The Durango remains big, brawny, and masculine in an era of soft, curvaceous crossovers—and it’s also not as trucklike as other large SUVs. Powertrains include a 293-hp 3.6-liter V-6 or a 360-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, both offered in rear- or all-wheel-drive guises; an eight-speed automatic is standard. The V-6 can tow 6200 pounds; the V-8 can tow 7400 pounds. The optional third row makes room for seven. Uconnect infotainment with an 8.4-inch touchscreen and satellite radio is optional.
Part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ most recent five-year plan was to recast Dodge as “America’s mainstream performance brand.” (Their words, not ours.) What followed included 707-hp Hellcats and track-oriented Vipers and the demise of nonsporty sedans such as the Avenger and (soon) the Dart. But it’s not all about burnouts and hot laps at Dodge, as a few more middle-of-the-road offerings like the Durango three-row crossover still exist to hold up the “mainstream” end of that slogan.
That’s not to discredit the Durango, which offers more thrills than many of its competitors—especially when equipped with the rip-roaring Hemi V-8 engine, lowered ride height, and more aggressive looks of the R/T trim. Not all three-row crossover shoppers need or want 360 horsepower, though, and a majority of Durangos sold are the more sensible V-6 version. To help spread the Dodge sportiness across more models, the 2017 Durango now offers a V-6–powered GT trim (replacing the previous Limited) with a monochromatic appearance that resembles that of the R/T for several thousand bucks less.
To our eyes, it works. The GT’s body kit and 20-inch wheels nicely accentuate the Durango’s muscular stance. Our test car also had the $595 Brass Monkey package, which paints those wheels an attractive shade of bronze. (We certainly hope the Beastie Boys are getting royalties.)
The performance angle fades a bit when you look at the Durango’s test numbers. To its credit, this 2017 version was a bit quicker than a similar V-6 AWD model we tested three years ago, getting from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and running the quarter-mile in 15.7 seconds at 89 mph, 0.2 and 0.1 second better than before. And yet, a Mazda CX-9 was 0.2 second quicker to 60 mph in our testing, and the Honda Accord was a whopping 1.4 seconds ahead. Don’t go stoplight drag-racing other crossover-driving parents unless you’ve splurged for the Durango V-8, which does zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds.
Skidpad grip of 0.76 g and a 70-to-zero-mph braking distance of 182 feet also lagged behind the Mazda and the Honda, which is no surprise considering that the 5111-pound Durango weighs nearly 800 pounds more than either Japanese-brand SUV.
Taken beyond the numbers, the Durango remains satisfying to drive. While most other three-row crossovers use front-wheel-drive platforms derived from mainstream mid-size sedans, the Durango’s chassis is a rear-driver that was developed, in conjunction with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, alongside the Mercedes-Benz GLE-class SUV going back to the end of the DaimlerChrysler days. That results in a behemoth that’s confident in its responses, from the nicely weighted steering to the way its suspension soaks up bumps with nary a reverberation through the stiff structure. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine also enjoys its job motivating the big Durango, doing so with adequate punch and a pleasing engine note to boot—even if it can’t match the growl of the Hemi.
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