2015 Dodge Durango Review

2015 Dodge Durango - Dodge's largest SUV offering fit for growing families.


With the 2015 model year coming to a close, it's a good time to reflect upon Dodge's first century of progress (1914-2014) and its largest sport utility, the Durango.
The Dodge brand now joins up as one of several 'FCA US' divisions. Prior to 2015, Dodge fell under the privy of the Chrysler Group umbrella. Today, FCA US divisions include: Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram Trucks, all once the subset of the Chrysler Group.
Changes reflect the former Chrysler Corporation's recent merger with Italian automaker and now parent company Fiat during Chrysler's ground-breaking 2009 bankruptcy reorganization. In late 2014, Fiat acquired 100 percent of the former Chrysler Corporation.
The team chemistry between Fiat and the one-time Chrysler Group has proven a much better fit than the decade-long 'merger of equals' between Chrysler and former German partner Mercedes-Benz (1998-2007) where corporate cultures and philosophies often clashed. Chrysler's short stint with private equity firm Cerberus LLC (2007-2009) proved a disappointing temporary fix before the 2009 merger.  
Durango remains one of the few vehicles able to lay claim that it's still manufactured in Detroit proper at the Jefferson Avenue North assembly plant, home since 2010 and sharing an assembly hall with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The current 2015 model is based on a third-generation effort introduced that same year.
In the upcoming 2016 model year, not much changes from 2015 save for some exterior visuals including four new exterior colors and upgrades to the well-executed Uconnect audio and visual connectivity system.
Dodge debuted Durango in 1998 with a second-generation effort introduced in 2004. The first two generations incorporated body-on-frame truck underpinnings, significantly different than this third-generation's unibody frame . However, Durango retains rear-wheel drive for a better balanced ride and towing superiority; most crossover rivals have settled for more pedestrian front-wheel drive. With seating up to seven riders, Durango has the capacity for light off-roading, especially V-8 models with a low-range transfer case.
Durango sales in the 2014 calendar year totaled a respectable 64,398 units, up six percent from the previous year. Durango rates as the largest SUV/crossovers in Dodge's 2015/2016 lineup, outsizing the mid-size, five-door Journey wagon with optional third-row seating.
It's a versatile, sport utility/crossover with three rows of seats competing with the likes of the three-row rivals Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander.
Durango offers two distinct engines: a 3.6-liter V-6 boasting 290 horses or when more low-end torque is desired, a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 delivering 360 horses. Both are available with standard rear-wheel or optional in-every-trim all-wheel drive. Standard in all Durango trims: an easy-shift eight-speed automatic transmission twist dial, introduced in a 2014 mid-cycle refresh. It's found between front buckets left of inline beverage holders replacing the conventional mechanical shift knob. Both engines and transmission are shared with Durango's Jefferson Avenue bunk mate, the five-passenger Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Once opening the side fuel door, no need to twist off a gas cap since Durango utilizes a cap-less system. Instead, the fuel nozzle breaks through a barrier that self-seals once the nose leaves.
The rather full-size 24.6-gallon tank holds recommended regular, 87-octane fuel for the 3.6-liter V-6. The V-8 works best with mid-grade 89-octane unleaded but accepts 87-octane regular.
Four trims include SXT, Limited, Citadel and R/T. The 3.6-liter V-6 comes standard in SXT, Limited and Citadel while the larger V-8 is standard fare in R/T and optional in Limited and Citadel.
The 290 horsepower ranks near the top for V-6s in the segment, with respectable fuel economy numbers, a nice bonus. If seeking a V-8 engine for maximum crossover towing ability, look to Durango as the V-8 tows a best-in class 7,400 pounds. The V-6 Pentastar, handles a not-to-shabby 6,200 pounds.
Pricing for our all-wheel-drive Durango Citadel checked in at $43,595 with a bottom line of $49,875 after $994 destination charge. Options included a $1,995 technology group with adaptive cruise control, brake assist and blind spot/cross path detectors, a $1,995 rear DVD entertainment system with dual flip-up second-row screens behind first-row headrests, $995 second-row captain's chairs and $300 storage caddie between the seats. An entry rear-drive SXT starts at $30,495.
Durango's distinctive rear lighting, borrowed from sporty Dodge sedans including Charger, mimics continuous neon-like tube lighting. Two narrow, ribbon-like rows of LEDs (light emitting diodes) rope together at each end, illuminating in red as night approaches. Dodge labels it "LED Racetrack Tail Lamps."
A familiar quad-section front grille adorns Durango and other Dodge products. Our Citadel trim included a chrome, honeycomb theme. It's flanked by narrow headlight housing with projector beam lights extending to side fenders. The rear lift gate receives a standard power assist in R/T and Citadel trims and optional with the in-dash navigation in Limited trims.
Durango also offers a couple seating options within its three rows. Standard is a second-row bench happy to accommodate three riders. Optional for $995 in all but the entry SXT: individualized captain's chairs.
Dodge designed easy fold-and-flip second row captain's chairs creating a wide entrance aisle to the back confines, although the step up from the ground requires sturdy or young-at-heart knees. Once ensconced, two adults under six-feet two inches will find travel not just tolerable but enjoyable. Expect decent first and second row headroom clearance too.
Wisely, no matter which second-row configuration gets chosen, row three with 50/50 split fold-down seat backs is designed for a pair of occupants. Many crossovers enjoy promoting the far back row as a three seater, but that's usually one rider too many. Third-row seatbacks fold onto seat cushions expanding cargo options best handled when the hatch door is raised since pulling a built-in latch on the seat's backside manually lowers them forward. A long strap is used to pull the back rest to a prone position.
The semi-high tech instrument panel incorporates a deep-set, 'eye-goggle' architecture with two circular ends and a corridor linking the two. The left side houses an analog tachometer, the right a fuel gauge and engine temperature. The center corridor includes a variety of screens selectable via steering wheel mounted buttons, including an oversized digital speedometer.
Dodge and its other FCA US brethren employee the best secondary audio control design, toggle tabs on the steering wheel's back side allowing sound and station pre-set changes without finger tips ever leaving the grip or eyes leaving the road ahead. Push-button start comes standard with helpful illuminated 'run' and 'off' wording depending upon which stage the engine finds itself.
Durango's chrome framed center dash face features a super-sized 8.4-inch Uconnect multi-purpose color screen mingling with intuitive ventilation controls nicely bridging the sometimes frustrating gap between the plugged and unplugged generations. Three large tri-angularly arranged tactile dials handle volume, radio station selection and ventilation fan speed while the touch-sensitive monitor combines large icons and words to clarify choices.
With the proliferation of personal and portable electronics, single-feed compact disc players located in the center arm rest now come optional in all trims. The handy adaptive cruise control and cross-path alerts remain optional in R/T and Citadel.
2015 Dodge Durango
Price as tested:
Wheelbase: 119.8 inches
Length:   201.2 inches
Width: 75.8 inches
Height: 70.9 inches
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 290 horsepower
Powertrain warranty: Five year/100,000 miles
City/Highway economy: 17 mpg/24 mpg
Built: Detroit, Michigan

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.