Based on the same platform as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, stretched to accommodate three rows of seats, and aimed at full-size SUV buyers who spend more time on pavement than in dirt, the 2014 Dodge Durango is an underappreciated gem of an SUV. Roomy, comfortable, attractive, and constructed with quality materials, the Durango is a favorite of ours, and though it’s not quite as big as a Chevy Tahoe, Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon, Nissan Armada, or Toyota Sequoia, in many respects it is the better choice.
Dodge says the 2014 Durango’s forward-leaning face “has an even more sinister look” than the previous model. Contributing to the Durango’s menacing appearance are redesigned headlights with LED running lights on all models except for the SXT, a raised front bumper, and a new grille with unique texturing depending on the trim level selected. Around back, new “racetrack” taillights incorporate 192 individual LED lights, and the rear bumper design is revised. The 2014 Durango has new wheel designs, too, seven in all and sized 18 inches or 20 inches in diameter.
For 2014, the Durango Rallye model debuts, based on the standard SXT model but equipped with a “sinister” monochromatic appearance, dark-tinted headlamps, LED running lights, and 20-inch aluminum wheels in a Hyper Black finish. A new Durango Limited model is also on sale, adding leather seats, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system to the Durango SXT model.
To make space for the Uconnect 8.4 system’s 8.4-inch color touchscreen, Dodge redesigned the Durango’s dashboard, taking an opportunity to install a reconfigurable 7-inch gauge display screen, a 5-inch standard center panel touchscreen (SXT and Rallye), and a “media hub” with a USB port, an SD card slot, and auxiliary audio input jacks. A new steering wheel design debuts for 2014, equipped with standard shifter paddles.
The Durango continues to offer 7-passenger capacity in three rows of seats, and can carry 85 cu.-ft. of cargo with both rows of seats folded down. The front passenger’s seat also folds in half, allowing long items to be carried inside the SUV with the rear liftgate closed.
The 2014 Dodge Durango is equipped with a choice between a 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V-6 engine and a 5.7-liter “Hemi” V-8 engine. The V-6 generates 290 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, with the Durango Rallye’s freer-flowing exhaust system contributing to a 5-hp increase for that model. Dodge says the Durango V-6 will tow up to 6,200 lbs.
The optional 5.7-liter V-8 makes 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, and is equipped with Fuel Saver Technology that shuts off half of the engine’s cylinders under low-load driving conditions to help improve fuel economy. The maximum tow rating with the V-8 engine is 7,400 lbs., which Dodge claims is about the same weight as a 24-foot boat sitting on a trailer.
For 2014, the Durango receives the same 8-speed automatic transmission and rotary dial shift knob that’s installed in the RAM 1500 pickup truck. Additionally, a new Eco Mode is the default driving program each time the Durango’s engine is started, but can be manually deactivated if the driver prefers. With the new 8-speed automatic and Eco Mode engaged, Dodge claims the Durango’s fuel economy improves by 9% compared to last year.
The rear-wheel-drive Durango can be optioned with a choice of all-wheel-drive systems. With the V-6 engine, the Durango has an automatic AWD system that distributes power to the front wheels for extra traction as needed. With the V-8 engine, the Durango has a 2-speed transfer case with low-range gearing and a Neutral mode that allows the SUV to be flat-towed behind a motor home.
Dodge bestows upon the 2014 Durango numerous interior upgrades, starting with rear seat accommodations. Opt for the second-row captain’s chairs and a pass-through center console design is standard, and Dodge notes that this design makes it easier for families with three children to load the SUV when child safety seats are installed in the second row. Good point. If this sort of functionality isn’t necessary, Durango buyers can choose second-row captain’s chairs separated by a large center storage console.
Further enhancing the Durango’s rear comfort levels are available heated rear seats. A new rear-seat entertainment system also debuts for 2014, with dual 9-inch display screens mounted to the front seats and powered by a new Blu-Ray DVD player. The entertainment system includes wireless headphones, a wireless remote, and HDMI video game jacks.
Front seat occupants benefit from optional heated and ventilated front seats, and the driver enjoys an optional heated steering wheel. The available Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system includes a navigation system with 3-D mapping, Bing Internet search, and mobile Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Dodge supplies redundant hard controls for the stereo and climate systems to assuage people who would prefer not to stab fingers at a screen to perform these functions. Uconnect can be upgraded to Access via Mobile technology, which includes 9-1-1 Assist service, access to a paired smartphone’s mobile applications via Uconnect screen icons, and voice-to-text messaging capability.
The 2014 Durango is also offered with new safety technologies, in addition to the Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross-Path Detection system that are carried over from last year. For 2014, the Durango is offered with an Adaptive Cruise Control Plus system that includes full-speed-range operation. A Forward Collision Warning Plus system is also optional, employing radar and camera data to evaluate closing rates with objects ahead, to prepare the braking system for a panic stop while alerting the driver to danger, and if the driver fails to respond, to apply the brakes in order to help reduce speed before impact.
We’re impressed with the current Dodge Durango, and the changes coming for the 2014 model year are likely to solidify this position. Attractive, comfortable, capable, and entertaining to drive, the 2014 Dodge Durango appears to represent more of a good thing.