All photos by Dodge
If you’re looking for a large vehicle with three rows but you prefer a true SUV over a large crossover, the Dodge Durango should be on your list of options. But you also ought to drive one if you’re looking at the crossovers, as the Durango offers all of the luxuries you’ll find in the crossovers, but with the practical advantages of a truck like towing capacity. This time we tested the 2012 Citadel AWD version, which is the top of the line Durango with all the amenities you would expect from a luxury vehicle.
We were very impressed last year when Dodge reintroduced the Durango for the 2011 model year. The designers hit a home run with an exterior design that was more refined, but retained the muscular feel of its predecessor. The big Dodge crosshair grille still stands out and the look of the vehicle matches the power one wants from a large SUV. One quick look tells you that you’d be just as comfortable pulling up with the Durango at a nice restaurant as you would be taking it off-road or to a construction site. But look more closely and you’ll see a nice attention to detail that we’re learning to expect from the new Dodge since the restructuring that put Dodge and the rest of Chrysler under the control of CEO Sergio Marchionne. The 2012 exterior is essentially the same as there’s no need to make changes to this new and winning design.
This attention to detail is best expressed in the Durango interior where we see the most dramatic progress of the new Dodge that was run by Ralph Gilles for the past two years until he was assigned to run the new SRT performance division. Interior design became a priority and it creates a very distinctive and comfortable driver experience. The leather trim and accent stitching stand out and you have soft padding in all the right places on the armrests. I love the look of the Dodge steering wheels and the feel with the soft and smooth leather as well. The Durango is loaded with interior storage spaces, but none of them are forced and they naturally fit into the interior.
The Citadel version we tested was decked out with all sorts of features, like the rear DCD entertainment center. The third row seats are surprisingly roomy, and it’s very easy to get in and out of those seats with the second row 60/40 fold and tumble seats. Even when the third row seats are up, there’s plenty of storage space in that back, and then it opens up to impressive storage capacity when those seats are folded down. The Durango has all the electronic amenities you would expect like a rear-view backup camera, keyless go, blind-spot and cross path detection and nav system. My only quibble was with the nav system, which wasn’t quite as intuitive or easy to use as systems you find in other vehicles.
Our Durango featured a 5.7 liter V8 HEMI engine, so it naturally had impressive power. Compared to the larger crossovers, it does ride more like a truck, but the ride and handling is so much better than older SUVs that you have to drive it to appreciate the improvements made by Dodge. You can also choose the 3.6-liter V-6 if you don’t need the heavy duty performance and want better gas mileage. This engine boasts 290 horsepower with a five-speed automatic transmission. For heavy duty needs, the V8 HEMI more than delivers and the six-speed automatic has been updated for better performance. Best in class towing is rated as high as 7400 pounds. The trade-off here is gas mileage, which is at the low end at 13 city and 20 highway.
The performance is truly impressive for a vehicle of this size. With its independent suspension, the Durango delivers tight handling for such a powerful vehicle. It can handle your towing needs and also provide comfortable driving in city environments.
The Citadel we tested with all the options is priced at $47,235, which makes it more than competitive with luxury crossover and large SUVs. If you’re looking for the practical benefits of workhorse SUVs but also want the comfortable amenities and driving experiences of newer crossovers, the Durango might be the perfect choice.
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