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2014 Dodge Durango Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2014 Dodge Durango Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

Road & Travel Magazine's Top Picks

Dodge Durango

Range Rover Sport

Ford Expedition

Toyota 4-Runner

Big chunky rocks, not water, fill the dry bed of a creek cut through the cedar-studded hills of Texas as a brawny 2014 edition of Durango -- the big-rig sport utility vehicle from Dodge packing massive firepower and applying traction to all four wheels -- muscles its way in bump-bump-bump increments across so many stones.

The SUV doesn't waver from our mission to ford the dry wash, although its front wheels, floating independently, articulate way-up and way-down to crawl over the rocks.

Yet from a driver's vantage in Durango's cushy cabin with a heated steering wheel and leather hides covering the three tiers of seats, we never notice the wild wheel gyrations because this formidable wagon feels surprisingly steady despite the romp over rough terrain.

That smooth but rock-solid ride quality begins with a monocoque platform that unites chassis and body in a cohesive unit that's extremely rigid when set in motion.

A generous wheelbase length of 119.8 inches and a wide wheel track (63.9 inches front and 64.1 inches rear) set up a long and broad foundation for stability when turning. And Durango carries a fully independent suspension system -- short/long control arms in front and a multi-link design in back -- that produces a premium ride quality whether traveling on pavement or dirt.

Dodge adds a sheetmetal face-lift to the 2014 Durango and a wagon-load of high-tech electronic controls plus a new ZF 8-speed electronic automatic transmission. And there are five new trims with base SXT, monochromatic Rallye, well-outfitted Limited, sport-tuned R/T and deluxe Citadel, each available with rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive traction.

Durango SXT and Limited editions roll on 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels capped by 265/60R18 Michelin Latitude all-season black sidewall tires.

Durango Rallye, Citadel and R/T (the initials signify "Road and Track" in recognition of Dodge's muscle car heritage) stock 20-inch aluminum wheels and 265/50R20 Goodyear Fortera HL all-season black sidewall tires.

For powertrains, Durango 2014 packs a fuel-thrifty yet forceful V6 or a powerful HEMI V8.

Standard engine for all trims save R/T is a dual-cam 3.6-liter aluminum V6 that generates 290 hp at 6400 rpm with 260 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. Apply the new ZF 8-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters and EPA-estimated fuel economy numbers for Durango's V6 amount to 18/25 mpg (city/highway) with 2WD and 17/24 mpg with 4WD.

Standard hunker engine for R/T and optional for Limited and Citadel is a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with VVT (variable valve timing) and FST (fuel saver technology) controls to conserve fuel by clipping cylinders when boosted power is not needed.

The V8 hits 360 hp at 5150 rpm with 390 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm, and fuel scores run to 14/23 mpg (city/highway) in 2WD and 14/22 mpg for 4WD.

RWD (rear wheel drive) traction is the standard on all Durango trims but optional AWD (all-wheel-drive) traction is offered. For the V6, the MP3010 transfer case creates a single-speed full-time AWD system with torque split 50/50 front/rear. For the V8, the MP3022 transfer case makes a 2-speed active on-demand AWD system with settings of AWD low locking, neutral and full-time active AWD with variable torque split front/rear.

Durango's revised sheetmetal styling reveals strong muscular definition and taut but curvy lines which seem to negate the boxy shape of a SUV. Wheel openings use an arched design with wheels pinned at corners of the platform and front and rear overhangs crimped to make transitions easy on steep slopes. Note the stair-step hood underlined by a slimmer cross-hair grille and fat-lip lower fascia with new projector-beam headlamps and LED running lamps.

In back, the liftgate window tips forward while the lower section falls vertically for a squared rump where racetrack taillamps in a dazzling ring of 192 LEDs streak between rear corners.

Durango's passenger compartment amounts to a comfortable space fitted with stylish appointments.

The layout shows a pair of buckets up front and a second-row bench for three or optional pair of captain's chairs. A third-row bench splits 50-50 with seatbacks that fold down to expand the rear cargo bay. The back of the front passenger bucket folds forward to form a flat horizontal surface, and backs of the second-row bench, divided 60/40 into separate sections, also fold flat.

New safety and security features in optional packages include ParkSense rear park assist, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control and Blind-spot Monitoring/Rear Cross Path detection. Further, Dodge offers new technology features such as the Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen radio and Uconnect Access via Mobile.

Dodge establishes MSRP numbers for the 2014 Durango as low as $29,795 for SXT trim with 2WD traction.

For more information on Dodge vehicles, click here.