Ask AutoGuide No. 33 – Dodge Durango vs. Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Ford Flex

Ask AutoGuide No. 33 – Dodge Durango vs. Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Ford Flex
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Whether you want a big one a small one a squat one or a tall one, automakers can provide just about any kind of crossover vehicle you desire. These days there’s really something for every person, purse and purpose.

This week Betty wrote in asking for a little advice. She’s in the market for a new three-row family vehicle, but a boring old minivan just won’t cut it, and frankly neither will a station wagon… mostly because no manufacturers really offer any in North America (don’t get us started). A spacious crossover will fit the bill quite nicely..

Aside from the rugged good looks provided by a car-based utility, Betty requires a few other features. She wants heated leather seats, power windows and door locks as well as an automatic liftgate. She’s got up to $35,000 to spend and refreshingly has no prejudice; she’ll own a product from any brand. Still, it’s not easy to find a vehicle with all of these features that lands in that price range. Fortunately we’ve managed to unearth a fine lineup of crossovers that ought to serve her well.

Suggestion #1 – 2014 Dodge Durango Limited RWD

2014 Dodge Durango InformationIt’s got a point-one cubic-foot glove box that literally goes on for inches and is outfitted with a luxurious 12-volt light bulb; it’s even got enough room for two turkey sandwiches! Fictional newsman Ron Burgundy summed up one of the Dodge Durango’s major features quite nicely, but this sport utility vehicle offers much more than just in-dash storage for 70 packs of gum.

Ron Burgundy Dodge DurangoThe 2014 Durango is a stylish three-row SUV with lots of interior space. Its cargo hold can accommodate a maximum of 85 cubic feet’s worth of junk. Behind the middle seats it serves up nearly 48 cubes; aft of the third row there are 17.2. And now you know…

To meet Betty’s feature requirements we had to step up to the Limited trim, which is a mid-range version of the Durango. Skipping the available all-wheel-drive system it carries a base price of $36,990, including $995 in destination fees.

As such it comes with a plethora of highly desirable features including leather-trimmed seats and a cow-hide-wrapped steering wheel. Heated chairs, a backup camera, Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system, power windows and door locks, keyless entry and remote start are also included in the Limited trim. Hey, we could get used to this.

But one feature is conspicuously absent. Betty specifically requested a power liftgate and this flavor of Durango does not come with one. Fortunately said feature is just an options box away. The “Navigation and Power Liftgate Group” fulfills this requirement and only adds $850 to the price tag.

Standing in the checkout line this vehicle will ring up for $37,840, including shipping and handling. Of course that’s a little richer than our budget allows for this week, but do not despair. There are almost certainly incentives on the Durango. Check with your local Dodge store for the latest deals.

As for this vehicle’s whirly bits, it’s powered by a smooth-running 3.6-liter V6 engine that’s matched to a cutting-edge eight-speed automatic transmission. Drivers have 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque to play with; a significantly more muscular Hemi V8 is also available.

As for fuel economy this baby stickers at 18 miles per gallon city and 25 highway; its combined score is 20 mpg. “Is this a gumball machine or a Dodge Durango?!”

Suggestion #2 – Hyundai Santa Fe Limited FWD

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe InformationTechnically the Dodge may not clear this week’s budget hurdle but it’s close enough. One vehicle that just about squeaks in by the skin of dead bugs on its windshield is the Hyundai Santa Fe. Appropriately optioned, a Limited-trim front-wheel drive model stickers for $35,025, including $855 for delivery.

This version of the Santa Fe can accommodate up to seven passengers in three rows of seats. Hyundai also sells a “Sport” model, though it’s only got room for five. Betty wouldn’t want that one.

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe ProfileIn Limited guise, the Santa Fe is much more than just the capital of New-ish Mexico. It comes with niceties like blind spot monitoring, a coveted power liftgate, push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped seats and rear sunshades. Oh yeah! It’s pretty much got everything Betty wants in a crossover.

However, remote start is missing from the standard-features list. Not to worry, Hyundai offers the electronic add-on as a stand-alone accessory that can be yours for just $395, a figure that’s included in the out-the-door price listed above.

All non-Sport Santa Fes are powered by a refined 3.3-liter V6 engine. With variable valve timing and direct fuel injection it delivers an impressive 290 hp and an equally remarkable 252 lb-ft of twist. These numbers are nearly identical to what the Durango’s six-cylinder engine can muster and it’s three-tenths of a liter larger.

Hyundai’s engine is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission that makes the most of its available output. The gearbox also aids and abets fuel efficiency. Accordingly, the Santa Fe stickers at 18 miles per gallon city and 25 highway, identical to the Durango’s numbers. However, the Hyundai somehow manages to achieve a combined score of 21 mpg.

As for interior space, this South Korean offering serves up 13.5 cubic feet of storage space behind its aft-most seats. Cranking the knob to 11 it offers a maximum of 80 cubes.

Suggestion #3 – Ford Flex SEL FWD

2014 Ford Flex InformationLike Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, the Ford Flex is unmistakable. On the road it stands out like a multi-colored onion dome punctuating Moscow’s skyline. It’s an automotive icon of the 21st Century, a crate on wheels that’s distinctly outside the box.

2014 Ford Flex St. Basil'sStyling is obviously one of the signature features here. Whether you like it or not, this vehicle looks like nothing else out there. Its flat roof, slab sides and styling lines contribute to the design’s individuality. But don’t think that just because this Ford crossover looks different means it can’t carry a lot of junk.

There’s 20 cubic feet of storage space behind the Flex’s rear-most seat. With both rows folded flat it delivers a maximum capacity of 83.2 cubes, a little more than the Santa Fe offers but a little less than the Durango.

Betty can get a nicely equipped SEL front-wheel-drive Flex, the midrange model, for a little under 33 grand. Opting for the available “Equipment Group 202A” package, which nets her many desirable options, increases the bottom line by $2,500. It adds leather seating surfaces, a remote starter, a power liftgate, blind-spot monitoring technology and a bunch of other features. Out the door this vehicle should sticker for $35,295, including $895 for shipping and handling, excluding any potential rebates (clip your coupons; they might just give you a deal).

In the mechanical department Ford’s Flex is powered by a 3.5-liter V6. It puts out a class-competitive 287 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque, slightly fewer ponies than offered in the Dodge and Hyundai. The engine is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission.

This well-known drivetrain combination returns equally familiar fuel-economy figures. The front-wheel-drive Flex stickers at 18 mile per gallon city, 25 highway and 20 combined, identical to the big, bad Durango.

IN CONCLUSION…

So, we’ve introduced Betty to a trio of capable automotive suitors. Each vehicle is unique but they should all serve her needs very well. Dodge’s Durango is the most traditional utility in this comparison, with a rear-wheel-drive layout and macho looks. By a narrow margin the Hyundai Santa Fe is the most efficient and probably the most crossover-y if that’s a word, which it isn’t. Lastly the Ford Flex makes a bold design statement and marries that with a heaping helping of versatility. Of course we recommend she test drive each of these vehicles but given our druthers we’d probably push for either the Flex or Santa Fe.

Ask AutoGuideAs always, good luck in your quest for a new family vehicle, Betty, and thanks again for taking the time to Ask AutoGuide.

If you need a little assistance shopping for your next vehicle feel free to do the same. Send a short message to ask@AutoGuide.com. Let us know the basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of those fundamentals out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.