If you’re in the market for a seven-passenger SUV, the 2015 Dodge Durango may not be the first option that springs to mind in this very competitive segment. But we’re here to tell you that this "dark horse" Dodge is indeed worthy of your attention. With its classy interior, enticing infotainment features, available V8 power and industrial-grade towing capacity, the Durango is an all-around star. Despite that workaday toughness, it’s also one of the easiest vehicles of its ilk to maneuver.
Dodge made major revisions to the Durango’s interior last year, and the result is a very welcoming environment. Clean, functional design and high-quality materials throughout provide an upscale ambience that not long ago would have been completely unexpected of a Dodge product. Operating the high-tech features is a breeze, too, especially when the large, intuitive 8.4-inch touchscreen is specified. Last year also marked the debut of an eight-speed automatic transmission that replaced the old six-speed, and the extra two gears make the base V6 engine a lot snappier. If you can afford it, though, the 5.7-liter V8 is still a desirable beast, especially if you’ll be using your Durango to haul heavy loads.
While the 2015 Durango’s various strengths are quite appealing, some other choices may better suit your particular needs. Well-regarded family crossovers like the 2015 Chevrolet Traverse, 2015 Mazda CX-9 and 2015 Toyota Highlander offer considerably more maximum cargo capacity and a smoother drive over pockmarked roads. But if you like the idea of a sturdy yet cozy family workhorse that rises above thanks to a premium vibe, the SUVS "B" rated Dodge Durango merits a long look.
Thanks in part to its light steering effort, the 2015 Dodge Durango feels relatively maneuverable at low speeds for such a large vehicle. Unfortunately the steering remains light at higher speeds, too, which translates to a rather disconnected feeling when you’re negotiating a twisting mountain road. The Durango is still as well mannered as any other SUV in these conditions, just not as confidence-inspiring as you might think given Dodge’s sporty brand image.
Although the Durango is smooth and quiet at speed on the highway, we’ve found the drive on broken pavement to be somewhat jarring. Competitors like the Highlander and Ford Explorer are calmer when the going gets rough. When it gets really rough, however, the Durango V8 offers a true 4WD system with low-range gearing, and that’s something its car-based crossover competitors can’t say.
Low-end torque is not a strong suit of the V6, but once the Durango is moving, that engine pulls respectably, if rather noisily. Midrange acceleration is fine for passing and merging, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is at the ready with timely downshifts. Not surprisingly, the V8 provides more authoritative responses, along with a satisfyingly deep exhaust note when temptation gets the better of you.
The 2015 Dodge Durango large crossover SUV is available in four trim levels: SXT, Limited, R/T and Citadel. Seven-passenger seating is standard across the board, while optional second-row captain’s chairs (available on all trims) reduce capacity to six.
Standard equipment on the SXT includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, heated exterior mirrors, cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control (includes separate rear air-conditioning), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 60/40-split-folding and reclining second-row seat, a 50/50-split-folding third-row seat (with power-folding headrests), Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, Uconnect voice controls, a 5-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker sound system with an SD card slot and USB and auxiliary inputs.
A couple of options packages are available exclusively on the Durango SXT. The Customer Preferred Order package adds roof rails with stowable crossbars, an eight-way power driver seat with four-way lumbar, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio. The Popular Equipment Group adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The Limited comes standard with those options and adds LED running lights, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, remote start, leather upholstery, driver memory settings, a six-way power passenger seat (with four-way lumbar), heated second-row seats, a 115-volt power outlet and an 8.4-inch touchscreen display with an upgraded version of Dodge’s Uconnect system that includes text-to-speech messaging capability, emergency roadside assistance, streaming Internet radio and 3G Wi-Fi capability. The larger touchscreen and related infotainment features are optional on the SXT.
Optional on both the SXT and Limited, the Rallye Appearance package deletes the roof rails and adds 20-inch black wheels and additional body-color exterior trim. Optional on the Limited is the Safety, Security and Convenience package that features automatic wipers, automatic high-beam headlight control, xenon headlights, a power-adjustable steering wheel, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-path alert. Also offered on the Limited is a Premium package that adds 20-inch silver wheels, a power liftgate, a sunroof, a navigation system and a 10-speaker Beats by Dr. Dre sound system (late availability). The navigation system and the power liftgate are also available as a separate package.
The R/T starts with the Limited’s standard features (minus the roof rails) and adds the V8 engine, 20-inch black alloy wheels (silver wheels are also available), a lowered sport-tuned suspension, Rallye-style body-color exterior trim and a sport front fascia, along with xenon headlights, power liftgate and Beats by Dr. Dre sound system. The sunroof and the navigation system are optional. A Premium Napa Leather and Convenience package adds upgraded leather seating in red (an R/T exclusive) or black with red accent stitching, extended leather trim, an eight-way power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, driver memory settings and the power-adjustable steering wheel, automatic wipers and automatic high beams.
Optional on SXT, Limited and R/T is the Blacktop package, which features gloss-black 20-inch wheels, a gloss-black grille, Rallye-style body-color exterior trim and other minor blacked-out exterior trim.
