Reviews

2015 Dodge Durango Walk Around


Completely redesigned for 2011, the Dodge Durango gained new styling and new wheels for 2014, to keep it contemporary.

By exterior dimensions, the Durango falls near the middle of the three-row sport-utilities and crossovers in its competitive set. At 201 inches long, on a 119.8-inch wheelbase, Durango is shorter than a Chevrolet Traverse, but longer than Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot. Durango has a longer wheelbase than any of them.

Because of its rear-wheel drive and optional V8, the Durango has higher tow ratings too: 6200 pounds with the V6 and up to 7400 with the V8. That betters the closest crossover by 1000 pounds minimum.

It wouldn’t be a Dodge without a big crosshair grille, and the Durango doesn’t disappoint. Its grille is broad and tall enough to deliver presence, especially given its forward slant in a class where most front ends slope rearward for aerodynamic reasons. On upper trim levels with LED position lamps and HID headlamps, it bears a strong resemblance to the Ram full-size pickups.

The hood flows out to the fenders, rather than sloping off as on the previous-generation Durango. Combined with a deep air dam in front, it creates a more wagon-like proportion in side view (remember the Dodge Magnum). The long rear side doors look even longer because they have no fixed quarter window at the rear. In total, Durango creates a fairly subtle shape, with chrome down low on most models and even more sprinkled about on fancy ones. Its windows are neither Hummer-like slits nor particularly tall.

The rear end slopes gently, neither as upright as the ultra-practical Pilot nor as fastback-slanted as Traverse or Explorer. The rear lighting is simple, effective and elegant, essentially a racetrack configuration in LED, like many Dodge products. In substance, the Durango approximates a longer, three-row version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which itself was derived from the Mercedes-Benz ML and GL classes (Mercedes owned Chrysler when these vehicles began development). You might consider Durango the least expensive way to get some Mercedes engineering in a seven-seat package.

The cargo hatch in back is powered on top models, but the glass doesn’t open separately for small bags or packages. The manual hatch release is big enough to use with gloves. A rear wiper and small spoiler are standard on all.

Several exterior features are intended to improve durability. The rear bumper has a top cover to avoid paint damage, should you rest a heavy package or stand there to reach the roof. The low-profile roof rails have swivel-out crossbars built in so wind noise is reduced when there’s no cargo up there. At each rail end is a small attachment loop.

Unlike earlier Durangos, the current generation uses five-lug wheels, which means a wider choice for those wishing to customize. This one is available with wheels up to 20 inches from the factory, though the standard 18s are probably best for multi-purpose use. The 18-inch wheels deliver the best ride and probably the best all-season traction, and we wouldn’t guess that the typical Durango buyer will be overly impressed with the slightly improved steering response that comes with the lower-profile tires on the 20-inch wheels. Choosing 20-inch wheels is usually a styling decision.

The spare tire, whether temporary or full size, is stowed underneath the rear, in front of the rear bumper. It can be a nuisance crawling under there in mud or snow, but this storage system doesn’t require unloading or dirtying the cargo area to change a tire.

Interior

All Durango models seat six or seven adults comfortably in a cabin that puts space to good use. Materials and fit-and-finish are soothing, yet remain wholly appropriate for the SUV mission. Durango can be configured to carry big boxes, a sofa, or four people plus a 10-foot stepladder or stack of lumber.

The Durango’s interior blends a lot of the space, flexibility and family-friendly features of a minivan with seating that’s a bit more anti-utilitarian. Dodge has claimed there are 28 distinct seating configurations. We’re not sure precisely how they count that total, but we assure you that there are many.

A second-row bucket seat arrangement, with or without center console, is available. These decrease ultimate seating capacity by one passenger, but they can create a neutral zone between two kids sitting in the second row.

Trim varies by model, as expected, and the fit/finish is generally good. Above the waistline, materials are soft-touch or heavily textured, while those closer to the floor are harder plastics that are scratch-resistant and easy to clean. R/T models come with black, pseudo-suede upholstery broken up by red stitching. The SXT comes with cloth that negates temperature extremes, with a lighter headliner to brighten the cabin. Limited and Citadel have standard leather. Adopting a rotary shifter took away some chrome trim, but there are still touches that generate a lot of sunlight glinting.

Outward visibility is good to average. The windshield pillar is slimmed mid-way to aid front quarter vision but is still substantial, and the door pillars will be behind most drivers. Third-row headrests don’t block the view because a dashboard (or touchscreen) switch can drop them at the touch of a button, though heads in back definitely narrow the scope of the image in the rearview mirror. The optional rearview camera comes in handy when Durango is fully loaded with passengers. Front wipe/wash coverage is very good, the rear is good, and the headlights provide satisfactory illumination. HID headlights are available on some models.

