2018 Durango: The Dodge Charger of the SUV segment

BY DAN LYONS Motor Matters
Farm Forum

Durango goes five wide for 2018, adding a new, top-rung SRT performance SUV to go along with its four other trims: SXT, GT, Citadel, and R/T.

My test drive was in a Durango GT with a base price of $40,095. Sitting midway between SXT and Citadel, it’s the volume model for the veteran Durango sport utility family.

Large SUVs aren’t typically called upon for heavy-trail driving, but light off-roading is easily within Durango’s comfort zone, as are wintry road conditions.

Vehicles of Durango’s size and heft aren’t generally sporty handlers. That’s true of the GT, though it takes corners confidently and feels stable in all conditions. Though I’ve not yet tested it, the exception to the foregoing figures to be the SRT trim level. With substantial suspension tuning to go along with its power boost, the new top Durango figures to be light on its feet for its size

All trim levels (save the lowest and the highest) have standard, three-row, seven-passenger seating, with the option of trading the second-row bench for a pair of captain’s chairs.

The base SXT seats five, with an available third row. The top-of-the-line SRT seats six, with standard captain’s chairs in the middle. Seat choice aside, adults fit comfortably in Durango’s second and third rows, though ingress and egress from the furthest back row is easier for the young and limber.

Cargo capacity ranges from 17 to 84 cubic feet, and every seat except the driver’s can be folded forward to accommodate long items. An under-floor bin offers additional hidden stowage. Four-by-four Durangos ride rather tall in the saddle, which makes for a moderately high lift-over height for loading in back. Running boards are available optionally, for those looking to ease entry/exit.

Like all large SUVs, Durango’s rear and three-quarter rear visibility have some blind spots. Folding the rear seats/headrests when not in use helps, but practically speaking, buyers should consider the blind spot monitoring and cross path detection a mandatory option. It’s part of the Safety/Security and Convenience Group, which also includes automatic high beams and headlight leveling, rain sensitive windshield wipers, cargo cover and net, HID headlamps, and a power tilt/telescoping steering column.

A 7-inch touchscreen radio system with backup camera is standard on all Durango models. The upgrade is an 8.4-inch interface, which, as of this year, is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Some of the switchgear for HVAC and sound system functions are split between a deck of conventional controls and the touchscreen, which slows access time slightly. That said, the 8.4-inch display gets good marks for user friendliness and usability — including the available navigation system. Other new features in the cabin this year include a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, and a new, electronic t-shifter. GT-specific additions for 2018 include a power liftgate and Capri leather and suede bucket seats (all-leather optional).

The addition of the SRT brings the number of engine choices in Durango to three. Powered by a 392-cubic-inch, 475-horsepower Hemi V-8, SRT puts its muscle where its mouth is. The big Durango SRT claims to be not only the fastest three-row SUV in the market (dashing 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds), but also to have the best in its class in towing capacity (8,600 pounds).

Standard on R/T and optional elsewhere is the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which generates 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. All other models get a 3.6-liter V-6, rated at 290 horsepower (295 on Citadel and models with the Blacktop package) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque.

Maximum towing capacity for six-cylinder Durangos is 6,200 pounds, while eight-cylinder models (aside from SRT) can be equipped to tow up to 7,200 pounds (AWD) and 7,400 pounds (RWD). The EPA estimates fuel economy for V-6 models are 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/21 mpg combined (RWD) or 18/25/21 (AWD). The 5.7L Hemi-powered Durangos are predicted to return 14/22/17 (RWD & AWD) and SRT Durangos are rated at 13/19/15. All engines are paired with one of two eight-speed automatic transmissions.

All wheel drive is standard equipment on SRT, and available on all other trim levels. Each engine has its own AWD system: SRT has an on-demand Quadra-Trac Active setup. The V-6 system has a full-time, 50/50 front/rear torque split, while the 5.7L Hemi has a two-speed active on-demand system, with variable torque split.

Durango continues to serve the large SUV market with a traditional skill set: rugged build, three-row seating, and power to tow. The addition of the robust, SRT package adds one more line to its resume: Muscle Truck.

The Dodge Durango’s combination of utility, advanced technology, class-leading towing and driving range, confident driving dynamics and aggressive styling make it the “Dodge Charger” of the SUV segment. For 2018, Dodge builds on Durango’s proven performance, utility and comfort with the new SRT model, appearance packages and an available soft-touch hand-wrapped instrument panel. Motor Matters photo