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The new 2014 Dodge Durango SUV gets major upgrades to its exterior, interior and powertrain this year to keep it ahead of the pack in its SUV segment. I tested the new V6 powered Rallye Package that gives the Durango bolder styling with its sinister monochromatic Granite Crystal Metallic clear coat paint, aggressive lower aero bodykit, class-exclusive 20X9 inch Hyper Black alloy wheels shod with 265/50R20 inch Goodyear all-season performance tires and rear dual bright exhaust tips. Also new this year is the segment’s first eight-speed automatic transmission with a rotary shifter dial located on the center console to differentiate the Durango transmission shifter from the Grand Cherokee’s T-handle eight-speed shifter and allows for an up to 9% improvement in fuel economy and a more refined driving experience. There is also the class-exclusive Dodge ‘racetrack’ LED tail lamps with 192 LEDs, a new front fascia with floating signature Dodge crosshair grille, new projector headlamps with LED running lamps, an 8.4-inch color touchscreen with class-exclusive Uconnect Access including Wi-Fi capability, mobile apps, handsfree calling, handsfree texting, streaming music via Bluetooth, a remote USB port, Pandora and iHeartradio, voice recognition and navigation with 3D mapping. The new instrument panel is a class-exclusive 7-inch customizable thin-film transistor (TFT) full-color cluster, a new sporty/tilt-telescopic/heated/leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel with standard aluminum paddle shifters, audio and cruise-control buttons. My test Durango featured the optional second-row captain’s chair with a standard pass-through center console that makes for easy travel between second-and third-row seats. A new capless fuel fill make for even easier fuel fill up, and more than 60 available safety and security features including Auto Crash notification 911 call button, Adaptive Cruise Control with stop function and Forward Collision Warning with collision Mitigation.
The new look conveys how advanced the Durango is, while maintaining the muscular body and confident driving experience customers expect from Dodge. The new face is still distinctly Dodge and features a new, slimmer ‘split crosshair’ grille with black mesh textures. Combined with the redesigned projector-beam headlamps and a raised front bumper with splitter and spoiler at the bottom, the new Durango has an even more sinister look than before. The sculpted hood and grille complete the unique to Dodge forward-leaning profile that continues through the deeply browed headlamps. The Rallye is also equipped with dark-tinted headlamp bezels, body-color front and rear lower fascias, wheel flares, grille and side moldings. LED daytime running lamps run horizontally along the bottom edge of the headlamp to form a unique ‘hockey-stick shape. Furthermore, the new front-end design features new projector foglamps and fog lamp surrounds and matching crosshair grille texture. Combined with a taller front bumper, the new lower fascia gives the 2014 Dodge Durango Rallye a wider and more aggressive look. The side profile maintains its powerful shape, accented by muscular fender arches and curves that flow back in through the doors, resembling the iconic shape of a coke bottle. The profile also features steeply racked A-pillars, a greenhouse that blends seamlessly into the body, pull-out door handles, and power-remote/heated sideview mirrors. The rear fascia contains the new ‘Race-Track’ LED lights, LED backup lamps, a step-up bumper and a new body-color rear spoiler that significantly reduces drag while the new rear has been re-sculpted to fully integrate the trailer hitch. This gives the Durango a cleaner, more premium look and more aggressive with large 3.5-inch dual exhaust tips.
The new 2014 Durango continues to deliver excitement and refinement at the wheel with world-class suspension and performance. Benchmarked against premium performance SUV’s in the market, Durango delivers modernized refinement with electronics, suspension and structural characteristics that are usually found at much higher prices. The unibody structure is built with a selection of high-strength and ultra-high strength steels that improve driving dynamics by integrating the suspension with the body-reducing flex and weight when compared to body-on-frame designs. The short/long arm front suspension includes gas-charged twin-tube coil-over shocks, upper & lower control arms. The isolated multi-link rear suspension features coil springs, twin-tube gas-charged shocks, aluminum lower control arm, independent upper link (tension/camber) and a separate toe link. The suspension also features isolated front and rear cradles to deliver even more precise on-road handling and comfort with less NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). The four-wheel independent suspension combined with Durango’s nearly 50/50 weight distribution, transmits to a solid driving feel and fun-to-drive characteristics. Durango also delivers on the pavement with aggressive shock and spring rates and large front/rear sway bars that easily handle body roll in hard turning maneuvers. The electro-hydraulic rack & pinion steering system is very quick and precise with each turn of the wheel and the unique caster and camber settings along with standard electronic stability control also contribute to maintain maximum tire grip and vehicle stability. The new Durango handles cornering like a new Dodge Charger.
A robust structure, impressive 13-inch front vented disc brakes clamped with dual-piston calipers and 13-inch solid rear discs clamped with single-piston calipers contribute to Durango’s great stopping power and Durango’s best-in-class trailer tow capability of up to 6,200 pounds when powered by the 3.6 liter V6 engine.
