In a world of soft-riding and cuddly crossovers, the Dodge Durango is a bit of a throwback and a breath of fresh air. Although riding on a modern unibody structure and fully independent suspension, the Durango simply screams truck, from its tall, dark grille to its high ground clearance (and equally high step-in and seating position) to its racetrack taillights. Okay, maybe not its racetrack taillights. Those are just goofy. I love them.
The 2016 Durango has a Sport mode. On some crossovers, this would be a sad joke, but the Durango has the guts and the poise to hustle.
Anyhow, you can see how it looks, the Blacktop package with its black accents a perfect complement to the chunky, rugged simplicity. That Blacktop Package is a $1,595 option, including 20-inch gloss black aluminum wheels with all-season Bridgestone tires, black grille, badges, mirror caps and headlight bezels, body colour fascia and exterior trim and leather seats with perforated suede inserts. It’s a slick, sinister look, especially in this stealthy Billet Metallic grey, setting the stage for surprising performance.
Although you can get the Durango with a V8, we had an SXT powered by the Pentastar 3.6L V6, here paired with an eight-speed automatic, making 295 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. With the V6, the Durango is rated to tow up to 2,812 kg, (the V8 3,356 kg).
At 2,229 kg, it’s no lightweight, but that torque is beastly and just picks this rig up and walks it away from anything, the fully automatic AWD adjusting torque between the axles. For such a large vehicle, the V6 and eight-speed provide efficient motoring, rated at 13.9 L/100 km in the city (thanks in part to auto stop-start) and 9.8 on the highway. During our time in it, we saw 14.2 L/100 km, which isn’t great, but also isn’t that far off the typical mid-13s we usually see on mid-size SUVs.
Unlike Durango SUVs of generations past that may have featured locking diffs and low-range gearing, the 2016 Durango has a Sport mode. On some crossovers, this would be a sad joke, but the Durango has the guts and the poise to hustle. Sure, it’s a bit truckish to be any kind of corner carver, but sharper throttle and more revs do mean you can hustle to your heart’s content within the car’s limitations, the body roll and jitters over rough roads curbing too much enthusiasm.
In more typical driving, the Durango is excellent, the high seating position offering great visibility ahead, the steering light and natural, so guiding it through traffic is as easy as can be expected in a vehicle this size, the mix of steering, power and handling working well together. However, it may take some time to get used to the rotary knob shifter, and I found it a bit frustrating to switch between Reverse and Drive quickly when having to make three-point turns and parking adjustments. As with most SUVs, the Durango comes with the usual blind spots to the rear sides, but a back-up camera is on hand to help guide you in the last few feet.
The Durango’s core mission is, of course, to be a family vehicle and schlep the kids, the gear and perhaps even the trailer to and from school and hockey practice, the weekly shopping and mall runs and then up to the cottage in summer or winter. To that end, the Durango is spacious in all three rows, with passable comfort for adults even in the third row, and wide access to the third row via the fold and tumble second-row seat. On the cargo front, the trunk is generous even with all rows up, measuring 490 L, growing to 1,340 L with the last row stowed and a healthy 2,410 with all seats folded, the second row splitting 60/40 for added cargo/passenger flexibility. That trunk is key for large, active families as it means you can carry three or four kids in the back and still pack two or three hockey bags.
Parents’ quarters are even better, starting with the comfortable, supportive seats, and continuing with Dodge’s Uconnect touchscreen interface and easy auto climate control. Although Uconnect is a very straightforward and logical touchscreen interface, the screen itself was the smaller 5.0-inch screen, though an upgrade to 8.4-inch setup is available on higher trims. Aside from the touchscreen, there are enough fixed buttons for main menus and our favourite back-of-steering wheel audio controls to make the Durango thoroughly intuitive and a breeze to operate.
Although intimidating to look at, particularly in this Blacktop trim, the Durango is as friendly and easy to live with as most any crossover. The only trouble spot in terms of day-to-day convenience is a particularly high step-in, so those of shorter stature and young kids may find it a challenge getting in and out, which would grow tiresome over the long haul. Aside from that, the Durango is a practical and pleasing choice in this segment with a healthy serving of power, practicality and rugged capability that will serve those in need of an all-purpose family ride.
Pricing: 2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD
Base Price (SXT AWD): $42,395
Options: Blacktop Package $1,595; Billet Metallic Grey $195; Popular Equipment Group $1,250
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $47,280