Kuyper: Durango comes in big sizes

A 5.7-liter, 360-horsepower, Hemi V8 engine is mated to a shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission in the three-row, seven-passenger 2018 R/T model of the Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle.
A 5.7-liter, 360-horsepower, Hemi V8 engine is mated to a shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission in the three-row, seven-passenger 2018 R/T model of the Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle.

For a mid-sized SUV, the Dodge Durango is a monster. It looks like, feels like and acts like a full-sized SUV. Although it does not have the weight of a 6,000-pound Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Suburban or GMC Yukon XL, it is close at 5,100 pounds.

Nor can it tow an 8,000- or 9,500-pound trailer like the full-sized competition, but pulling a 7,400-pound trailer is not bad. Properly equipped, the mid-size Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse can hitch up to a 5,000-pound, but not a 7,200-pound, hauler.

What does this say? Well, it says the Durango is a brawny vehicle. These big vehicles naturally are safer on highways and can haul around a lot of people and cargo. The Durango cannot seat eight or nine like several competitors, but it does seat seven adults comfortably in its three rows. The middle row has captain’s chairs with a console between them. The third row bench is outfitted with cupholders and armrests. Leg room is better than expected in that third row, a tribute to the overall 201-inch length of the vehicle. Leg room in front and middle rows will satisfy most people, but leg comfort will draw the line at seven-footers or adults close to that height.

The Durango’s powerplant is a 5.7-liter, 360-horsepower Hemi V-8 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. There are selectable steering modes, four-wheel traction control and an on-demand, two-speed transfer case. On the exterior, wide 265 tires are mounted on 20-inch alloy “gloss granite crystal” wheels. Performance styling includes a raised hood. Two air vents are spaced around the front of the hood. An upper honeycomb grille is matched by a lower one. Fog lamps and headlights are LEDs and so are the daytime running lamps. Bright tips peek out from the two rear exhausts.

Big vehicles cost money and the Durango is no exception with prices starting at $30,000 and surpassing $60,000. In the middle is an R/T all-wheel-drive $46,295 model that was recently tested. Since it was in the higher trim levels, it came with heated front and second row seats. The second row had two USB ports, a 12-volt outlet and separate climate controls for heat and air conditioning. Leather trim prevails.

The 506-watt, eight-speaker sound system comes with an 8.4-inch navigation color touchscreen, and the system includes AM-FM-satellite (one-year subscription) radio, voice command with Bluetooth, auxiliary, smartphone, USB ports and a memory card slot. There are buttons and knobs to control tuning and volume, which is important for fast location of favorite radio stations.

With disc brakes front and rear, the R/T can brake from 60 miles to zero in 125 feet, which is normal for a big vehicle. The antilock braking system monitors the speed of each wheel, allowing each wheel to brake independently for better control. In addition, the brakes are dried in bad weather. Water is removed from brake pads by applying a small amount of pressure to the caliper. This system engages when the windshield wipers are activated and in the LO or HI position.

Climate controls are easy to see, reach and operate.

There are memory settings for two drivers. Settings are for radio presets and for the power front seats, exterior mirrors and tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

A rear-seating area DVD entertainment center with Blu-ray compatible dual screen video is a $1,995 option.

If the R/T is not expensive or strong enough, there is a 6.4-liter, 475-horsepower V-8 SRT Durango model that can tow 8,700 pounds. That towing capability is, by far, the best in the world of midsized SUVs.


Vehicle: 2018 Dodge Durango R/T all-wheel-drive

Type: mid-size, four-door, three-row, seven-passenger, unibody SUV

Price: $46,295

Engine: 5.7-liter, 360-horsepower, double overhead cam V-6

Transmission: eight-speed shiftable automatic

Towing: 7,400 pounds

Payload: 1,280 pounds

Fuel tank: 24.6 gallons

Fuel: regular unleaded

Cargo: 84.5 cubic feet maximum, 47.7 cubic feet behind second row, 17.2 cubic feet behind upright third row

Leg room in inches: 40.3 first row, 38.6 second row, 31.5 third row

Wheelbase, length, width, height in inches: 119.8, 201.2, 75.8, 70.9

Ground clearance, break-over, departure angles: 18.1 inches, 21.5 inches

Brakes: heavy duty discs

Suspension: rear-load leveling, independent, multi-link

Turning circle: 37.1 feet

Weight: 5,381 pounds

Safety: air bags in front, sides in front, driver knee bag, overhead curtains for three rows, antilock braking system, traction and stability controls, tire pressure monitoring system (PSI of each tire outlined in color image on screen), child seat anchors and latches, rear back-up camera, rear park assist and remote start, Uconnect (information, emergency system)

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles, 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain and roadside assistance

Assembly: Detroit


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