The Dodge Durango has taken on many forms since its introduction once a mid-size SUV, then a full size. Now it’s somewhere in-between though Dodge still calls it full-sized.
Our tester was the sportier of the breed, the HEMI V8 powered and somewhat lowered R/T – what Dodge calls the Challenger of SUV’s
The 2017 Dodge Durango R/T indeed lives up to the same formula that makes the muscle-cars in the Dodge dealership popular. With a slightly lower ride height, a stiffer suspension and big 20-inch wheels, it certainly looks the part.
Go fast visuals include body color trims here and there, a deeper chin spoiler, blacked out headlamps and that nice meaty dual exhaust. And when you fire it up, that exhaust makes some sweet noises you can hear both inside and out.
From the driver seat, our tester showed its wild side with bright leather red sport seats up front. Power adjustable and supportive, they are stiff to sit in and a little challenging to find the right spot but comfortable when you do.
Seats are heated and ventilated up front, heated for the second row where captain’s chairs were optioned on ours. Comfort for second row passengers is reasonably good though the seating position is somewhat low. Third row passengers enjoy more room than you might expect, even for adults.
There is full rear HVAC all the way back to the third row and there are controls back there for your rear passengers. Ours was optioned with the dual screen and Blue-ray player theater system which provides multiple inputs so each screen can play separate inputs. Wireless headphones are provided too.
Getting the Blue-ray player does impact storage space however as it takes up most of the console area under the armrest. Other storage can be found at the front of the console however, a space large enough for most phones and all the ports you could need are there.
Trims and interior trappings are sporting in theme with decent materials throughout, though a few cheap plastics could be found here and there. The steering wheel features paddle shifters which is good because the Durango still uses the console mounted rotary dial for a shifter, something we really don’t much like.
Front and center is the UConnect 8.4-inch touchscreen audio, navigation and user interface. Graphics are good as is visibility. The touchscreen responds well to your touch and menus are intuitive enough. Some controls require its use such as certain HVAC functions and the heating and ventilation for the front seats.
Sound comes by way of Beats Audio which is quite impressive especially when you like the bass. The speakers don’t over power the interior trims either. Connectivity features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t yet here as this is still the last generation system from Dodge.
You’ll also like the sound of the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine with its 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Mashing the throttle belts out a nice deep roar from under the hood that accelerates cleanly through its eight forward gears.
Acceleration is brisk but you never forget this muscle motor is pushing a 5,133 pound SUV. Thus it doesn’t have the neck snapping virility of a Challenger or Charger. That’s the trade-off for being able to have three rows and a 6,200 pound towing capacity.
The EPA rates the 2017 Dodge Durango R/T at 14 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. Sounds slim indeed but luckily we achieved a healthier 19 mpg in our week of driving which included a 50/50 mix of both city and highway.
Handling is indeed sharper and more sporting than you might expect from a standard Dodge Durango. Ours was rear-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is an option. Because of this it was a little lighter on its feet but still you feel its weight if you try to throw it into corners too aggressively.
Steering feel is a bit of a numb spot and its brakes do heat up and smell overworked quite easily of you drive it in too sporting a manner. It could use bigger brakes or even the option for them given the space afforded by its 20-inch alloy wheels.
In the final step back, the takeaway here is that the 2017 Dodge Durango R/T is a great option for someone who genuinely wants a muscle car like the Challenger or Charger but needs the utility of and SUV or its towing ability.
At $49,670 as tested it comes in a few ticks up from its $42,095 base price but well below what you can spend if you add all-wheel drive and other options. At the mid-point we feel it makes a good value given the equipment and driving character it serves up. Considering there is little you can compare it too, it’s an option that could be quite attractive to the right buyer.