Class and GL-Class SUVs). With the 20-inch wheels included on higher-spec versions, there's a little bit of body drumming evident over pockmarked terrain, but the solid structure absorbs most of that. 

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2017 Dodge Durango

Comfort & Quality

The Durango has lots of seats for lots of passengers, and most of them will carry an adult.

With the Durango, Dodge has a capable and capacious three-row utility vehicle. The Durango measures up between larger crossovers like the Ford Explorer and full-size SUVs from Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, and Lincoln, among others.

We give it an 8 for utility and quality, based on its amply sized first- and second-row seats, and its excellent cargo space. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Front passengers have it good in the Durango. The driving position works for most body types, and the seats are well-bolstered in base trim. Spend more on leather and ventilation and the Durango's seats go flatter and less body-gripping.

In the second row, the Durango has plenty of space, good for three adults to be seated comfortably. Dodge offers a bench or two captain's chairs in the second row; in the latter, there's a low console containing a cupholder between the seats. A larger console is an option: it gets dual cupholders, a 12-volt outlet for charging phones and gaming devices, and a second USB port.

Adults can even fit in the third-row seat, if they must. (It's an option on Durango SXT, standard on higher trims.) The seats are respectably sized, it's just a bit difficult to step in, past the folded second-row seats.

The Durango's second- and third-row seats don't tuck away into the floor like those in Chrysler's Pacifica minivan, either. It might be a better option if you're looking for more than the total of 84.5 cubic feet of space.

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. Of particular note is the nappa leather included on the Citadel. The Durango is related to the last-generation Mercedes ML-Class—and it shows.

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2017 Dodge Durango

Safety

The Durango is an aging design, and its crash test scores show it.

The Dodge Durango has lost more ground as crash-test agencies come up with more difficult tests. It's now below par, which is why we assign it a rating of 4 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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 a worrisome three-star rating.

The IIHS gives the Durango good scores in most crash tests, save for a "Marginal" rating in the small-overlap test.

Dual front, side, and curtain airbags are all standard on the Durango, as are anti-lock brakes, and traction and stability control. A rearview camera is standard on most models but not on the SXT. Blind-spot monitors 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.

One thing to keep in mind: Without the assistance of the rearview camera system and parking sensors, the outward vision afforded by the Durango is compromised by big roof pillars.

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2017 Dodge Durango

Features

The 2017 Durango gets seriously plush in Citadel trim.

The 2017 Dodge Durango comes in SXT, GT, R/T, and Citadel trims, with the GT taking the place of the former Limited model. The trim levels run the gamut from purposeful to plush. 

Other changes outfit the top Citadel trim package with Nappa leather an a wrapped instrument panel; add a trailer view for the rearview camera; and make five-passenger seating standard on the Durango SXT.

We give the Durango an 8 for features, in part due to its extensive features and in recognition of its excellent infotainment system. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All Durango SUVs come with power features; air conditioning; cruise control; 18-inch wheels; a tilt/telescope steering wheel; an AM/FM stereo; a USB port and an auxiliary jack.

Durango SXT SUVs get a 5-passenger configuration this year, and they're also the only Durangos to use a smaller 5.0-inch touchscreen for their infotainment display. All other Durangos get an 8.4-inch Uconnect system with Bluetooth streaming audio; it fully integrates audio, climate, phone, and vehicle functions, as well as navigation if upgraded to the Uconnect Access system.

Options on the SXT include a CD player; Uconnect 8.4 with smartphone-app connectivity; 20-inch wheels; a rearview camera and parking sensors; heated front seats; power driver seat; a third-row seat; and satellite radio.

The Durango GT is the well-equipped middle model in the lineup. It gets the third-row seat; upgraded Uconnect audio system; satellite radio; leather seating; a heated steering wheel; heated first- and second-row seats; power front seats; a rearview camera and rear parking sensors; remote start; 20-inch wheels; and a 115-volt outlet in the cabin. Second-row captain's chairs are an option, along with a power sunroof; a power tailgate; and Alpine audio.

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; the V-8; and a power tailgate. 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.

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2017 Dodge Durango

Fuel Economy

The Durango's base V-6 is acceptable—and face it, you're not buying Hemi V-8s for gas mileage.

Gas mileage isn't something big SUVs do well, typically. The Dodge Durango is at least acceptable when it's fitted with the base V-6. With the optional V-8, well, you're not buying a Hemi for its frugality.

We give the Durango a 6 for fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For the 2017 model year, the EPA rates the V-6 Durango at The EPA rated the Durango at 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined in rear-drive form. Those numbers slip to 18/25/21 mpg with all-wheel drive.

The numbers are as good as they are, thanks to the 8-speed automatic transmission Dodge adopted a couple of model years ago. It's also helped by a stop/start system that shuts down the engine when you're waiting at a stoplight, and restarts when you lift off the brake.

V-8 models are guzzlers. EPA ratings slide to 14/22/17 mpg, with either rear- or all-wheel drive.

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6.7
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 4
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
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