Smooth and quiet highway cruising is a definite strong point in the Durango, but more unexpected is its relative agility and response
As winter slowly draws to a close, the variations in weather we can see here in the Toronto area are staggering, from downright balmy temperatures to frigid icy storms, all within a matter of days. What better way to tackle the crazy weather than in a full-size SUV with a big hearty V8 under the hood? This is the 2017 Dodge Durango Citadel, in top luxury spec. Like its competitors, the Durango has evolved from its rugged 4×4 roots to a refined and spacious family hauler.
There is a seemingly endless number of big family haulers to choose from, but the Durango’s biggest stand-out feature is surely its muscular attitude. The SUV’s flowing lines and aggressive front and rear fasciae give it a powerful presence on the road. This is aided by the signature Dodge “Racetrack” full-length LED taillights and HID projector beam headlamps up front. The Durango can be optioned in GT or R/T trim levels for a total monochromic look. However, the top of the line Citadel comes with standard chrome accents. New for 2017, the Citadel can be optioned with the $1,095 Platinum appearance package, which swaps the chrome for a satin finish complemented by unique 20” wheels and integrated cross bars for the roof rails.
If the standard 3.6L V6’s 295 horsepower isn’t enough to back up those muscular looks, for $2,400 you can option your Durango with the legendary 5.7L HEMI V8 boasting 360 horsepower and a whopping 390 ft-lbs of torque. Opting for the V8 also pushes the Durango to its class-leading towing capacity of 7,200 pounds. The real value of the V8, however, is the feeling you get from behind the wheel. The available torque makes brisk acceleration and passing on demand at any speed an absolute breeze.
The Durango’s mass hustles with authority when you drop the hammer, and the prominent tips of the dual exhaust let out a signature V8 roar that simply cannot be compared to any of the Durango’s six-cylinder rivals. Regardless of engine choice, power is put to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic, with paddle shifters in R/T and Citadel models. The ZF-sourced transmission does an impressive job managing the V8’s power with lightning quick downshifts and by smoothly making itself unnoticed during regular driving.
The V8 does hit hard at the pump, with our average fuel economy for the week ending at 14.0L/100km. It could be worse given the Durango’s size, capabilities and AWD system, and without the HEMI’s MDS fuel saver system (which seamlessly shuts down four cylinders when needed), it would be. It’s also worth noting that we saw some very cold mornings with the Durango, and made good use of the standard remote start system. However, the Durango’s thirst does get a bit tiresome for commuters.
What doesn’t become tiresome is the way this Durango drives. Smooth and quiet highway cruising is a definite strong point in the Durango, but perhaps more unexpected is its relative agility and response in the city. I found the steering well weighted, sharp to respond, and quite likely the most engaging in this segment. Also, despite the smooth ride, the Durango exhibits firm body control through quick highway ramps and curves, providing a nice amount of confidence.
As you might expect in a fully loaded SUV, there is no shortage of luxury equipment inside. For passengers up front, the Nappa leather seats are heated and ventilated, and complimented by a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel. The front seats are also fully power adjustable, there’s a power moonroof, and the big 8.4” UConnect infotainment screen dominates the dash. Second row passengers are treated royally in the Citadel, with heated adjustable captain chairs (a split bench is available), their own centre console with storage and illuminated cup holders, and dual screens which can play DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, along with HDMI input.
The rear entertainment system is a $2,150 option and includes a set of wireless headphones for the sake of maintaining peace on those long family road trips. Rear passengers also get their own roof-mounted climate controls so there will be no bickering over the temperatures. Those in the third row aren’t so lucky, but will be pleased to know that access is easy thanks to the sliding second row, and both head and legroom are adequate.
Cargo space is somewhat limited with the seats all in place, but with the Durango boasting over 50 different seat configurations, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a configuration that works perfectly for whatever your needs might be. It should go without saying, but folding all of the seats flat does allow for a massive cargo area that’ll easily take on most typical household hauling jobs.
The one area where the interior in the Durango, especially a loaded Citadel, falls short of its competition is in overall interior quality. With a starting price of almost $45,000 for a base model, $57,000 for a Citadel, and over $66,000 for this one, expectations are higher for the materials and finish inside the Durango. The Nappa leather seats are great, but that’s where it ends; the door panels and dashboard are a decently nice soft-touch black plastic, but it’s not exactly upscale.
Our test vehicle featured black accents as well, which really blended in, but it would have been nice to see some wood, or even the satin accents from the exterior carried inside. The headliner and A-pillar coverings are also just standard Dodge fare, which cheapens the overall feel inside. Up against a top-trim level competitor like the Ford Explorer Platinum (reviewed here) with its quilted leather and massage seats, the Citadel’s interior appointments definitely rank lower.
It does sound like Dodge has a fix for the interior, as they will be soon releasing a Platinum Interior Package, available on the Citadel only. The package comes with two-tone seats with silver stitching, a faux suede headliner, platinum and gunmetal accents and leather faced door panels – everything the Citadel needs to make the interior feel just as special and luxurious as the rest of the truck.
If shopping for a big family hauler, capable of just about everything from taking the kids to hockey practice in a snow storm, to towing the boat to the cottage, the Durango would be near the top of my list; second only to the GM body on frame SUVs (Yukon/Tahoe/Suburban), which are more expensive than the Durango. Try as everyone may, it’s hard to beat the feeling and sound of a V8, and the 2017 Dodge Durango Citadel is a perfect example of an application where the brutish HEMI makes sense. My only advice would be to wait until the new interior package is available.
2017 Dodge Durango Citadel Gallery