2nd Place Dodge Durango Citadel AWD
The Dodge Durango is the best vehicle in the test; no question about it. So why then did it end up in second place? Well, two reasons – price and fuel economy. Like the Ford Explorer, the Dodge Durango came loaded up with virtually every option possible, pushing the as tested price to $53,660. That is a lot of money for a family hauler and the Durango is flirting with luxury crossovers at this price point.
Luckily, the Dodge has the substance to back up that price. It can be best summed up in two words – big and smooth. It has the smoothest engine, smoothest transmission and smoothest ride. It boasts the most power, the most number of gears, the heaviest curb weight, the highest price and greatest thirst for fuel. At an observed 16.7 MPG average, the Durango easily took the crown as least efficient vehicle.
All that fuel is used to power a 360 hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8 pumping out 390 lb-ft of torque. Not only does this engine provide plenty of low end torque, it also sounds great thanks to a subdued V8 burble. The Durango is also heavy and with 5,397 lbs. to lug around and because of that, the power doesn’t feel all that spectacular even with the smooth shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
More than just a great drivetrain, the Durango excels in many other facets. It has one of the most comfortable, sophisticated suspensions, an elegant interior, fantastic leather seats, the test’s highest rated third row seats, ultra-comfortable second row buckets and the best damn infotainment system on the market today.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Dodge Durango Review
Not everything is perfect in this Dodge though, the upper portion of the front seats feel like a wooden board and the fit and finish is just OK. For example, the volume and tuning dials in our test vehicle felt loose.
The Durango Citadel really is a class above in this comparison test, but it is also priced that way. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. If the absolute best vehicle, with the most comfortable seats and nicest drivetrain is all that matters, here is your crossover. If $53 grand seems a bit steep, scroll down and check out the more affordable overall winner.
- PRICE AS TESTED: $53,660
- ENGINE: 5.7-liter V8, 360 hp, 390 lb-ft
- TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
- OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 16.7 MPG
- CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 47.7 cu. Ft.
1st Place – Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD
Hyundai has always built value packed vehicles and the three-row Santa Fe is no different. At a price of $41,275, the vehicle comes with heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, a power lift gate and a massive panoramic sunroof.
It appears the manufacturer has tapped into the secret formula that Japanese brands have been using for decades to make vehicles just the way consumers want them. Like the Highlander, the Santa Fe was not a standout in many categories, but never faltered either. The only section during the entire comparison test that the Santa Fe scored highest in was the important easy to drive category; a score that can be attributed to the Santa Fe’s car-like driving characteristics.
Otherwise, the Hyundai ranked in the top half of most categories like ride quality and NHV. Power comes from a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. It’s more than enough to motivate the 4,297-lb vehicle, but it doesn’t accelerate as energetically as its corporate cousin from Kia. Like the Sorento, observed fuel economy in the Santa Fe was near the top of the comparison with a 21.2 MPG average.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Review – Video
The interior layout of the Santa Fe was well-liked by most staff members, especially the brown leather seats. Front seat comfort ranked high and most testers found an optimal driving position without issue. The second row seats were adequate, but the third row leaves a bit to be desired. Another downside is that Limited-trimmed versions of the Santa Fe like our test vehicle are only available with second row captain’s chairs. If you need to carry more than six people, the Highlander is a better choice.
Hyundai really has taken a page out of Toyota’s play book and created a vehicle that does everything well enough, is efficient and doesn’t offend in any way. Add in a low price point as well as Hyundai’s formidable warranty and the Santa Fe squeaks out a narrow victory as the champion of three-row crossover utility vehicles.
- PRICE AS TESTED: $41,275
- ENGINE: 3.3-liter V6, 290 hp, 252 lb-ft
- TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
- OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 21.2 MPG
- CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 40.9 cu. Ft.