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Published: 06/02/2014 - by Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor
For 2014, the Dodge Durango received a slight restyling and a new eight-speed transmission, both of which make it an even more competitive midsize SUV. Its interior is also noteworthy for its refinement and usability, but cargo capacity and ride quality are still lacking relative to the competition.
What Is It?
The 2014 Dodge Durango is a midsize crossover SUV with seating for up to seven passengers. Underneath, the Durango shares much of its powertrain and chassis components with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Rear-drive V6-powered Durangos are rated to tow 6,200 pounds. V8-powered models top out at 7,400 pounds. Both ratings make the Durango one of the more capable SUVs when it comes to towing.
The base Durango SXT trim with a 3.6-liter V6 engine and rear-wheel drive starts at $30,990 and climbs to $53,200 for a fully optioned Citadel trim model with a 5.7-liter V8 and all-wheel drive.
Our test vehicle, a Dodge Durango in Limited trim, came with the optional Navigation and Power Liftgate and Safety/Security and Convenience packages, as well as the second-row fold-and-tumble captain's chairs. This brought the price tally to a midrange $39,930.
How Does It Drive?
For the most part, the 2014 Dodge Durango provides a pleasant driving experience during daily driving. Smaller road imperfections are absorbed well, but larger bumps cause the occasional bounce from side to side in the middle of turns. Rougher stretches of pavement tend to induce an unsettling shimmy from the rear wheels that we're more accustomed to feeling in unloaded pickup trucks. Other SUVs do a better job of smoothing these surfaces over.
On a curving road, the Durango's soft suspension results in an abundance of body roll. Compounding matters is a lack of steering feel and effort. These all reduce cornering confidence, even though the vehicle maintains its intended path. That said, few SUVs of its size behave well in these conditions.
During more typical use, the Durango is easy to maneuver thanks in part to the aforementioned low steering effort. In many situations it feels like a much smaller crossover. At highway speeds, road noise is ever-present, but never much louder than a normal conversation. Wind noise is minimal, so overall it's a quiet environment at speed.
For 2014 an eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the outdated five-speed automatic. The additional gears contribute to quicker acceleration and a slight bump in fuel economy. Steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles provide manual control, and gearchanges are executed quickly and smoothly in both automatic and manual modes.
The Durango's standard 3.6-liter V6 engine should be more than adequate for most drivers. Accelerating to highway speeds is effortless, as is passing slower traffic. With 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Dodge Durango reached 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which is 1.2 seconds quicker than with the outgoing five-speed automatic. This is an average performance among midsize SUVs.
In Edmunds' braking tests, the Durango required 124 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph, which is longer than some of its chief rivals, but still acceptable for the class. After repeated braking runs, the pedal did begin to soften quite a bit, but distances were consistent. With full brake pressure applied, the Durango remained composed and controllable.
What's the Interior Like?
Inside, passengers are treated to a thoroughly modern cabin featuring tasteful design and materials that we're more accustomed to seeing on premium vehicles. A virtual gauge in front of the driver, a knob-type gear selector and a large, centrally mounted touchscreen all contribute to the upscale feel. Our complaints are few and include the tendency for some of the bright chrome trim elements to cause some annoying reflections and glare for those in the front seats.
One of the more praise-worthy interior features is the UConnect infotainment interface that is standard on the Durango Limited trim. The large 8.4-inch touchscreen displays clear graphics and responds quickly to commands. The layout of on-screen buttons can be a little cluttered, but users will get used to them in short time. Compared to systems found in competing SUVs, UConnect is our favorite.
Space and comfort are plentiful in the front and middle rows of seats. With the optional second-row captain's chairs, taller passengers are comfortably accommodated. These seats fold and tumble forward to allow access to the third row, but this route was only marginally easier than squeezing between the upright seats.
The Durango's third-row seat cushions are mounted low to the floor, making them more suitable for smaller passengers or adults in a pinch, which is typical among three-row SUVs. Seats in the first two rows are roomy and cushioned adequately for hours of comfortable road tripping.
When it comes to hauling cargo, the Durango comes up short against the class leaders, but should still satisfy the needs of most owners. Up to 17.2 cubic feet of space is available behind the third-row seats, which is about average for the class, as is the 47.7 cubic feet behind the second row. With both rows folded flat, capacity maxes out at 84.5 cubic feet, which pales in comparison to the Chevrolet Traverse's 116.3-cubic-foot and the Mazda CX-9's 100.7-cubic-foot capacities.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
All 2014 Dodge Durango models include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, trailer sway control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags that extend all the way to the third row.
Optional on lower trims but standard on the Limited trim and higher are rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. A blind-spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic detection are optional on the Limited and higher trims, while the top two Citadel and R/T trims are eligible for adaptive cruise control with frontal collision warning and mitigation.
In government crash tests, the Durango received an overall safety rating of four out of five stars, while the Insurance Institute for Highway awarded it the highest score of "Good" and named it as one of its Top Safety Picks.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The EPA estimates the 2014 Dodge Durango's fuel economy at 20 mpg in combined driving (18 city/25 highway) for V6-powered rear-drive models. Opting for all-wheel drive drops these figures by 1 mpg across the board. With the 5.7-liter V8, estimates drop to 17 mpg in combined driving for rear-drive and 16 mpg for all-wheel drive.
Compared to other V6-powered two-wheel-drive SUVs, the Durango's EPA estimates are competitive. On our highway-heavy evaluation loop we achieved 22 mpg, which is 1 mpg less than the top-rated Toyota Highlander. Overall observed fuel economy during our time with the Durango was 15.8 mpg: a tie with the Chevy Traverse, which receives an "A" rating from Edmunds.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Chevrolet Traverse: The Traverse also garnered an Edmunds "A" rating thanks to its massive cargo capacity, passenger space and overall value. Shoppers should be aware of its finicky infotainment interface, though.
Mazda CX-9: The Mazda CX-9 is the driver's choice for its more engaging performance, making it the only large SUV that can be considered fun to drive. Combined with its high marks for comfort and cargo capacity, it too, earned an "A" rating.
Toyota Highlander: A similarly equipped Highlander costs about the same as the Durango and delivers similar fuel economy. The Toyota earned an Edmunds "A" rating thanks in part to its better driving dynamics and overall comfort. It does have a bit less cargo capacity, however.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
The 2014 Dodge Durango receives solid marks for its high-quality, functional interior, and many buyers will be attracted to its bold exterior styling. Despite producing fuel economy below its EPA rating, our testing shows it to be competitive with other SUVs in the segment. Plus, the Durango is more capable of light towing than many SUVs in the segment.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
For those who put an emphasis on the "U" in SUV, the Durango's small cargo capacity is a serious consideration. The Dodge also gets points deducted for its ride quality and lack of driver engagement.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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