The venerable, bold and just plain tough Dodge Durango full-size SUV, with its unique brand of refinement and style, is not going away despite rumors of a pending demise of the Dodge brand.
In fact, for 2014, the Durango has gotten even better and bolder - adding models, features, technology, performance and comfort to make this solid performing seven passenger SUV a top value choice for a new and younger category of buyers who want family value with luxury touches and features in a full-size SUV - without the luxury brand prices.
At the Durango first drive event in Los Angeles recently, Dodge officials were hesitant to refer to the 2014 Durango as being "new" but were insistent that it was more than just a "refresh" from the current model - first introduced in 2011.
With their market demographic trending almost ten years to the younger end of the segment, they are building momentum for the Durango which - for 2014 - is addressing those features that are important to young families on the go while continuing to satisfy the value and performance needs of their older generation loyalists.
Dodge sees the new 2014 Durango as a carefully crafted next generation evolution of what was already a hot selling (sales up 66 percent for September and 49 percent for 2013 year-to-date) SUV with the same bold capability and features important to current Durango customers - then adding technology, performance and comfort features to get a Durango that appeals to that new broader percentage of the segment.
Some of the "new" or enhanced features or the 2014 Durango are:
• A new Limited model with exclusive features
• Segment-first eight-speed automatic transmission with rotary shifter
• Class-exclusive Dodge “racetrack” LED tail lamps with 192 LEDs
• New front fascia with floating signature Dodge crosshair grille
• New projector headlamps with available LED running lights
• New 8.4-inch touchscreens with available class-exclusive Uconnect Access and navigation with 3-D mapping
• New available fully integrated tow hitch with tow capacity of 6,200 pounds V6 / 7,400 pounds V8
• The latest Uconnect Access system with Wi-Fi capability and mobile apps
• Available voice command, Uconnect handsfree calling and texting plus streaming music via Bluetooth
• Class-exclusive standard 7-inch customizable thin-film transistor (TFT) full-color instrument cluster
• Class-exclusive Blu-ray / DVD rear entertainment system with two 9-inch screens in the front seat-backs
• New three-spoke steering wheel with standard paddle shifters
• Available second-row captain’s chairs with a standard pass-through center console to third-row seats
• Available second-row full center console with additional storage – available on all trim levels
• All-new wheel lineup with a choice of seven wheels featuring 18-inch and 20-inch wheels
Based on our first drive of two of the all-wheel-drive (AWD) models of the new Durango in and around Los Angeles for almost eight hours, we agree with Dodge that the Durango is a lot closer to "new" than being just "refreshed".
Our first drive for the morning half of the day was on a route all through the canyon road maze in the hills above Malibu and then a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to the old Hughes Aircraft plant (where the Spruce Goose was built) for lunch.
Our Durango SUV was the (new for 2014) Dodge Durango Limited AWD with All-speed Traction Control System and the Pentastar 3.6L V6 engine mated to the class-exclusive eight-speed automatic transmission running on 20-inch polished aluminum wheels.
This power train delivers 290 horsepower with 260 lb.-ft. of torque and, with the optional trailering package, tows up to 6,200 pounds.
The base price on this Limited AWD was $38,395.
The following options were included on our morning ride Durango including the Dual 9-inch screen Blu-ray Rear DVD Entertainment Center (this system is really cool - kids and parents will love it), Second-row Fold / Tumble Captain's Chairs with Pass-through console (you can walk on this console as it is level with the floor), Power Sunroof, Power Liftgate, Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Warning and Avoidance, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path Detection, Rain Sensitive Windshield Wipers, Power Tilt / Telescope Steering Column and Bi-xenon HID Headlamps with Automatic Beam Control.
Other standard and/or optional features included the class-exclusive 7-inch thin film transistor (TFT) programmable Vehicle Information Center (VIC), Tri-zone Automatic Temperature Control with Infrared Sensors and Rear Seat Outlets, RearSense Park Assist, ParkView Rear Backup Camera , Ready Alert Braking system, Capri Leather seats with Capri Bolsters, Heated Front and Rear Seating, Leather -wrapped Heated Steering Wheel with Audio, Speed, Vehicle Information Center, Phone and Adaptive Speed Controls plus the Uconnect 8.4-inch Touchscreen Audio System with Navigation, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth Hands-free Phone.
Infotainment included the Uconnect 8.4-inch Touchscreen Display Audio with AM/FM/Bluetooth, Streaming Audio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with Travel Link and Traffic
With these options, our morning canyon road test Dodge Durango Limited priced at $44,770 (excluding delivery).
The power, comfort and road ability of this Durango was just this side of incredible as we pushed this Limited as far as safely possible in order to experience its road handling in all of the kinds of conditions that these canyon roads could give us. At no time did this Durango hesitate to stay in control of the road and, frankly, exceeded my expectation from one tight turn to the next, every time.
Coming back to our hotel in the Westlake Hills area above Malibu, I chose to drive a HEMI V8 with Fuel Saver (ECO) technology equipped Durango RT with most of the same equipment and options as the Limited. It also included some of the RT signature features like monochromatic color exterior and red accent stitching on the seating and plus the sport suspension.
The base price on the RT model is $38,995 with the model we drove coming in a bit more than $46,000.
We drove the RT for nearly four hours in and around Los Angeles neighborhoods to get a feel for its "around town" performance and also on the freeways culminating with a rush-hour run up the 405 onto the 101 back to our hotel.
Again, on this different set of road and traffic conditions, the Durango exceeded expectations - powering with finesse through traffic with ease - bold looking and bold capable - driven equally boldly with confidence by this writer.
The new 2014 Dodge Durango will be available soon in dealerships.