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2012 Dodge Durango R/T Drive and Review By Larry Nutson

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2012 Dodge Durango R/T

2012 Dodge Durango R/T - That thang got a Hemi?
by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Yup, it’s a Hemi. A big V8 making 360HP. 5.7-liters of V8 or, 345 cubic inches if that’s more familiar. And the Hemi question is a valid one, since there are no badges on the outside to tell you.

Exclusive to the Durango R/T and on my test vehicle was the Redline Pearl Coat exterior paint which certainly turned heads. Perhaps folks thought the Durango was the newest addition to the Chicago Fire Department’s fleet, or drivers in front of me were concerned about being centered in the split crosshairs of the front grill.

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The Durango is meant for hauling people and stuff. Seating is for seven in a 2/3/2 configuration. It has a huge cargo area that grows from 17.2 cubic feet behind the third seat row, to 47.7cuft when folded, to 84.5cuft with the second row also folded. Dodge says you can carry a 6-ft couch, and with the two seat rows folded and the front passenger seat folded flat a 10-ft ladder. Now that’s cargo room. The rear liftgate is power operated for convenient opening and closing.

And if you need to move more, you can tow up to a 7400 lb. trailer. The Durango is even equipped with a towing and hauling mode switch that when activated delays the upshifts and provides automatic downshifts to make use of engine braking. If you need a roof rack it’s not offered on the R/T, so you’ll need to go for one of the other Durango models.

I’ve been out of the people and cargo hauling needs for a while and can be characterized as an active lifestyle empty nester. The Red Durango brought back the good memories of the 19-ft power boat I used to haul around on its double-axle trailer. The boat was trimmed in red and had a red trailer to match. This Durango R/T with its red paint would have made for a head-turning rig at the boat launch.

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Maneuvering the nearly 200 inch long Durango can be a challenge especially in a city crowded with many cars, taxis, and delivery trucks. Although not on the test vehicle I drove, the Durango is available with Rear Parking Assist and also a Rear Back-up Camera. On virtually every SUV of any size that I’ve driven I’ve found the rear camera to be especially beneficial when parallel parking and in tight parking garages, plus of course the added security in seeing pedestrians that might be behind you. I liked the dash push-button electric-fold feature for the headrests on the third row seats that drops them down out of your line of sight.

Getting back to that Hemi engine. It’s mated to 6-speed automatic. My test R/T was all wheel drive and it’s also offered in rear wheel drive. Fuel economy is nothing to write home about with EPA ratings of 13 city mpg and 20 highway mpg. The RWD V8 gets 1 mpg better in the city, rated at 14 mpg. Dodge recommends mid-grade gasoline but regular is acceptable. Now the one nice thing relative to fuel consumption is the big 24.6 gallon fuel tank that will give nearly 500 miles of all-day highway driving. I like a vehicle with a long single-tank driving range.

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During my week-long drive I wondered to myself if I were to own this Durango R/T because I needed it to frequently haul a boat and family would it be a good move to also have a small car for everyday commuting to work and running around. Might just be smart.

If the Durango R/T and the Hemi V8 are too much vehicle, there is the milder 290HP V6 available. It’s coupled to a 5-speed automatic and offered in either rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive. I did a review on a 2011 Durango Crew with this engine about a year ago and you can read that HERE on The Auto Channel. EPA ratings for the V6 are 16 city mpg and 23 highway mpg, or about 15 to 20% better than the V8. It can tow up to 6200 lbs.

Pricing for the Durango runs from $28,995 for the SXT RWD model to $42,995 for the Citadel AWD. My R/T Hemi AWD test car had a base price of $37,995, but a price increase back in late December has it now at $38,195. RWD is $2400 less at $35,795. If you’re shopping a Durango or any other SUV think hard if you really need AWD. For many, RWD is very adequate.

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Overall, I really like the Durango. It is attractive both out and in. Dodge has done a bang-up job of improving the interior quality of materials and overall fit and finish. Ride and handling are pretty comfortable, to the extent they can be in a big truck. Although the sport tuning of the R/T makes for some roughness. Creature comforts abound with power everything and lots of audio, infotainment and navigation choices. The “big box” of an interior is cooled and heated quickly with a rear HVAC unit…almost a must-have on any big SUV.

The Durango has garnered a bunch of industry awards that help to reinforce anyone’s purchase decision. For example, and Parents magazine have selected the 2012 Dodge Durango among the “Best Family Cars of 2012.”

© Larry Nutson