The front bucket seats are on the soft side: very comfortable and not confining for short hauls, reasonably supportive to handle more miles at a time. The SXT comes with manually-adjustable seats, others with a power driver’s seat. Upper models have eight-way power adjustment for the driver (with four-way power lumbar) and a six-way power cushion for the front passenger. Most also have a manual front-passenger seatback, so it can fold forward and flat, though the Citadel has power adjustment and no fold-flat feature.

The tilt/telescoping steering column fits a range of drivers. It’s power-operated on the Citadel, and links wheel position with driver’s seat, side mirrors and audio settings in the memory buttons. The driver’s footwell is wide, so there is plenty of room for your left leg to relax.

In the dog-bone instrument panel, engine revs at left and fuel level and coolant-temperature at right frame a central screen that shows an analog rendition of a speedometer. Also visible is a host of other data, including the transmission gear selected and the gear engaged. Much of the display is configurable, operated via left thumb-switches on the steering wheel. All controls, the door handles, door pockets and the cupholders are illuminated. Gauges are back-lit in off-white.

Most controls are straightforward, and we’re fond of the simplicity in the switch layout. The rotary shifter offers P-R-N-D, and individual forward gear selection is done with paddles on the steering wheel. Some drivers will find the wheel crowded, with redundant radio controls on the back with the paddles, and up to 17 buttons facing the driver.

Temperature controls are split into three zones, and can be matched with the touch of one button. The rear controls are independent, if the driver approves by pressing a button. The lone stalk on the left side of the steering column has high beams, turn signals and front and rear wash/wipe, so it gets a little busy. The impetus for stalk controls is keeping both hands on the wheel, but not all can be done without taking your hand off the wheel to twist this one.

The base audio system is adequate for family duty. The premium 500-watt, 9-speaker sound system has plenty of rumble. All are controlled through a touchscreen: 5-inch on lesser trims and 8.4-inch on others. The Uconnect systems are intuitive, easy to learn, and offer many more features when paired with your smartphone, including text-to-voice. Navigation works well, our only nits being some screen issues with polarized lenses.

Interior measurements are very competitive. You might gain an inch here or lose one there, but when your six-foot-plus correspondent can find a comfortable driving position, ride comfortably behind that in the second row, and then easily clamber into the third row and sit without knees, toes or head scuffing anything, we can’t argue that Durango is shy on space.

The second-row seat is split with its narrow section on the passenger side. It keeps two kids belted in the middle row, while letting two more get in back. The center position has a soft cushion, but the backrest isn’t as soft as the outer positions because of the armrest within. The rear side windows don’t go all the way down, but the last few inches of glass that remain are flush and even with the top of the door panel all the way across.

Both sides of the second row recline slightly. There are aim-able reading lights and vents overhead, with more vents and a standard-plug, 115-volt AC outlet on the back of the center console. You don’t need an inverter to plug a game or computer into the Durango. There are recessed coat hooks in the roof, assist handles on the back side of the door pillar, bottle stowage in the doors, four grocery bag/purse clips flanking the front seatback nets, overhead controls for rear air, and good foot-room under the front seats.

Third-row access is very good. A one-pull strap folds and tilts up the second-row seat, and the walk-through floor space is expansive as such spaces go. There is more room back here than the legroom dimension implies, and it offers the same adjustable reading lights and overhead vents as the second row.

Cargo volume is 17 cubic feet behind the third row (comparable to trunk space in a capacious mid-size sedan), 48 cubic feet behind the second row (comparable to a compact SUV or crossover with the rear seats folded), and 84 behind the front seats. Those numbers are substantially less than what’s available in GM’s longer trio of crossovers (Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave), but competitive with other mid-size models. There’s a little bit more cargo volume in Durango than in a Ford Explorer, and a little bit less than in a Honda Pilot. Your correspondent doesn’t ride third-row in any of them.

A simple lever (or switch) drops either of Durango’s third-row seats flat. With the right seat section folded flat in each row, there’s more than ten feet of length. Durango can carry 10-foot items as narrow as a two-by-four or as wide as a folding ladder. The cargo deck is 32 inches off the ground. There’s one small, deep bin under the load floor on the left side, adjacent to where the spare hangs underneath, and a broader, shallower one under the main floor.

Even the base Durango SXT comes with hooks and a power point just inside the tailgate, with a pair of tie-down loops in the floor. The cargo cover can be mounted behind the second- or third-row seats. The gate has two loading or tailgating lights at the back/lower edge, and the close button for the power option is on the left side, low enough for a kindergartener to reach.

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