What image pops in your mind when you hear “Caravan”? Dodge needed a new family hauler in 1997, so the Durango arrived with Hemi power and room for an active lifestyle. It was a product of the combined Daimler-Chrysler, and influences of both can still be felt today.
The 3rd generation Durango has been around since 2011, so we decided to see how it copes with fall in Florida. We chose a mid-level Durango GT, which is the trim level that replaced Limited in the lineup. The creative department knows their target audience well, so our example had the optional Brass Monkey package. It is a monochrome exterior with matte black trim and snazzy “Brass Monkey” wheels in 20″x8″.
At first glance, you might think the Durango is another FWD crossover, but the truth is satisfying. The Durango is actually a badge-engineered sibling of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. They share a strong steel unibody that is based on the Mercedes GL & M Classes. Coil suspension at all corners and RWD are the recipe for a proper SUV, ours was only lacking one detail: Power.
Last year the old “Pentastar” V6 was upgraded with higher compression along with an EGR cooler. Now that it has 11.3 compression, running on regular gas will make it unbearably slow. Cooling the EGR flow works well on paper, but any leak in the system will result in catastrophic failure. With 93 octane and your foot on the floor, you have 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Durango has a dry weight approaching 5,000 lbs so you will have time to file your taxes as you merge onto the highway. Get the Hemi, you won’t regret it.
Interior fit & finish is much better than you would expect. Fiat-Chrysler has set out to improve the quality of materials. This starts with more leather and less plastic. Even the dash is hand-wrapped with double contrast stitching. Nappa leather and seating for 7 seems like an automotive oxymoron. Even the 3rd row is plush, and it would be a perfect sleeper for a road trip. Controls and media interfaces are easy and accessible, but the rotary shifter is just hokey. It is located behind the SD card and USB slots, waiting for a drip of condensation or cola from the adjacent cupholder. Heated 2nd-row seats are brilliant.
Sharing so much of its DNA with the Grand Cherokee, you can bet the suspension, climate control, and audio are all top-notch. With all seats folded, you will have plenty of room for cargo along with a reliable (yet uninspiring) powertrain. You will have 26 mpg on the highway and minimal maintenance costs for under $38,000. Tell your significant other that FWD is dead, and Durango is your best bet for fun, comfort, and reliability. Stay with us for more reviews here on Autofluence.