You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Similarly, there could be one that says, “Don’t judge a vehicle by its frame.”
Take the Dodge Durango. It sits on a unibody frame, which typically is a designator for the utilitarian category of crossover. Make no mistake, though, the Durango is now, as it has always been, a large sport-utility vehicle. And that’s just fine because the 2017 version has the size and mannerisms to fit into any column.
Former Wheels editors Jimmy Dinsmore and Dave Mikesell each recently gave the Durango a workout to size it up.
DAVE: First of all, the Durango is just a few inches shy of being 17 feet long and more than 6.25 feet wide. Then there is the fact that adults can actually ride in the third-row seat. Interior cargo space can stretch from 17.2 cubic feet to 84.5 cubic feet. Towing capability starts off at 6,200 pounds. Those are a lot of numbers. The eyeball test reveals an imposing grille and upright, sharp-edged exterior. Sleekness in this case would be a weakness. And we haven’t even gotten to the engine yet.
JIMMY: Sleekness is weakness; I like that, Dave. Wish I had thought of that. There’s no weaknesses in the performance of the Durango. Most trims come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 290 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard too. There’s a 5.7-liter V8 engine as an option on two of the top-of-the-line trims and those get 360-hp performance. Our tester was the V6 which was plenty powerful. It got off the line fast and was surprisingly agile for a vehicle of this length and size. Front-wheel drive is standard, but go for the all-wheel drive, which offers better all-around handling.
DAVE: The Durango may be bulky at more than two-and-half tons, but it also has a light touch the way it handles the roadways. Our all-wheel drive tester had 20-inch wheels that gave us a firm grasp of the pavement. There is some body lean, but that is almost to be expected with a vehicle this size. Drivers can still be a little aggressive when going into curves. It is no sprinter off the line, but performs well when increasing speed. The beefy steering wheel felt good in our hands. In summation, it handles better than its size might indicate.
JIMMY: That size is evident inside, with a large cabin. The Durango has 47.7 cubic feet of cargo space with third-row seats folded flat, and that expands to 84.5 cubic feet with all seats folded. With the third row upright, the cargo room is extremely limited and on the disappointing side. The passenger doors swing out wide, so much so that you’ll need to be careful in tight parking spots and even the garage. This wide opening makes for easy access to the back seat and the third-row access is aided by an easy flip/fold rear seat.
DAVE: Durangos come in SXT, GT, R/T and Citadel trims with pricing beginning at $29,995 for a rear-wheel drive SXT. All-wheel drive adds $2,600. I tested the GT with all-wheel drive with a base sticker of $40,095. The big jump in price from the entry-level SXT comes with remote ignition, leather upholstery, heated and powered front seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, heated steering wheel, rear parking sensors, rearview camera, 8.4-inch touchscreen display in place of the standard 5-inch screen, and nice complement of electronic audio equipment, among other items. The R/T and Citadels both start at more than $41K. Overall, there is a lot crammed into a large vehicle.
JIMMY: I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that my tester, Dave, was the GT trim, which came with a special package called Brass Monkey. That trim, which includes a black grille, and black headlamps and 20-inch wheels, would make Mike D of the Beastie Boys say Yeeaahh!. With such a fun trim name, the Durango is definitely a different kind of SUV. Sadly, it’s sort of a dying breed in today’s automotive world. Despite its unibody frame, it’s big, bulky and an SUV through and through. That’s a good thing, in our opinion.