Dodge’s Durango is an outlier of sorts. It features function and style while many of the better selling large SUVs maintain a staid look, favoring square exteriors and overly manly interiors with oversized gauges, knobs and air vents.
Durango though likes to spiff itself up, like it’s saying it wants to be formal, but likes to party too.
This week’s case in point, the large Durango GT Blacktop AWD. While not as racy, or gas thirsty as the R/T version I tested a couple years back, this one still has plenty of muscle, while maintaining a sporty look, at least as sporty as SUVs go.
Under the hood is a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and boasting 293 horsepower. Torque is rated at 260 lb.-ft. The engine is strong and the Durango, while not nimble, feels substantial and quick enough to outrun traffic as you pull onto the freeway. I had this on a roundtrip to Toledo and it cruised the toll roads with ease and was quick to pull out and pass slow semis and dawdlers.
Dodge uses an 8-speed automatic transmission with the V6 and the tranny shifts smoothly and efficiently. While not in the league with hybrids, the Durango managed 22.0 mpg on the trip, including some city driving along with long stretches of highway. The Dodge drinks regular and the EPA rates it at 18 mpg city and 25 highway. I had a fairly heavy load of luggage in the back and one passenger.
Ride is quite comfortable, both in town and on the highway. Steering is a bit heavy, but easy to control. Press the Sport button on the dash and the Durango has a little more oomph in acceleration and the steering firms up a lot. I was happy with the normal setting.
This model also came with all-wheel-drive, a benefit in northern climes like ours. I drove this through a heavy thunderstorm and felt the traction was flawless. I only needed to slow because of the volume of rain and lack of visibility, not the SUV’s footing.
Now, as to the style Durango exhibits. First, there’s the full tail taillight. You’ve seen this on Charger and Durango now, but it’s impressive and when you see it at night from behind, you know that vehicle up ahead is a Dodge.
Yet it’s inside the cabin that I feel Durango stands out most.
This dark gray (Granite Metallic) GT model featured black leather seats that were softer to the touch than most cars or trucks offer these days. It’s quiet in here too. Some utes still deliver too much road and tire noise, but not Durango.
There also are chrome surrounds on virtually all gauges, knobs, vents and the console. I love the look, but with the standard sunroof overhead, be aware that on sunny days there can be a bit of glare off some of that chrome.
I like the seats’ shape too, with good back support and a mildly contoured seat bottom that makes it easy to slide into or out of when mounting this steed. Both front and second row seats also are heated, as is the steering wheel, and there are captain’s chairs in that second row with arms that fold up or down to increase comfort.
Durango also includes a third row of seats that seat two and fold flat if you need storage vs. kid room. The seats, including the middle row, are simple to fold and the second row seats tumble forward for more storage and easy access to the third row. The fancy fold and tumble captain chairs and a third-row mini-console floor mat add $995 to the price tag though.
This model certainly went heavy on the options. It also added a power hatch, part of a $2,395 preferred package that includes a fancy Beats premium sound system with 506-watt amp and HD radio. That was easy to adjust on the fairly large touchscreen that also included knobs for adjusting and a navigation system. Dodge’s Uconnect infotainment system is included in the package too, as is Sirius XM live traffic updates, a sunroof and black roof rails and crossbars.
That black look is accented here with the Blacktop package (nice name!) that includes a black gloss grille and black gloss 20-inch wheels. It also boosts the side mirror size (they’re black too) and includes turn signals in the mirrors. This package is only $595.
Good news though, a well laid out dash is standard and features easy to see and read gauges, that simple touchscreen and knobs and buttons that are big enough to find and use while driving, but not garishly large.
The test truck also upgraded its safety equipment with a $1,195 safety and security package that added rain-sensing wipers (much needed in that thunderstorm), a blind-spot warning system with cross path detection, automatic high-beam and HID headlights, plus a power tilt/telescope steering wheel. Naturally the wheel featured the usual trip computer, radio and other buttons on its hub. A rearview camera is standard.
One more big-time option here was the rear-seat entertainment package that includes a DVD system with screens that flip up from the back of the front seats. This is a Blu-Ray unit and the package costs $1,995, however, you also get 8-way power seats as part of it, plus a two-setting memory function for the driver’s seat.
Other pluses include a sun shade on the sunroof, HomeLink buttons overhead and visors that flip and slide.
Complaints? Not much other than those chrome surrounds and the thick A-pillars that makes some side views tough, especially in parking lots.
None of this is cheap, mind you. But most SUVs of this size hit $50 grand when well equipped. The Durango slipped in just below that at $49,360, but starting at $40,095, plus a $1,095 delivery fee. The rest came from all those options.
A base Durango is the SXT that starts at $31,090 including delivery for a front-drive model and $33,690 for an AWD SXT. The R/T I tested a couple years back is now $47,390 for an AWD model and boasts a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 360 horsepower. The top-level SRT is $64,090 with AWD and a monster 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that creates a whopping 475 horsepower. In all, there are 7 Durango models, all with two- or four-wheel drive.
So the choices are many and just how much style you want is dependent on the trim level and various packages you choose.
FAST STATS: 2017 Dodge Durango GT Blacktop AWD
Hits: Large, comfy SUV with third row seating and AWD. Quiet and stylish interior with good dash layout and function, blind-spot warning system, rear-view camera, sunroof, heated front and second row seats and steering wheel. Power hatch and DVD system with screens in back.
Engine: 3.6-liter VVT V6, 293 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,985 lbs.
Wheelbase: 119.8 in.
Length: 201.2 in.
Cargo: 84.5 cu. ft.
MPG: 18/25 (EPA)
MPG: 22.0 (tested)
Base Price: $40,095
Preferred package 23E (Beats premium audio system, 506-watt amp, black roof rails, GPS nav, HD radio, integrated roof rail crossbars, nav and power liftgate group, power liftgate, sunroof, Sirius XM Traffic/Travel Link and Uconnect), $2,395
Blacktop package (gloss black grille, auto-dimming exterior mirror, exterior mirrors w/turn signals, heating element and memory, 6×9-in. power multi-function mirror w/manual fold away, 20-in. gloss black aluminum wheels), $595
Rear DVD entertainment center (Blu-Ray dual screen video, power 8-way driver’s seat w/memory and 8-way passenger seat, rear seat video system), $1,995
Trailer Tow Group IV (7- and 4-pin wiring harness, Class IV hitch, full-size spare tire, heavy-duty engine cooling, rear load leveling suspension), $995
Safety/Security/Convenience package (automatic high-beam headlights and leveling, blind spot and cross path detection, cargo net and cover, HID headlights, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers), $1,195
Second-row fold/tumble captain chairs and third-row mini-console floor mat, $995
Test vehicle: $49,360
Sources: Dodge, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage