The popular Grand Caravan is a Chrysler now, too, leaving only the Charger/Challenger duo to share the spotlight with the Durango. The latter effectively becomes the new volume leader for the brand, though we don’t know exactly what the future holds with Stellantis at the helm.
- Also: Dodge Admits Muscle Cars Have an Electric Future
- Also: Dodge Improves Charger and Durango Enforcer Vehicles for 2021
Sales of the Dodge Durango have been stable for a number of years—between 75k-80k annually in North America—with only a 19-percent drop in 2020 due to the pandemic. The current generation has just turned 11, yet it remains one of the most attractive in the segment.
Of course, the lineup has expanded to include more muscular and powerful versions, such as the 475-horsepower SRT last year and the 710-horsepower SRT Hellcat for 2021, making the Durango the most intimidating three-row SUV on the market without a doubt.
Very few people shopping for a Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9 or Subaru Ascent would consider the big Dodge. Even Ford Explorer customers are not interested as the two products are taking completely different approaches.
The latest Explorer offers turbocharged four-cylinder engines, small V6 engines and a hybrid variant, none of which can be found in the Durango catalogue. Instead, the standard mill is a 3.6-litre V6 rated at 293 horsepower and approximately 11 L/100 km. It’s a proven, reliable and lost-cost solution that doesn’t even require premium gasoline.
Then you have three logic-defying V8 engines—the only ones you’ll find in this segment—allowing a best-in-class maximum towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.
As previously mentioned, the star is the new-for-2021, supercharged 6.2-litre V8 engine that endows the Durango SRT Hellcat with 710 horsepower, enough to reach 100 km/h in four seconds and scare the hell out of any bystanders with wicked sound effects.
One rung below, the Durango SRT houses a naturally aspirated 6.4-litre HEMI V8 that produces 475 horsepower and can still be quite violent when you hammer the throttle. The other alternative is the 360-horsepower, 5.7-litre HEMI V8, which needs no further introduction.
We tested a Durango R/T equipped with the smaller V8 and a new performance package called Tow N Go. The suspension was much stiffer, the steering felt heavier, and the sport exhaust system sounded almost exactly like an SRT model. Adaptive shocks, a more sophisticated Quadra-Drive 4WD system and Active Noise Cancellation (who needs that, really?) were also part of the mix.
The growling V8 and sportier handling are a perfect combination for busting the fuel ratings advertised by Natural Resources Canada. We recorded an average of 16.7 L/100 km, whereas most drivers can expect to achieve under 15 L/100 km. The standard V6 is obviously much more efficient, yet it still packs a pretty good punch.
Life Inside the Durango
In addition to a few exterior revisions, the 2021 Dodge Durango gets a completely updated cockpit featuring a driver-oriented centre stack, a more practical centre console and a 10.1-inch touchscreen that we liked a lot more than the display in the Ram 1500. Depending on the trim level, the high-contrast interior boasts unprecedented levels of refinement by Dodge standards, although fit and finish are not yet beyond reproach.
While the Durango is designed with large families in mind, it’s not as comfortable or versatile as a Honda Pilot or Chevrolet Traverse. There’s generous room inside, for sure, but access to the third row requires a few contortions, while the front seats are firmer than most and not as supportive.
A huge gap separates the base SXT and GT models from the top-line SRT Hellcat ($114,345), but the fact of the matter is that the Durango is the most irrational purchase one can make for a three-row SUV. Our R/T tester exceeded $80,000 (not counting the automaker’s hefty rebates), which is lot more expensive than a 400-horsepower Ford Explorer ST. You would be better off, financially speaking, with a slightly used Durango—either from a Dodge dealer or a local fleet.
The Dodge Durango has made great strides in quality over the years. The latest iteration may not offer the same peace of mind as a Toyota Highlander when it comes to construction and dependability, but you are much less likely to experience horror stories like the ones we’ve heard about the new Explorer following its launch.