2018 Dodge Durango Buying Advice
This is the best truck for you if you want the space and towing capacity of a large SUV, the drivability of a midsize crossover, and the promise of muscle-car-like performance. It’s an unusual combination, but the Dodge Durango isn’t a conventional SUV.
Durango seats up to seven and occupies a territory between midsize crossover and full-size SUV. It’s technically a crossover, in that it’s built with car-type unibody design and is available with a V-6 engine and all-wheel drive (AWD). At the same time, it has some attributes of a large, truck-based SUV because of its rear-wheel-drive power bias, available V-8 engines, strong towing capacity, and spacious passenger and cargo areas.
In this sense, Durango competes with three-seating-row midsize crossovers, such as the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, and Toyota Highlander. But it also is a slightly-tidier-sized alternative to traditional full-size SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Toyota Sequoia. Even though sales were flat for 2017, Durango has proved a strong seller for Dodge, sustaining demand despite being one of the oldest crossovers on the market. This design generation dates to model-year 2010, with a refresh for 2014.
Should you buy a 2018 model or wait for the ’19?
If Durango’s your bag, consider the 2018. No significant changes are expected for the ’19 Durango, although it’ll almost certainly cost more. And waiting for the 2019 will net you a Durango in the final model year of this design generation. An all-new Durango is expected as a 2020 model.
The rest of the ’18 lineup consists of base SXT, sporty GT, luxury-themed Citadel, and performance-oriented R/T models. Changes to these trims for ’18 largely revolve around feature packaging. Rear-obstacle detection and a power liftgate become standard on all but the SXT. Citadel, R/T, and SRT gain front-obstacle detection as standard. Citadel and SRT versions now offer an upgraded suede headliner. And models equipped with the available 8.4-inch infotainment screen now include support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto.
Styling: Despite an overall design approaching 10 years old, Durango is aging well. The exterior styling is what we’ve come to expect from a modern Dodge: bold and in-your-face. The “crosshair” grille on SXT, GT, and Citadel models is a brand staple whose appearance changes slightly depending on the trim level you select. R/T and SRT versions eschew the crosshair look for a narrower, more aggressive front end and get a hood that features a functional air scoop. These grades also have a “widebody” exterior kit with flared fenders and side skirts. On all models, the taillights wrap around the rear quarter panels, and a light bar extends the width of the rear liftgate. Even in the high-performance iterations, Durango’s design is very clean and it looks like a smaller vehicle than it is.
Several extra-cost appearance packages are available. The Blacktop Package for SXT, GT, and R/T adds gloss-black wheels, exterior mirrors, and door badges. The Brass Monkey Package includes matte-brass-finish wheels to the GT and R/T and a blackout grille to the GT. The Anodized Platinum Package, available for the SXT and Citadel, includes platinum-colored wheels, grille, fog lamp bezels, exterior mirrors, and door handles. Citadels with the package get second-row captain’s chairs, upgraded headliner, and a leather-wrapped dashboard with contrast stitching.
Any Durango cabin is a nice place to be. Materials quality is top-notch, especially the available leather-wrapped dashboard and suede headliner. The instrument panel consists of a digital center screen vehicle speed, flanked by traditional analog gauges for the tachometer, fuel, and coolant temperature. Owners can configure the display to supplement the speedometer with trip, fuel-economy, audio, or navigation information.
The high degree of customization continues to the infotainment suite. All 2018 Durangos come with a 7-inch display and Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect 4 software. While there are some discrete climate and audio buttons directly below it, the screen is your main portal to the vehicle’s systems. Its standout feature is the ability to create a quick-access “home row” of icons for your most-used amenities. The settings menu offers a laundry list of things you can tweak, including the ability to disable the rain-sensing function of the windshield wipers. We wish the controls for the available heated front seats and steering wheel were accessible outside the touchscreen environment, and that CarPlay and Android Auto were standard. But given how responsive Uconnect is, it’ a minor complaint.