Named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for three years, the standard 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine features DOHC’s, 24-valves, all-aluminum block and heads with VVT for excellent low-end torque. It generates 295hp at 6,400rpm in the Rallye Package with 260lb.ft. of torque at 4,800rpm. Mated to the award-winning V6 engine is the Chrysler Group’s new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with rotary shifter and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. This state-of-the-art transmission improves fuel economy along with enhanced performance and smoother shifts. These all figure into Durango’s fun-to-drive ability. Fully electronic, the eight-speed automatic features on-the-fly shift map changing, with manual shifting capability using the steering wheel paddles. More than 40 individual shift maps for specific conditions optimize shift quality and shift points for fuel economy, performance and drivability. The intelligent software is attuned to the performance requirements of almost any driving demand. The transmission efficiency and wide ratio spread provide the best possible fuel economy by operating at a lower rpm in both city and highway environments. The addition of more gear ratios also helps reduce the gaps normally associated with upshifting and downshifting-it’s so smooth! Furthermore, gear changes are nearly imperceptible due to the evenly spaced gear steps between each gear ratio. Internally, the transmission has for gear seats and five shifts elements (multi-disc clutches and brakes). Only two shift elements are open at any time. With fewer open shift elements, drag losses due to multiple parts rotating relative to one another are reduced, improving fuel efficiency. The new Durango also features a new Eco Mode that further contributes to its improved fuel economy. Eco Mode optimizes the transmission’s shift schedule as well as throttle sensitivity. The Eco Mode also manages interactive deceleration fuel shut-off (EDFSO), which cuts fuel delivery when the vehicle is coasting to reduce fuel consumption. The Pentastar V6 and new eight-speed are an incredible combination of performance and fuel efficiency!
The interior is roomy, comfortable, luxurious beyond its base price, ergonomic, high-tech connectivity savvy and very safe in the event of a collision. Dodge designers are bringing Durango to the forefront of technology in the three-row SUV segment, while taking nothing away from the utility, build quality and attention to detail for which Durango is known. I am surrounded by quality soft-to-the-touch materials, chrome and aluminum trim. The front bucket seats are very comfortable and cut deep to keep me and my passenger snug during hard cornering. Families with three of more children will find the Durango’s available captain’s chair with pass through especially helpful as two car seats can stay latched into the second row seats, and there’s still easy pass-through for passengers to walk between to get to the third row. The second-row captain’s chairs will also make adults feel like they are riding in first-class, with comfortable bucket seats with individual armrests, rear dual cupholders and air-vents behind the center console. The available second-row console features dual-hinged door/armrest that when flipped forward, features a hard surface so that the armrest is not damaged by cargo. It also offers class-exclusive storage and features, including USB ports for charging electronics. A fold-flat front passenger seat is standard and by folding forward, the passenger seat provides more utility, which lets customers load and carry longer objects. Once flat, the seat back panel also serves as a convenient utility table. A new active head restraint system adds to the long list of available safety and security features. The third-row seat features a 50/50 split and is easily folded from the rear.
An 8.4-inch touchscreen, a customizable 7-inch TFT gauge display, forward collision warning with crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control with stop and the latest generation of Uconnect Access Via Mobile are just some of the 2014 Durango’s available state-of-the-art features. Uconnect Access connects vehicle occupants directly with police, fire department or ambulance service dispatcher with the push of the ‘911’ button on the Durango’s self-dimming rearview mirror. One push of the ‘ASSIST’ button summons help directly from Chrysler Group’s roadside assistance provider or the Vehicle Customer Care Center. Uconnect also allows me to execute many of the normal functions, such as climate, audio and Bluetooth, all by voice. The Cloud also enables voice texting, a breakthrough feature of Uconnect Access. The center stack contains the climate control dials and features the 8.4-inch navigation screen with the same advanced voice-recognition protocol that simplifies the often-problematic process of entering navigation-system destinations with both hands on the wheel. The system will accept continuous single-sentence instructions, such as “Navigate to Ross Boulevard, Dodge City, Kansas.” The Durango’s navigation system also features new 3D maps with graphic representations as well-known landmarks and terrain, designed to make on-road travel even easier to navigate.
The most looked at area of the interior, the instrument cluster, also has a premium high-tech appearance with the new dynamic gauge cluster. Standard on all models and featuring a customizable 7-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal display, the cluster can be configured more than 100-ways for the ultimate driver-customizable experience. Navigation, audio and fuel economy information and warning indicators can all be displayed in the 7-inch screen. You’ll only find the TFT display in high-priced luxury vehicles.
Standard equipment in my Rallye packaged Durango includes power windows with express up/down up front/power door locks, 3-zone climate control, variable speed wipers/washers, rear wiper/washer, dual map lamps up front and reading lamps for the second and third rows, grab handles above each door up front and at the side in the second doors, dual vanity mirrors, a center console with dual cupholders with ring lighting, a deep and wide dual-tiered storage bin that is lighted, a lighted glovebox, map pockets behind the front seatbacks, hill-decent gearing, a six-speaker AM-FM-CD with Sirius Satellite radio, a lighted open storage bin in front of the center console, storage in each door, carpeted floor mats front and rear including an underfloor storage bin in the rear.
Standard safety features include front/rear crumple zones, steel beams in each door, front airbags, front-seat mounted side thorax airbags, ABS, BA, ESC, Traction Control, three-row side-curtain airbags, 6-three-point safety belts with front pretensioners/load limiters, front-row active head restraints and a tire pressure warning system.
The new 2014 Dodge Durango with the Rallye Package is pure boldness, fun-to-drive around town or on the highway with the latest in comfort, connectivity, automotive high-technology and safety systems to make my time spent behind the wheel even more enjoyable than ever!
COPYRIGHT: 2014: HARVEY SCHWARTZ
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