Heels on Wheels - 2014 Dodge Durango Review +VIDEO


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2014 Dodge Durango


HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE DURANGO VEHICLE
The full- to mid-size SUV market is heating up again, with the Durango deserving a share of attention for a commanding V6, inviting connectivity features, and design tweaks that turn this former ruffian into a sophisticated vessel that knows how to strike the perfect balance between practical concerns and stylish cravings.

I drove A 2014 Dodge Durango with the 260-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and an all-new standard eight-speed transmission with paddle shifters. Available in five trim grades, my Limited test drive came with the following standard equipment: leather upholstery; eight-way power driver’s seat; heated front and second-row seats; heated steering wheel; Uconnect multimedia system; XM radio; digital gauge display; rearview camera with rear park assist; roof rails; and eighteen-inch wheels. Total price as described came to $35,995.

New design features include a slimmer crosshair grille while the interior sees a redesigned center stack with two new screens. Equipment updates include LED lighting and new segment-first rotary shifter that adds crisper shifting and aids in fuel economy. Clear contenders in power and refinement – and cost – are the GMC Acadia and Ford Explorer. The Toyota Highlander and redesigned Nissan Pathfinder also come to mind as well as the more affordable Mazda CX-9 and Honda Pilot.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: I wouldn’t call the shape of the Durango distinct, but the cabin is quite Impressive immediately upon entry with standouts include a generous use of soft-touch materials and a customizable instrument gauge cluster with digital readouts. The Uconnect technology offers easy-to-use touchscreen commands on an 8.4-inch screen featuring downloadable apps like Pandora and iHeartradio. Voice command through Bluetooth-enable phones means hands-free calling and texting. You have an optional third-row and 85 cubic-feet of cargo capacity. My test drive also had the exclusive Blu-ray DVD rear entertainment system with new dual nine-inch pull down screens located behind the front seat headrests.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the model year ratings of “Good” in all crash test areas making it a Top Safety Pick. Note the website now includes images of the tested vehicles so you can view for yourself how the Durango performed in various crash tests. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, and an advanced airbag system.

Cost Issues: The base STX trim starts at $29,495. The rear DVD system, upgrade Bi-Xenon headlights, and a Blind Spot Monitoring System elevated the cost of my Durango Limited to $45,465.

Activity & Performance Ability: Navigating this SUV up to Tahoe, I received commanding power on mountain inclines matched by a sporty steering feel. Lots of lovable extras for dark and woodsy areas here, such as a feature that automatically turns brights on and off to handle approaching traffic. Overall, it is a highly maneuverable SUV without an ounce of lag. There is also a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine with 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque that features best-in-class towing of up to 7,400 pounds with Fuel Saver Technology that allows the V8 to deactivate to just four-cylinders when less power is needed.

The Green Concern: Rear-wheel drive for the V6 engine netted me an average of 18 miles-per-gallon (EPA estimates are 18-city/25-highway for a combined 20 miles-per-gallon). All-wheel drive for this engine drops the stats down by one mile-per-gallon all around. The HEMI with a more complex four-wheel drive system gets an average of 16 miles-per-gallon combined.

FINAL PARTING WORDS Wrapped up in more contemporary design, the 2014 Durango is still unmistakably Dodge sans familiar HEMI power and a surprisingly energetic V6 – overall one of the more pleasurable full-sized crossovers I’ve experienced this model year.

2013 Katrina Ramser

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