2014 Dodge Durango first drive
Dodge’s biggest SUV hits the sweet spot
Westlake Hills, Calif. – For all the endless urban sprawl of the Los Angeles area, you don’t have to go far to find spectacular driving roads. Just beyond Santa Monica on the western edge of the conurbation, the coastal mountains are threaded with a gearhead’s paradise of tortuous, writhing two-laners. None of which, it seems, are more tortuous than Piuma Road.
Did we miss a turn somewhere? Or did Dodge really intend to send us down this dementedly twisted stretch of tarmac in the full-size Durango SUV we’re driving?
By the time we reach the next intersection on our route book, we know we haven’t wrong-slotted. Dodge already knew what we’re now in the process of discovering – that even a five-metres-plus, two-tons-and-change SUV can maintain its composure – and even entertain its driver – on roads that would be better matched to a Mazda Miata.
Which is nice to know, but hardly key to our evaluation of the changes Dodge has wrought on the 2014 edition of the Durango. This is a mid-cycle nip ‘n tuck for the third generation of the large Dodge SUV – one that Dodge calls a full-sizer, though the target vehicles that company officials cited in their marketing presentation here were the CUVs that most other automakers call their midsize offerings: the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander and GM’s Acadia/Enclave twins.
Not just another crossover
Photo: Jeremy Sinek
In that context, the Durango is somewhat of a throwback. Although it comes only with AWD in Canada, it’s one of the few entrants in that group that is still built on a basically rear-wheel drive architecture, and available with a dual-range transfer case. Most everything else, and certainly all those with available three-row seating, are modern crossovers with front-while drive, transverse-engine passenger-car DNA.
Durango’s available V6 or V8 engines are arranged longitudinally and its gearbox is positioned between the engines and the rear axle, just like in olden-days trucks. Not that the Durango is one of those body-on-frame, live-axle dinosaurs. It has a unitary body, and a sophisticated independent rear suspension (fascinating factoid: the Durango shares its architecture with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which in turn is genetically linked to the last-generation Mercedes ML, with which it was co-developed during the former Daimler-Chrysler marriage).
All of which arguably positions the Durango in a class of its own; in size, capability, fuel economy and price it occupies a zone between the midsize, car-based crossover cohort and more traditional full-size, truck-based SUVs (Expedition, Sequoia, Armada, Tahoe etc).
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The good news is no one was hurt during this mishap! Someone may have lost a job after that though!
Date 13-12-17, Duration 1:31, Views 115713