Car Review: 2014 Dodge Durango

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I don’t think Ron Burgundy did the 2014 Dodge Durango any favors.

2014 Dodge Durango
2014 Dodge Durango

By now you have probably seen the commercials (like this one) starring Will Farrell as the egotistical and very funny news anchor. The commercials are hilarious.

That’s the problem. The Durango is a great SUV and it was definitely playing second fiddle to the anchorman.

While I’m not sure I’d want to spend much time with Ron Burgundy, a week with Chrysler’s mid-sized SUV was very pleasant.  I’m a big fan of the Durango’s corporate cousin, the Jeep Grand Cherokee (they share the same running gear, engines, and chassis parts). As a result, it’s probably no surprise that I came away liking the Durango as well.

2014 Dodge Durango Looks Great
2014 Dodge Durango Looks Great

Let’s start with the outside. The Durango may be the best looking SUV out there. It has an aggressive look that is stylishly clean without gimmicks. This is the third generation of the Durango. I wasn’t really a fan of the earlier versions. This body style came out in 2011 and was slightly tweaked for 2014. Whether you get the base SXT or the sportier R/T, its looks need no excuses. I especially like the way the taillights stretch across the back-end. While it may share chassis parts with the Grand Cherokee, the Durango’s wheelbase is five inches longer.

You have your choice of two engines, but don’t assume you need to automatically bump up to the big one. The standard engine is a 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 that delivers 290 horsepower. It doesn’t leave you begging for more. It will even tow 6,200 lbs, which Chrysler brags is best in class. If you need to tow something bigger, you can opt for the 5.7 liter, 360 horsepower HEMI V8 engine that can drag around 7,400 lbs. Honestly, unless you need the extra towing capacity, the V6 will do the job. Mileage is right where it belongs, 18 mpg city with 25 mpg on the highway with the V6. Bump up to the V8 and that drops to 14 city/23 highway. I averaged about 20 MPG during my week with the standard engine.

2014 Dodge Durango Rotary Shift Knob
2014 Dodge Durango Rotary Shift Knob

The engine is mated to a new 8-speed transmission that uses the power range very smoothly. The most interesting thing from a driver’s perspective is that you don’t have a traditional shifter. For decades we’ve been trained to grab the stalk on the tree, or the stick coming up from the center console, and physically shove it into drive or reverse. The Durango uses an electronic rotary shift knob. You simply twist it to the right and it moves into drive. There’s no mechanical linkage, just an electronic signal. Get used to it. As more transmissions become fly-by-wire, more manufacturers are going to re-think the way we engage the transmission.

2014 Dodge Durango Interior
2014 Dodge Durango Interior

My test car was the STX model. (I love the fact that Chrysler is willing to use base models for testing, rather than try to wow me with the top of the line.) The inside was comfortable and nicely designed, but it wasn’t trying to pretend to be a luxury car (although the R/T model has cool looking black leather with red stitching). The 2014 model has a new instrument panel and an updated dash. I really like Chrysler’s Uconnect system. In fact, I think it’s the best electronic package in the car world right now. It even has a navigation system that is as good as my phone (not many car companies can claim that).  My test car was a six seater with two captain’s chairs in the middle row, and a third row that actually works (thanks to the extra five inches in the wheelbase). You can also get a traditional second row to seat seven. Flip all the seats down and you get a whopping 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space. Keep all three rows of seats up and it’s a reasonable 36.3 cubic feet.

2014 Dodge Durango Instruments
2014 Dodge Durango Programmable Instruments

The instrument display has a 7-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT)  gauge display. You get to decide what you want to see displayed. While more and more manufacturers are doing this, Chrysler’s version works especially well.

There are four trim levels. The base model is the SXT (which starts at just under $30,000), followed by the SXT Plus, Limited R/T and Citadel. The base price for the top of the line Citadel is $40,995.

2014 Dodge Durango
2014 Dodge Durango

While it’s always nice to hang out with a movie star, sometimes it’s important to realize the real star of the show is the quiet one in the back. And the 2014 Dodge Durango is a star on its own.

And if you can’t get enough of the Durango (and that Burgundy guy), here’s a link to the Dodge YouTube channel collection.

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