Passenger room and comfort are very good. Even the third-row seat can accommodate average-sized adults better than the same seating in a Nissan Armada, Tahoe, or regular-length Yukon. Very tall occupants up front will wish for a bit more rearward seat travel, but headroom is more than sufficient across the board. Durango’s optional rear-seat entertainment system is a standout for its dual 9-inch screens, each of which offers auxiliary HDMI and composite video inputs to connect things like video game consoles. It also supports high-definition Blu-ray movies, though the disc player is mounted inside the center console, which takes up more than half the available space. Second-row captain’s chairs are optional on most models, and for another extra cost, you can add a convenient center console bin with extra storage and cupholders.
Maximum cargo volume is 17.2 cubic feet behind the third row, 47.7 behind the second row, and 84.5 with both rear seating sections folded. While slightly less than the average for full-size SUVs, this volume beats that of most three-row midsize crossovers.
Mechanical: The 2018 headline is addition of the SRT model with a 6.4-liter V-8 of 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. It’s a counterpart of the similarly powered Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, and that brings us to a bit of Durango background.
In 1997, Chrysler Corporation entered a partnership with Daimler-Benz, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. During that time, the German automaker shared with Chrysler engineering expertise that made its way into products such as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, which came out in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and continue today. The Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee also use a Mercedes-derived platform, but their current generations went on sale after Chrysler’s U.S.-government-managed bankruptcy and subsequent acquisition by the Italian automaker Fiat S.p.A., which created an entity now known as Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
Despite an underskin architecture that can be traced to that 2005 Daimler design, Durango is still an incredibly solid vehicle. Even the performance R/T, with its firm sport suspension and 20-inch tires, rides and handles like a car, albeit a big one. The steering is meaty and precise, grip and balance through turns are remarkably good, and despite its size, it has a relatively tight turning radius and isn’t as difficult to maneuver in tight spaces as you might think.
Rear-wheel drive is standard on all but the SRT. Included on that model and optional otherwise is all-wheel drive, and, unless you live when the snow doesn’t fall, it’s a feature we would strongly recommend. Part of our testing of an AWD Durango R/T involved travel in heavy snow, and even though it had performance-oriented all-season tires, it didn’t skip a beat.
Standard on the SXT, GT, and Citadel is a 3.6-liter V-6 with 293 horsepower (295 horsepower with dual exhaust outlets) and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power is smooth and surprisingly strong, even though the lightest Durango weighs nearly 4,700 pounds. Similarly smooth is the refined exhaust note.
Optional on the Citadel and standard on the R/T is a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that produces 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. The improvement in overall responsiveness over the V-6 is noticeable, whether accelerating from a stop or merging and passing on the highway. As a bonus, the V-8 produces a delightful growl during acceleration, yet it fades into silence at cruising speeds.
The top-flight SRT employs a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 with 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. We haven’t tested this model, but expect 0-60 mph in just over 6 seconds, blistering acceleration for such a large vehicle. That power is supplemented by a performance-tuned adaptive suspension, powertrain drive modes, and 20-inch tires.
All Durango engines pair with an 8-speed automatic transmission that delivers smooth, prompt shifts in any situation. It’s a much better performer than the 9-speed automatic that FCA offers in vehicles such as the Chrysler Pacifica and Jeep Cherokee. Dodge also deserves kudos for replacing Durango’s fussy electronic gearshift lever for a conventional unit.
Features: SXT grades come standard with five-passenger seating, 18-inch wheels, fog lights, rearview camera, Uconnect 4, keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, and three-zone automatic climate control.
The GT adds extra body-color exterior trim, 20-inch wheels, power liftgate, LED daytime running lights, remote engine start, leather/suede blend upholstery, seven-passenger seating, heated front seats and steering wheel, driver-seat memory, 8-way power driver’s seat, two rear-mounted USB charging ports, rear-obstacle detection, and built-in garage-door transmitter.
R/T and Citadel add automatic high-beam headlights with auto-leveling, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Nappa-brand leather upholstery, power front-passenger seat, ventilated front seats, power tilt and telescopic steering column, 8.4-inch touchscreen with CarPlay, Android Auto, and imbedded GPS mapping, and front-obstacle detection. The R/T has a load-leveling suspension that’s optional on the SXT, GT, and Citadel, while the Citadel has a power sunroof that’s otherwise optional, including on the SRT.
SRT grades include high-performance suspension and steering tuning, upholstery made from a Nappa leather/suede combination, second-row captain’s chairs, and an upgraded Beats audio system, which is also standard on the R/T.
