Oh, the hard-working lives of three-row SUVs. Rarely are they used to their fullest, generally spent nearly empty, but when their capacity and abilities are needed, they’re truly appreciated.
|1. A 5.7L V8 makes 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque and offers 14/20 mpg.
2. While V6 models can tow 6,200 lbs, V8 models get a 7,400 lb rating.
3. Starting at $29,495 for the V6, Citadel models start at $39,995 with our test car at almost $50,000 loaded.
4. RWD is standard with AWD optional for $2,200.
The 2013 Durango is a stiffer and more refined thanks to an enlarged platform shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and its German cousins, the Mercedes-Benz ML- and GL-Class brutes. Chrysler’s six-speed automatic transmission helps the V8 HEMI save gas and keeps the car from feeling like its stuck in overdrive — a painful experience seasoned SUV suburbanites likely loathe.
Many of the usual suspects, like the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder resort to front-wheel drive and this gives the Durango an edge.
It can tug the things that make weekends magnificent with ease. Things like boats, campers or whatever miscellaneous trailer items your heart desires up to 7,400 lbs when muscularly equipped with the HEMI V8, or a still reasonable 6,200 lbs with the V6.
Of course, half the fun in those weekend getaways is, well, getting there. Thankfully, Dodge didn't ignore that fact. If your wallet can muster the extra grit, the Citadel package can match other domestic SUV luxury with poise.
Some of the interior niceties included heated and cooled front seats wrapped in Nappa leather, a nine-speaker upgraded sound system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and integrated navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system, and adaptive cruise control.
Using that feature might feel awkward at first, but it HEMI buyers will appreciate how conservatively it manages fuel consumption. More often than not, you'll find the car using only four cylinders, staving off those painful pauses at the pump. Still, with fuel economy ratings of 14 mpg in the city and a measly 20 mpg on the highway, petroleum cheapskates need not apply.
The 5.7-liter engine could happily deploy all 360 horsepower and – more importantly – 390 lb-ft of torque with a purely American roar. The six-speed automatic transmission is a good partner. It changes up and down smoothly — something that's helped Chrysler make its vehicles feel more civilized in general.
Durangos in Citadel trim are available in rear-wheel drive, but there's also full-time all-wheel drive. It works transparently and keeps the Durango stable along any less-than-perfectly paved surfaces.
Given that the Durango shares its oily bits with the Germans, it’s no surprise that its road manners have improved greatly. Big bumps are absorbed well, there isn’t much lean or roll through corners.
Visually, the Citadel is distinguished from lesser Durango models with a chrome mesh grille, matching mirror caps and 20-inch chrome wheels. It also has a standard power liftgate that opens to about 17 cubic feet of storage with all three rows up.
Lay those flat and you'll have 85 cubic feet at your disposal, which Dodge says is enough to stow a six-foot couch and a 10-foot ladder at once with the front seat folded. A strange combination, maybe, but there's a lot of room when your cheap best friend needs to move. Choose wisely.
Access to the third row seems unnecessarily awkward, especially now that Nissan offers its elegant tilt-and-slide arrangement that doesn’t require removing a child seat from the second row. Then again, the “way back” seats probably see occasional use, generally by nimble young people.
While rear-drive V6 models start at $29,495, you'll need to plunk down at least $45,285 for the HEMI V8 and all-wheel drive. Opting for the V6 Citadel in rear-wheel drive, however, costs more than $10,000.
Other extras include second-row captain’s chairs with a small console for $800, another $1,495 for the rear-seat DVD entertainment package and $1,595 for the Technology Group, which includes the radar-based cruise control and forward collision warning, along with blind spot and “cross-path” detection. So equipped, AutoGuide's HEMI-powered Citadel model cost just under $50,000.
When it comes to competition, the big V8 Dodge has fewer outright rivals than before. The new Ford Explorer Sport is certainly the closest in terms of performance and car-based civility thanks to its 365-hp twin-turbo V6 and all-wheel drive and suitably optioned comes within a few dollars of the Citadel’s price.
The full-size GM crossover triplets – Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Envoy – and any other Japanese competitor don’t put big V8s in their crossovers and the products that do use them are strictly body-on-frame SUVs.
So the Durango remains a unique proposition; a three-row crossover with German manners and American power, along with enough toys and treasure to keep any car-snob happy. It’s an interesting combination for sure – one few will take full advantage of thanks to the relatively high price. If you can stomach the poor mileage, this is probably the best marriage between old SUV grunt and nouveau comfort for anti-minivan families.