Yes, You Can Have It All.
If Jeep made a model with a third row I might have never driven anything else. Among the things I loved about my Jeep were the engine that gave me confidence, the incredibly comfortable seats, easy to reach controls and a solid stance on the road.
Luckily, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the parent company of both Jeep and Dodge, believes in sharing, so Dodge benefits from some of the best features and technologies across its other brands.
Driving the 2016 Dodge Durango was sort of like buying a sweater at J. Crew and finding out that it’s made with cashmere from Loro Piana. Score.
Who This Car is For
- Families who need seating for six or seven passengers
- Families of four who occasionally need two extra seats
- Families with teens or taller backseat passengers
- Parents who appreciate an entertainment system with wireless headphones
- Drivers who like touchscreen functions
- Drivers who like the height and space of a large SUV but the maneuverability of a midsize SUV
- Families who spend a lot of time in the car
- Buyers who like all the top features, conveniences and safety at a good value
A classic American brand filled with luxuries
I was excited to drive the 2016 Dodge Durango, a three row family SUV with the classic Dodge look and feel: The crosshairs front grille, muscular styling and a truck-like appeal give a bad-ass feel. Inside I was constantly delighted by the thoughtful touches and details, from the soft leather seats to small things like the power telescoping steering wheel and lots—LOTS— of USB ports. The Citadel edition we tested, which is the top of the line, had almost anything I could think of for a very reasonable $50,000 price.
Leg room, head room and comfortable seating for everyone
I was excited to experience the Durango’s seats. Funny, I know, but when you spend as much time in the car as I do (and you probably do) seating matters. The leather seats are comfortable and both front and center seats are heated; the front seats are cooled, too, which came in really handy this August as temps on the East Coast soared to the low 100’s.
I spent a fair amount of time riding in the back seat and found it very comfortable; leg room was ample, there are amenities for back seat passengers, including an easy to reach household plug and two USB ports, and the seats recline a bit if you want to take a nap. I was able to open my laptop, plug it in and get work done while my family happily sang along to their Spotify playlists.
Smaller passengers would be more comfortable in the third row on long drives than taller passengers, but foot, leg and head room were fine for a third row.
Luxuries and smart features are standard
The Citadel base edition comes with a lot of luxury: Leather seats, 8.4 inch touchscreen, a very good rear view camera (with guide lines that redirect as you turn the steering wheel), heated and cooled front seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 4 USB ports and 3 12V power outlets, a 115 V household outlet, sun roof, GPS, Bluetooth, capless fuel tank, power lift gate, paddle shifters, fog lights and a key fob loaded with remote start. All Dodge vehicles are also equipped with UConnect wifi for assistance with in-car apps and other functions. However, we found it to be spotty; it was good for checking email but not streaming video. You can see a full comparison of all Durango models and features here.
But there were some important features that were not standard. Upgrades to the Citadel model we drove included:
- Safety technology package (this package is a must for anyone buying a new car): forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control (which comes to a full stop if needed) advance brake assist and blind spot detectors ($1,995)
- Premium entertainment package, including Beats audio system, dual video screens embedded in the backs of the front seats, and DVD system, wireless headphones and a remote control ($2,400)
- Second row captains’ chairs, available on all models except the base model ($995)
- Second row console with a leather covered arm rest (check out the photo of this below; the arm rest can be opened and accessed from the third row too) with USB port, 12V power port and illuminated cup holders ($300)
Super easy to clean and easy third row access
This is the part of every car that frustrates me the most: cleaning between and under the seats. Always, always, always there’s a space you just can’t reach and somehow something sticky, smelly or valuable gets lost there. The Durango has a solution for this: The center seats flip forward (‘Tumble,’ they call it), not only giving third row passengers access, but allowing you to clean all the space under the second row, including between seats, as well as the third row footwell and under those seats, too.
I really liked how the center seats flip forward, too (you can do this with one hand): just pull a lever on the side of the seat, then pull the red cord on the seat bottom and voila, the seat tumbles forward. Third row passengers can pull the red tab and the seat tumbles forward, allowing them space to get out of the car.
Ample cargo space, even behind the third row
Another feature I loved: lots of cargo space. Our trip took us to Florida from Connecticut and we had plenty of room for our long jaunt. Our suitcases, golf clubs, extra duffle bag, beach gear and more all fit nicely in the 47.7 cubic feet of cargo space without blocking the rear view. Once we arrived, we took advantage of the third row to shuttle people to and from the beach. Even with 6 passengers in the car, the cargo space behind the third row (17.2 cubic feet of space) fit our beach bags, toys, a cooler, four chairs and two canopy bags. And just for the record, the Durango has 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats folded down.