Pricing for the 2018 Dodge Durango generally tracks less than most large SUVs, falling closer to that of three-row midsize-class crossovers, such as the Traverse, Highlander, or Honda Pilot. Base prices we list here include Dodge’s $1,095 destination fee. They also are for models with rear-wheel drive; all-wheel drive adds $2,600 to all except the SRT, which is AWD only.
The SXT grade is priced from $31,090. The GT has a lot more standard equipment, so its base price jumps to $38,990. The Citadel starts at $43,290, the R/T at $44,840, and the SRT at $64,090.
Three-row seating is a $995 option for the SXT. The $2,500 SXT Plus Package includes the third-row seat and adds rear-obstacle detection, power driver’s seat, roof rail crossbars, and satellite radio. Ordering the Plus Package opens access to the Blacktop or Anodized Platinum package ($995 each). Also available is the $1,645 Popular Equipment Group that includes heated front seats, heated steering wheel, power liftgate, and auto-dimming rearview mirror.
For the GT, $695 will get you either the Blacktop or Brass Monkey Appearance package. The $1,495 Safety/Security and Convenience Group includes automatic high-beam headlights with auto leveling, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, cargo cover, power tilt and telescopic steering column, and rain-sensing wipers. The Technology Group costs $2,595 on its own and $2,195 when ordered with the Safety/Security and Convenience Group. It includes adaptive cruise control to maintain a set following distance from traffic ahead, forward-collision warning, lane-departure alert, and autonomous emergency braking that can automatically bring the vehicle to a halt to prevent a rear-end collision.
If you don’t include the Safety/Security and Convenience Group, the Technology Group also adds blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert as well as rain-sensing wipers. The $2,395 Premium Group adds Beats audio, power sunroof, 8.4-inch Uconnct with imbedded navigation, five years of SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link services, and one year of SiriusXM Guardian telematics.
Citadel options include the R/T’s 5.7-liter V-8 engine for $3,995. The $2,490 Premium Entertainment Group adds Beats audio, and dual-screen Blu-ray entertainment.
The R/T, Citadel, and SRT have a $2,495 Technology Group includes everything in the GT’s $2,595 package.
SRT offers a $1,500 Interior Appearance Group that upgrades the materials of the dashboard.
Standalone options, depending on trim level, include a trailer-tow package for $995, second-row captain’s chairs for $995, a single-disc CD player for $495, power sunroof for $1,195, and dual-screen Blu-ray system for $1,995.
The best value of this line depends on your priorities. If you’re an enthusiast, we’d recommend an AWD R/T with Technology Group and rear-seat entertainment. That would carry a sticker price of $51,880 and increase from there should you choose one of the appearance packages, trailer tow group, and/or captain’s chairs. If you’re OK without any driver-assistance features such as forward-collision warning, an AWD SXT with Plus Package and Popular Equipment Group is a compelling buy at a sticker price of $38,830.
EPA ratings for V-6 Durango models fare rather well relative to other three-row midsize crossovers. Rear-drive models rate 19/26/21 mpg city/highway/combined while those with AWD rate 18/25/21.
V-8 versions are in the same ballpark as the larger Tahoe, which also has a V-8, and the Ford Expedition, which uses a turbocharged V-6. With the 5.7-liter V-8, Durango rates 14/22/17 mpg with both rear- and all-wheel drive. The SRT rates 13/19/15. Our test AWD R/T achieved just 15.0 mpg in a test that involved lengthy stays in heavy city traffic.
The V-6 engine uses regular-grade 87-octane fuel. Dodge recommends mid-grade 89-octane for the 5.7-liter V-8 and 91-octane premium for the SRT’s 6.4-liter V-8.
It’s hard to say what the future has in store for the Durango, or even the Dodge brand in general. Our best guess is that this SUV will soldier on with few significant changes for at least 2019 and maybe even 2020. It’s possible a redesigned Durango that uses a Fiat-derived platform will come out in 2020 or 2021. Industry scuttlebutt also suggests that Fiat might divest itself of Chrysler entirely. Should that come to pass, we predict the new owner will keep the highly profitable Jeep and Ram Truck brands, but either sell off or outright axe Chrysler and Dodge. Stay tuned.
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