Test Drive: Dodge Durango remains a popular choice

2017 Dodge Durango GT Brass Monkey RWD
2017 Dodge Durango GT Brass Monkey RWD

Somewhere along the line, someone in the Dodge division of Fiat Chrysler must have asked, “Why tamper with success?” Dodge’s Durango sport-utility vehicle hasn’t changed much since 2011, aside from a mild refreshing in the 2014 model year. And in a year when some Dodge models are scuffling or even being discontinued, the Durango is enjoying a 13 percent increase in year-to-date sales.

That isn’t to say Dodge isn’t coming up with clever ideas for drawing attention to the Durango, a rugged, medium-priced SUV available with rear- or all-wheel drive. Our white 2017 Durango GT wore a “Brass Monkey” moniker, though it contained no discernible brass components.

Brass Monkey, a $595 option, is one of several packages mostly centered on the car’s exterior appearance. “Separate yourself from the run-of-the-mill with the bold Brass Monkey Appearance Package based on the Limited model,” Dodge advises on its website. The package’s highlight is a set of 20-inch tires mounted on burnished bronze aluminum wheels.

Our Durango GT, equipped with rear-wheel drive and 3.6-liter, 295-horsepower V-6 engine, had a base price of $37,495 that climbed to $44,770 with options. The base Durango SXT, with the same engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and rear-drive setup, starts at $29,995.

Most Durangos come with three rows of seats and hold as many as seven passengers. Among midsize SUVs, it does a better job than most of accommodating passengers in the third row. It also delivers decent fuel economy of 19 mpg city, 26 highway, on regular unleaded gasoline.

In GT trim, the Durango’s standard-features list includes heated front and second-row seats, heated steering wheel, satellite radio, 8.4-inch touchscreen display, remote start and three-zone automatic temperature control. It also comes with the UConnect infotainment system, which “brings your world into your vehicle using 3G Wi-Fi access, personalized app, local search guides and more.” We found it easy to use, reliable and quick, and the big touchscreen enhanced the system’s convenience.

In terms of price, the Durango was competitive with other midsize crossover SUVs at $44,770, but its value grew with the long standard-features and options list. The $7,000-plus in options added an audio upgrade, navigation system, power liftgate, power sunroof, rear DVD entertainment center, blind-spot and cross-path detection, power tilt/telescoping steering column, and more. The Durango also is capable of towing 7,200 pounds even with the base engine.

The V-6 engine delivered quick acceleration off the line but was not as responsive at highway speeds. The ride was commendably smooth and quiet, and handling was predictable. The leather-appointed seats were firm, bordering on stiff, so would-be buyers should plan on test-driving the Durango enough miles to form a judgment on seating comfort over the long haul.

The 2016 Durango earned an overall 4-star rating in government crash tests.

Other entries in the crowded field where the Durango competes include the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

2017 Dodge Durango GT Brass Monkey RWD

Price: $44,770

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 295 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: rear-wheel

Weight: 4,905 lb.

Ground clearance: 8.1 in.

Suspension: short and long arm front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 20×8-in. burnished bronze aluminum (optional)

Tires: P265/50R20 all-season

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 17.2 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 85.1 cu. ft.

Maximum towing capacity: 6,200 lb.

Fuel capacity: 24.6 gallons

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline