You've no doubt seen Will Ferrell's Anchorman character Ron Burgundy in commercials for the 2014 Dodge Durango, humorously praising, among other things, the glove box — "It goes on for inches!" — of the large SUV. Dodge has now given the Durango a midcycle refresh, and there's much more to like about it than the glove box.
Appearance: When the Durango was redesigned for the 2011 model year, it gained a muscle car's bearing. For 2014, that look gets bolder with new fascias and a tweak to Dodge's cross-hair grille. The headlights acquire LED bling, and tail lamps now span the rear of the vehicle and are the same Racetrack ribbon you see on the Challenger and Charger. Sharp. The Durango sits high, like a truck, and shorter drivers might find getting in and out a challenge. (Says Lyra: Ladies, it's not the best car to be driving in heels. It's a long step to the ground.) Our tester, the R/T, came with 20-inch alloy wheels, body-color accents and chrome-tipped exhausts.
Performance: The sporty R/T trim comes with a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi, an engine that produces one of our favorite exhaust notes. (It's very macho; Burgundy would approve.) The engine has 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, but somehow seems civilized in comparison to some of the other Hemis we've driven — maybe because of the Durango's 5,100-pound curb weight? (Still, acceleration is steady and quick.) The estimated mpg isn't ideal, but if you're buying a large SUV with a V-8, you know that before making a down payment. (Dodge's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is also available.) New to the model for 2014 is Chrysler's 8-speed automatic transmission, which is one of our favorites. The rear-wheel-drive Durango (AWD is an option) has a surprisingly comfortable ride, even with the R/T's sport suspension, and steering is responsive and well-assisted. Need to tow? The Durango is rated up to 7,400 pounds, which is excellent for an SUV. Also impressive: It has trailer-sway damping to keep things under control, and a rear load-leveling suspension as well as auto-leveling headlights.
Interior: The Durango seats up to seven in its roomy cabin, but our tester had the six-passenger configuration. The second row had the captain's chairs, leaving a convenient pass-through to the third row, which is spacious enough to seat adults in a pinch. (But why are the second-row cup holders on the floor? Careful.) The R/T gets plush leather seats with bright-red logos and red stitching. We're fans of Dodge's UConnect system, which is one of the more intuitive systems on the market with its tablet-style display and 8.4-inch touchscreen. The 7-inch screen nestled in the instrument cluster also provides plenty of vehicle information.
Our 3 favorites
Safety: Standard and optional features that include forward collision warning and rear cross-path detection.
Style: The SUV as muscle car.
LEDs: There are 192 individual ones in the seamless rear taillight.
Third-row access: Pass-through area with a rubber step makes it easy to get to the back row.
Gamers' delight: Hook up the gaming console and play on the built-in screens.
Towing: 7,400 pounds plus safety systems.
The bottom line: The Dodge Durango is a stylish and comfortable large SUV. Whether you need to haul the family or your recreational toys, it's up to the task. It also comes in enough trim levels to satisfy most tastes and budgets.