2021 Dodge Durango R/T

2021 Dodge Durango R/T

Large and in charge, with a mean exhaust note and confidence in just about any condition.

I recently spent a week testing the latest Toyota Highlander. While it was perfectly fine, I couldn’t help but think that there has to be a way for a three-row family crossover to be somewhat engaging and interesting; something beyond its intended function. This is literally that – a 2021 Dodge Durango R/T equipped with the Tow ‘N Go Package. It may not be as efficient as a Highlander, or as marvellous to look at as a Mazda CX-9, but man, this thing rocks.

Nearly a decade into its life cycle, Dodge has really given no indication that they want to redesign the Durango. It’s loud, brash, and full of character. With engines starting from the rental-grade V6 right up to the new Durango Hellcat with over 700 horsepower, there really is a model for every type of buyer. The R/T is the sweet spot in the lineup, providing the right balance between loudness, power, and efficiency.

The basic design of the Durango has aged very well, with mild refreshes over the years. It still looks muscular, modern, and sharp. Thankfully, unlike the vast majority of other automakers, Dodge still offers a vast array of wild and bright paint schemes, allowing their vehicles to stand out and represent the personalities of their owners. 295-width 20-inch tires give this R/T a perfect stance, as part of the Tow ‘N Go package at $5,495. Conveniently, this package also adds a high performance exhaust that makes the Durango sound as mean as it looks.

Comfortably fit under the hood of this Redline Pearl monster is a 5.7-liter HEMI V8, naturally aspirated. 360 horsepower at 5,150RPM and 390 lb-ft. at 4,250RPM are plentiful numbers, but what’s impressive about the Tow ‘N Go model is the ability to tow 8,700-pounds, over the regular model’s 7,400. This trim also gets active damping and an electronic limited slip differential, and rounding things out is a set of performance Brembo brakes all around.

The engine gets some additional cooling through a functional hood scoop right off the SRT model, which somehow manages to look cool, as well. An eight-speed automatic is shared with everything else in Dodge’s lineup, and does the job perfectly. Use the paddle shifters to change gears manually and not only will the transmission respond quickly, the exhaust will accompany the shift with a symphony of barks, roars, and authentic-sounding burbles. This is no burble-tune on a late-2000s BMW – this is raw American muscle making itself heard.

One of our complaints with previous Durangos was ride quality – it felt every bit as rough and jarring as its looks would have you believe. The performance suspension here with active damping does wonders to help with this, ensuring body control is some of the best we have seen anywhere in the Stellantis family. Body roll is kept to a minimum, and passengers in the second and third rows reported no awkward secondary motions that are often seen in large SUVs.

Rated at 16.7L/100km in the city and 10.9L/100km on the highway, average consumption is rated at 14.1L/100km. With the personality of the 5.7-liter HEMI, however, drivers will find their right foot getting more and more temptation. We averaged 15.6L/100km over our test week, so it’s a little bit relieving to see that only 87-octane regular fuel is required for the 93-liter tank.

Inside, the Durango has seen some substantial improvements over the years that has us believing that Stellantis is actually listening to journalists’ complaints. Previously, major controls including heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, and certain bits of the climate control were hidden within the Uconnect infotainment system. This latest revision has seen the return of hard buttons, which is a truly refreshing thing to see against the plethora of touchscreens that the industry seems to bring us.

A new 10.1-inch touchscreen houses an updated version of the Uconnect interface, while lesser models get lesser screen sizes. The native system is crisp and easy to use, and now supports wireless Apple CarPlay, a feature that is quickly making itself more and more prevalent throughout the market. Generally, everything is clearly marked and easy to find within the Durango, though we would like to see some improvements to the slow-to-react menus within the digital gauge cluster.

Pricing starts at just under $44,000 for the base Durango SXT with currently available incentives, while the R/T with the HEMI V8 starts at $61,795. Our test vehicle was jammed to the gills, with the most prominent being a $5,495 Tow ‘N Go group. This adds all of the functional bits including additional towing capacity, 20-inch wheels, adaptive dampers, active noise control, and more. Other packages including a 19-speaker stereo, SRT Appearance Group, rear entertainment screens, a sunroof, and Nappa leather seats bring the total as-tested to an eye-watering $81,635.

From a size perspective, the Durango sits a little bit larger than the likes of the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Mazda CX-9. The brash American personality also means it won’t be cross-shopped with these sedate, practical imports. It’s a shame that it isn’t, because even though it’s getting old, the Durango is still pretty darn good. It can seat six in real comfort, or haul a significant amount of stuff. It drives with authority and is easy to get in and out of.

With other automakers advertising electrification, hydrogen and conventional hybrids, it’s refreshing to see Mopar still able to do exactly what they’re good at. The 2021 Dodge Durango R/T is large and in charge, with a mean exhaust note and confidence in just about any condition. Those wanting more juice can opt for the SRT or Hellcat models, but for the average enthusiast with a plethora of kids and a camper to haul around, this model really is the sweet spot.

See Also:

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

2019 Ford Expedition Limited

2021 GMC Yukon AT4

Adi Desai
Adi Desai

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