All Wheel Drive provides some off road capability
The Durango is available in all wheel drive, but not four wheel drive, which gives you capability most places where the road might be a challenge. We took the Durango to St. Augustine Beach, Florida, where cars are allowed to drive on the beach. One of the days was designated a ‘4WD Only’ day because the sand was soft and deep, but we did just fine. I could feel the car sink in the sand as we drove, especially as we parked in deeper sand. But the Durango held its own, plowing steady and sure through the sand (better than we did in our flip-flops!).
About that rotary dial shifter: I say yay, he says nay
But I don’t care what he thinks, it’s awesome. My husband didn’t love it because it’s not what he expects a shifter to feel like; it felt ‘light’ to him. But I loved it because it was so easy to pop from one gear to another. And in a car this size, especially in tight parking lots or garages, there may be a bit of back and forth maneuvering to get in and out of spaces. The rotary dial made it super easy.
Pick your drive experience and boost your MPG: Sport, Eco and normal mode
This is a feature you see in more and more cars and one that I really like: The ability to pick your drive mode. The Durango has several options: normal, eco and sport. I used eco mode most of the time; between eco mode and and engine stop/start, which shuts the engine down when it’s not needed, I was able to get slightly better fuel economy. We averaged about 20 MPG in the city and got nearly 25 MPG on the highway.
But for times when fuel economy isn’t the point, there’s sport mode, which you immediately feel after pushing the button: The engine is eager and more responsive when you accelerate. Add in the paddle shifters and you really feel the Dodge performance DNA.
Automatic stopping: Keeping garbage cans everywhere safe
Another feature I liked is the auto stop feature. The Durango’s tech package allows the car to anticipate a collision and stop the car, apply braking before you do, come to a complete stop when using adaptive cruise control, and even stop the car when backing up if there’s something in your path. I found this out when backing out of the driveway. *Someone* had left a garbage can on the side of the driveway but partially in my path. The Durango stopped and would not back up any further until the can was moved.
Adaptive cruise control (ACC): Hundreds of miles without touching the brake or gas
I love this feature, but with a caveat in the Durango: ACC is a separate button from cruise control. If you select and set cruise control (CC), the car won’t slow you when traffic slows. You have to select ACC. I discovered this when I thought I ACC was engaged, but I was actually driving with CC engaged. A tip-off is that the the ACC dash indicator is green (the CC indicator is amber). Always, when using ACC, be aware of traffic around you, especially traffic behind you, and maintain control when the car starts to slow or speed up.
Blind spot detectors that mute the radio
I also loved this feature: the radio muted when the blind spot warnings were enacted! Every time we had the music on and I signaled to change lanes, if there was a vehicle in my blind spot, the radio would mute so I could hear the BSD alarm. Now the catch is, it did this a lot on our drive since I often signal when a car is in my blind spot so as I pull past it the other driver can see my intent. So, awkward singing moments without music occurred but crashes didn’t.
What We Loved
- Capless gas tank—no cap to struggle with!
- Adaptive cruise with full stop
- Rotary dial gear shift
- Smart key with remote start and push button starter
- Power lift gate
- Fold and tumble center seats
- Center row captains chairs
- Under floor storage in cargo space
- 4 USB ports, household plug and 4 12V outlets
- Navigation system displays the speed limit
- Beats sound system (premium option)
- Good cargo space behind the third row
- Bluetooth that connected seamlessly when I got in the car with Bluetooth already activated on my phone
- Heated and cooled seats
- In-ceiling climate control in second and third rows
- Good cargo space behind the third row
- 24.6 gallon gas tank—nearly 600 highway miles to a tank!
What You Need to Know
- Center row captains chairs may mean that child car seats have to be removed to reach the third row (or, forgo the second row center console)
- Center row seats are not adjustable to create more third row leg room
- Forward collision alert was super sensitive
- Voice command system worked well for phone but not for navigation
- 3G WiFi is good for basics but not for streaming; a subscription is required
- Uses regular gas
- 18 MPG city/25 MPG highway; we averaged about 20 MPG
- 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty
- 5 year/100,000 power train warranty
- 5 year/100,000 mile road side assistance included
- 5 year/100,000 mile rust protection
The Monroney for the Dodge Durango lists all the features on the model we test drove. Learn more about the Monroney here.