Wow, Dodge really did a great job with the Durango. I was never blown away by the body-on-frame Durango that died a few years ago, but the new unibody version feels very solid and well executed. Having driven the Ford Explorer only a few nights before the Durango, it's difficult to find fault with the Dodge.
Comparing spec sheets you'd think the Durango and Explorer were almost exactly the same vehicle, but the execution is quite different. While the Explorer's thick A-pillars, high beltline, and smallish window openings make it feel claustrophobic (or at least like you're trapped in a cave), the Durango lets in more light and offers better visibility through its large windshield and windows and seemingly thinner A-pillars. Both of these SUVs-turned-crossovers offer touch-screen infotainment systems, but only Dodge offers honest-to-goodness physical buttons and dials to adjust the temperature or volume. I much prefer the idea of using muscle memory to adjust the volume to taking my eyes off the road and fiddling with a fussy touch screen.
This is the heaviest vehicle I've sampled with Chrysler's new Pentastar V-6, and the engine performed admirably with nearly 5000 pounds of Durango to motivate. I presume the Durango would be a lot of fun with the Hemi V-8, but there's no need for more power unless you're planning to tow trailers frequently.
Driving dynamics are at the top of the class thanks to the rear-wheel-drive architecture. Of course handling is a relative term when you're talking three-row crossovers, but I seriously want to drive the R/T model after experiencing how buttoned-down and solid the base Durango feels on off-ramps and country roads.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor