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The 2014 Dodge Durango: Stayin’ classy

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Television car commercials are usually forgettable. Time to hit the fridge or the bathroom…anyone seen the remote? While there have been some great examples of television advertising in the past decades, scenes of Native Americans crying, a pig gleefully screaming, and “Your man could smell like me”, there are very few advertisements for that greatest of American machines, the automobile, on the list. They usually involve the car shown in the best light possible accomplishing things that for the rest of us would pile up traffic tickets faster than Taylor Swift’s boyfriends. All on some beautiful inaccessible road (Closed course with professional drivers, don’t attempt).

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In fact some recent TV ads for cars have been downright dumb. Fiat has a campaign featuring pretty girls shedding their Puritan clothing in advance of an American Revolution type invasion from the Italians. Really? Not only is it dumb, it is very historically inaccurate; had the Italians actually invaded instead of the British, the Revolutionary War would have actually lasted about a week and ended with both armies sharing pasta and red wine, laughing uproariously and wondering where the first Italian restaurant would be put at in Manhattan.

Dodge has tried a different approach. Sure they are in large part owned by Fiat and they did air ads featuring George Washington charging at the British in a Challenger during the most recent World Cup which were, well dumb; but they have tried to stray from the traditional “Closed course with professional drivers, don’t attempt” method. Earlier this year, Paramount Pictures and Dodge came up with a brilliant ad campaign featuring Will Ferrell in his role as 1970’s news anchor Ron Burgundy. The purpose in part of course is to advertise a new movie, but the ads themselves focus on Dodge vehicles primarily the 2014 Durango. The unscripted spots feature Ferrell in Burgundy character extolling the virtues of Durango in several ways, including making horses feel dumb, running dancers from the set and filling the glove box with 70 packs of gum.

The ads were a large part of why when we were recently offered a week with the 2014 Durango we eagerly accepted. Introduced in March and now hitting dealer lots, the 2014 Durango (which was introduced in 1998 and got a complete refresh in 2011) gets some revised styling front and back, a new 8-speed transmission, slightly better fuel economy, new LED exterior lighting, two new interior touchscreens, a new programmable instrument cluster, and an available high-definition dual-screen Blu-ray entertainment system. It’s available in five trim levels: SXT, Rallye, the new for 2014 Limited, R/T and Citadel.

The standard flex-fuel 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine delivers 290 horsepower (295 horsepower on the Rallye) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, and can tow up to a 6,200 pounds. Opt for the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine and you get 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque with a tow rating of 7,400 pounds.

Usually the vehicles given to those of us who test them are at or near the top of the line; the most features, the biggest engine. This was not the case with our tester; we got the Rallye with the 3.6 liter flex fuel V6 and an upgrade to 20-inch wheels from the 18 inch wheels standard on the base model SXT along with rear wheel drive. In our model there was no dual-screen Blu-ray entertainment system, no blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, remote start, or rear view camera for backup parking. We did have the 8.4 inch screen Uconnect system, but not much else. As it turned out that was just fine.

We have already established that the days of the old Dodge, think K-cars, has long since vanished. What Dodge delivers today are well built quality vehicles that are affordable and fun to drive. And the 2014 continues that trend nicely. The exterior of the Rallye has what Dodge calls a “sinister monochromatic appearance on top of 20-inch Hyper Black wheels.” That description may be a bit much; we simply called it a “beast”.

Inside the cabin seems roomy and comfortable; the new programmable instrument cluster is well laid out and easy to read. Shifting is done either through, new for this year, paddle shifters or a knob on the center console; something unlike anything seen elsewhere. The 8.4 inch screen Uconnect system is one of the best in the industry and features Wi-Fi capability and mobile apps along with voice command, handsfree calling, handsfree texting, streaming music via Bluetooth and a remote USB port.

On the road the 3.6 liter V6 delivers performance that can best be described as surprising. Wishes for a HEMI soon vanished as the rear wheel drive V6 powered the “beast” along suburban roads, city streets and highways confidently. Blind spots seemed no issue at all as the sight of the “beast” let others know that when the turn signal comes on we mean it. Although tempted to use the “put on the turn signal and count to three without looking” then moving over method, we did actually glance rearward before changing lanes.

Another reason to like the V6 is the fuel mileage. As it turned out, the V6 with its 18 city and 25 highway mpg or emm..pah..gahs, mup-ah-gahs? Imp-a-gahs, as Ron Burgundy would say, is a great choice if you don’t have to haul the family yacht to the shore. In order to help the fuel economy new for 2014 is the Eco Mode that optimizes the transmission’s shift schedule and manages interactive deceleration fuel shut-off (IDFSO), which cuts fuel delivery when the Durango is coasting to reduce fuel consumption.

On the road the cabin is quiet and the electro-hydraulic power steering gives good feedback. The unibody structure which reduces flex and weight when compared with body-on-frame designs along with short/long arm front suspension and isolated multi-link rear suspension, the four-wheel independent suspension, combined with the Durango’s nearly 50/50 weight distribution gives a solid feel on the road and in corners. Body roll is noticeable but compared with other SUV’s surprisingly small.

Like its cousin the Jeep Grand Cherokee , Dodge has hit a home run with the 2014 Durango. With great styling, more than able power, good interior room and confident performance on the road for someone in the market for an SUV that can occasionally tow but still wants a good daily driver with decent fuel mileage, the Durango is worth a look. Oh and the glovebox is indeed made from “beautiful injection-molded thermoplastic olefin” although we were never able to confirm that 70 packs of gum will indeed fit.

The 2014 Dodge Durango (Rallye RWD)

MSRP: $34,480 (Range for all levels $29-43,000)
Engine (as tested) 3.6 liter V6 290 hp @ 6400 rpm, 260 ft-lbs. @ 4800 rpm torque
Transmission: 8-Speed Shiftable Automatic
MPG: 18 City, 25 Highway
MPG (as tested) 22 (Mixed conditions)

Interior Dimensions
Passenger Capacity 7
Front Head Room 39.9 in
Front Leg Room 40.3 in
Front Shoulder Room 58.5 in
Front Hip Room 57 in
Second Head Room 39.8 in
Second Leg Room 38.6 in
Second Shoulder Room 58.3 in
Second Hip Room 56 in
Third Head Room 37.8 in
Third Leg Room 31.5 in
Third Shoulder Room 50.4 in
Third Hip Room 42.8 in
Exterior Dimensions
Wheelbase 119.8 in
Length, Overall w/o rear bumper N/A in
Length, Overall 201.2 in
Width, Max w/o mirrors 75.8 in
Height, Overall 70.9 in
Track Width, Front 63.9 in
Track Width, Rear 64.1 in
Overhang, Front N/A in
Overhang, Rear w/o bumper N/A in
Front Bumper to Back of Cab N/A in
Cab to Axle N/A in
Cab to End of Frame N/A in
Ground to Top of Load Floor N/A in
Ground to Top of Frame N/A in
Frame Width, Rear N/A in
Ground Clearance, Front N/A in
Ground Clearance, Rear N/A in
Min Ground Clearance 8.2 in
Warranty
BASIC 3 yr./ 36000 mi.
DRIVETRAIN 5 yr./ 100000 mi.
ROADSIDE 5 yr./ 100000 mi.
RUST 5 yr./ 100000 mi

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