First Drive: 2014 Dodge Durango

If you want to tow with an SUV, your choices are limited: Either a crossover that can only tow the lightest of bikes or a full-size SUV that requires a harbor pilot to park and an oil tanker to fuel it. The Dodge Durango is an excellent compromise: Big and brawny enough to haul bikes and gear, small and agile enough to be useful as a daily driver.

What's New?

The Durango gets a facelift for 2014, including some slight changes to the front fascia and the nifty "racetrack" loop taillight from the Charger and Dart, plus a handful of interior improvements. The V6 and V8 engines remain the same, but the Durango gets a new 8-speed automatic transmission, designed to improve acceleration and fuel economy.

Dodge Durango

2014 Dodge Durango

Towing and Hauling

Towing is one of the Durango's strong suits. V6-powered Durangos can tow 6,200 lbs while V8s can tow up to 7,400 lbs, and a 119.8" wheelbase allows the Durango to comfortably pull trailers up to 22' or so. Those are pretty serious numbers - while many SUVs are limited to flat-bedding a few bikes or ATVs, the Durango can pull a decent-sized travel trailer, and we even found a couple of small, light-weight toy haulers that fit the Durango's towing specs. During our test drive, we had a chance to tow a single-axle Airstream with a V6-powered Durango, and while it wasn't quick - an issue that can be solved by opting for the HEMI V8 engine - it did feel stable and secure.

The Durango is a proper seven-seater, with room (albeit marginal) for two adults in the third row. With the rearmost seats folded down, the Durango offers 47.7 cu.-ft. of space, plenty of space for riding gear - and without the need to leave it out in the open as you would with a pickup truck.

Dodge Durango Instrument Panel

2014 Dodge Durango Instrument Panel

Engine and Drivetrain

The Durango's standard engine is Chrysler's Pentastar V6, a 3.6 liter unit that delivers 290 horsepower (295 in the Rallye model) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Optional is the 5.7 liter HEMI V8, rated at 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. For 2014, both come paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission, which boosts both acceleration and fuel economy compared to last year's 6-speed automatic. Both engines can be had with either rear- or full-time all-wheel-drive, though only V8-powered Durangos offer a locking low-range transfer case for serious off-road duty.

EPA fuel economy estimates for the V6 engine are impressive: 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway with rear-wheel-drive and 17/24 for all-wheel-drive. The V8's figures are more in line with our expectations: 14/23 with RWD and 14/22 with AWD.

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