The Durango impressed us on a number of levels. First was the interior: Material quality and comfort is significantly higher than what we've seen on Dodge products these past few years. We drove both an entry-level Durango SXT and a top-of-the-line Durango Citadel, and while we loved the toys in the Citadel - including the UConnect touch-screen stereo/navigation system and an HD-capable rear-seat entertainment system - the SXT impressed us with its alloy wheels and upscale trim. It certainly didn't feel like a base-model SUV.
We also loved the driving experience. Thanks to its unit-body construction, the Durango is lighter than your typical full-size SUV, weighing in at between 4,700 and 5,400 lbs depending on engine and equipment. The Pentastar V6 delivers stronger acceleration than we expected from such a small engine, and the driving dynamics were a pleasant surprise: Big as it is, the Durango hustles through the curves quietly and confidently, more like a car than an SUV. The Durango shares its basic platform with the Mercedes-Benz GL (a holdover from the days when Dodge's parent company Chrysler was owned by Mercedes' parent company Daimler), and it shows: The ride is quiet and comfortable and the Durango is much easier to maneuver and park than full-size SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition.
Car-like driving dynamics
Truck-like towing abilities
High-quality interior and trim
Third-row seat is smaller than other full-size SUVs
V8 engine is thirsty
Dodge has a less-than-stellar reputation for quality
Durango pricing starts at $30,790 for the SXT model, which comes with handsome alloy wheels, fog lights, and enough chrome trim to belie its (relatively) inexpensive price. From there, the model lineup diverges: You can add equipment with the $32,490 SXT Plus and $36,990 Limited, or you can go the hot-rod route with the $39,990 Durango R/T. The top-of-the-line Citadel runs $41,990, and can be optioned up to nearly $55,000. SXT and SXT Plus models offer only the V6 engine, the R/T comes exclusively with the V8, and the Limited and Citadel offer both engines. An intriguing addition is the Rallye model (actually a $1,495 option on the SXT Plus). It provides the aggressive look of the R/T model with the fuel-efficient V6 engine, which gets a 5-horsepower bump as an added bonus.
As you can tell, we liked the Durango: It blends the towing and hauling abilities of a full-size truck with the comfort and easy handling of a crossover SUV. And unlike most compromises, this one seems apt at just about everything: It tows competently, rides comfortably, and handles surprisingly well. As an added bonus, the refinement, interior quality, and fit and finish are leagues beyond what we've come to expect from Chrysler products.
8 out of 10. We love the way it drives and tows, but long-term quality and durability has yet to be proven, as Chrysler doesn't have the best track record.
What do you think of the Durango - would you trust it to do the job of a full-size pickup? Share your comments below.