The Citadel switches to a chrome grille, the regular suspension and the base V6 engine (the V8 is optional), but otherwise generally builds on the R/T’s equipment list, adding as standard the automatic high beams, automatic wipers, sunroof, power-adjustable steering wheel, eight-way power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, upgraded leather upholstery and a navigation system.
Optional on both the R/T and Citadel is a Technology package that adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert and the blind-spot monitor with rear cross-path alert. All trims except SXT offer a rear-seat Blu-ray/DVD entertainment system with dual video screens, an HDMI input for each screen and (if not already specified) eight-way power front seats with driver memory settings. Optional on all but the R/T is a skid plate package for off-road protection. All Durangos can be outfitted with a towing package that includes a heavy-duty alternator and oil cooler, load-leveling rear shocks and a full-size spare tire.
Modern and functional, the 2015 Dodge Durango’s cabin is a standout in this class. Regardless of trim level, the design is attractive and features upscale materials that convey uncommon elegance. It’s not just the predictable soft-touch surfaces up front, either; the Durango even provides supple outboard armrests for third-row passengers, whereas its competitors typically serve up cheap hard plastic.
The 8.4-inch touchscreen display that comes standard on most Durangos is attractive and easy to use, featuring large virtual controls and quick response times. It’s one of the best interfaces on the market, and its upgraded Uconnect system provides smartphone app integration, text-to-speech capability for text messages and advanced voice controls. The gauge cluster is another highlight, with a high-resolution 7-inch configurable information display flanked by analog gauges on either side.
The Durango’s front seats are roomy and comfortable, and there’s plenty of support and cushioning in the second row, too, with reclining seatbacks to make the trip even better. As for the optional second-row captain’s chairs, they’re almost as accommodating as the front seats. Access to the third row requires a moderate squeeze past the middle seats, even with the fold-and-tumble captain’s chairs, but it’s no more taxing than other SUVs in this class. The third-row seats are confining for adults but well suited to smaller passengers, as is the norm in this segment.
With the second- and third-row seats folded down, the Durango can carry up to 84.5 cubic feet of cargo. This is a respectable amount, but competing large crossover SUVs like the Chevy Traverse and Mazda CX-9 offer considerably more maximum cargo space. There’s plenty of room behind the second-row seats, however, with that area measuring a healthy 47.7 cubic feet.
Antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on every 2015 Dodge Durango. A rearview camera and parking sensors are optional on the SXT and standard on all other Durangos.
The 8.4-inch touchscreen includes Uconnect Access, an emergency telematics system that offers emergency assistance and stolen car tracking. The Limited’s Safety, Security and Convenience package gets you a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-path alert. The Technology package, available on R/T and Citadel, adds a forward collision warning system that sounds a chime and can also jerk the brakes to alert you when a collision seems imminent. If the driver doesn’t respond by braking, the system will automatically apply the brakes to avoid or mitigate a collision.
In SUVS testing, a Durango Limited V6 with rear-wheel drive came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 124 feet, while one with all-wheel drive did it in 125 feet. Both distances are average for this segment.
In government crash tests, the Durango received four out of a possible five stars overall, with four stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Durango its highest score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength crash tests. The Durango’s seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" by the IIHS for whiplash protection in rear impacts, and Dodge’s big SUV earned the middle "Advanced" rating for frontal crash prevention when equipped with the Technology package.
Except for the R/T, all 2015 Dodge Durango models start with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque with the standard exhaust. Dodge rates it at 295 hp with the available dual-exhaust system (Citadel trim, Rallye Appearance package or Blacktop package). The transmission is an eight-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional on every Durango V6.
Standard on R/T and optional on the Limited and Citadel is a 5.7-liter V8 engine rated at 360 hp and 390 lb-ft. The V8 shares the V6’s eight-speed automatic and similarly comes standard with RWD. Instead of the AWD system, though, it offers a more rugged on-demand 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case that features low-range gearing.
In SUVS testing, a Durango V6 with RWD accelerated to 60 miles per hour in 7.8 seconds, while one with the V6 and all-wheel drive did it in 8.1 seconds. Both are competitive times for this class.
The EPA’s fuel economy estimates stand at 20 miles per gallon combined (18 city/25 highway) for the Durango V6 with RWD and 19 miles per gallon combined (17 city/24 highway) for the V6 with AWD. The Durango V8 drops to 17 miles per gallon combined (14 city/23 highway) with RWD and 16 miles per gallon combined (14 city/22 highway) with 4WD.
Properly equipped, a Durango V8 can haul up to 7,400 pounds, while the V6 version tops out at 6,200 pounds — in either case, far more than most competitors can handle.
Easy to maneuver; well-trimmed, high-tech cabin; powerful optional V8; generous towing capacity; available 4WD with low-range gearing.
With its muscular styling and performance, standout interior and agreeable road manners, the 2015 Dodge Durango is a great choice for a seven-passenger SUV.