First drive: 2014 Dodge Durango V6 in the UAE
With all the hype over three-row crossover SUVs such as the Ford Explorer, the Honda Pilot and the Nissan Pathfinder, we’re wondering why more people don’t ask us about the Dodge Durango when discussing their shopping lists. They should, because we could hardly find a fault with the facelifted 2014 version that we just drove across the country in.
There’s no cramped seating, no hard-plastic dashboard and no CVT nonsense to moan about. And to top it off, the 2014 Dodge Durango looks even better than it already did. The facelift threw in a more aggressive front bumper, LEDs lining the headlights, new wheel choices, and a 192-LED rear lamp cluster that’s even fancier than the one on the Charger.
There’s four trim levels, namely the base SXT V6, the Limited V6 and the Limited V8, the new R/T V8 and the top-spec Citadel V8. We found the R/T to be the most visually appealing, with its smoked headlights, colour-coded trim and slightly-lower suspension. However, our tester for the day was the Limited V6.
Despite being the second-lowest trim level, it came well-equipped, with amenities such as a touchscreen multimedia system, rear camera with guiding lines, an LCD screen for a speedo, smart keyless entry and start, a power driver’s seat, a sunroof, cruise control, 18-inch alloys and fairly spacious seating for seven. Paying more for the higher trim levels gets you more doodads, such as a bigger touchscreen, adaptive cruise, HIDs, navigation, power tailgate, 20-inch dubs and all that. But the good bits, such as the soft-touch upper dash and door panels, the thick padded armrests and the highly-configurable seating, are all standard even in the base model.
We had stepped into our tester without checking what engine it had, so the 290 hp 3.6-litre V6 initially had us thinking it’s a V8. There’s good low-end response in city traffic, no doubt the new 8-speed gearbox helping it along, but it kind of runs out of steam when trying to overtake at highways, which is when we figured out we were driving a V6. Given our car was brand new, it’ll probably feel a bit quicker once the motor is broken in properly.
It drives very nicely too. The fat steering wheel had decent heft and feedback. The brakes were fine with good pedal feel. The body roll was never obvious in normal driving. It’s among the quietest in its class, aside from a slight hint of wind noise. All-round visibility is acceptable. The smooth gearbox even had frigging paddle-shifters. And it rides fairly smoothly, at least with our 18-inchers. As we said, on the daily run, there is absolutely nothing to complain about.
Our convoy drive took a surprise detour through some mountain trails between Kalba and Fujairah as well. The gravel tracks were uneven, sometimes with sharp rocks, random slopes and even small water streams cutting across. We shared the narrow path sometimes with freely-running camels, squeezing around them with steep drop-offs on one side and cliff-walls on the other. We came out of it all just fine. Any crossover could do it really, and the Durango V6, with its automatic all-wheel-drive, is no exception.
Only V8 models come with a low-range gear setting, but it’s more of a use-when-needed option rather than certifying the Durango as an offroader. Whether V6 or V8, both are good for venturing to offroad camp sites, not for intentionally jumping onto the dunes, just like all its direct rivals.
Truth be told, if I overcame my current fetish for Range Rovers, adopted five kids, and developed a soft spot for midsize crossovers, the Durango would be the only car on my shopping list. With a V8 of course.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury. Additional photos by Nick Englund.