Pricing for the Durango in Canada starts at $43,769, $33,340 in the US.
The Durango remains the last 3-row midsize SUV to offer V8 power.
The SUV’s age has not slowed it down.
North America is behind other large global markets when it comes to adopting EVs. While this is not something to boast about, it does gives us a few final opportunities to enjoy what could only be called relics of the past. The Dodge Durango may be an artifact, but it remains one of my favorites.
If we boil it down to the essentials, a midsize 3-row SUV needs to haul stuff, people, and get them from point “A” to point “B”. Clearly, all currently offered SUVs will answer all of the above requirements. The way they deliver on these points varies tremendously, however.
Tasteful nip and tucks
The 2021 Dodge Durango is fresh from a visual update that incorporates signals from the Charger Widebody’s big grin that also incorporates revised LED lights, the sculpted hood, and many more minor tweaks. The R/T earns a more aggressive low-gloss black grille texture. Obviously, the Durango’s overall shape is unchanged. And for all intents and purposes, the Dodge SUV continues to age gracefully.
The same goes for the cabin. The general layout has evolved over the last decade and most notably for 2021, the center stack gains a more driver-oriented setup. Angled by 7 degrees towards the driver, the new 10.1-inch touchscreen display, which now features Uconnect5, sits above a new narrow horizontal HVAC control panel. Also new is the addition of a flat-bottom performance steering wheel with paddle shifters lifted from the SRT 392 and Hellcat models.
As always, the Durango boasts a ton of room for everything and everyone. The rear bench, or rear captain’s seats as fitted to the tester, are large and comfortable. The third row is relatively easy to access for adults, a breeze for kids. Up front, the perches are supportive enough for all drives and there’s plenty of storage options. Available truck space is up to 1,340 litres behind the second row.
Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, it’s time to talk about what sets the 2021 Dodge Durango apart from all the other midsize 3-row SUVs. In a segment that offers turbocharged 4- and 6-cylinder engines, naturally-aspirated V6s, and hybrid technology, only the Durango can be specified with a V8. And not just one V8, but one of three V8s.
Out of the box, the R/T includes FCA/Stellantis’ wonderful and legendary 5.7-litre V8 engine. With 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque on tap, it delivers speed and power. With the right towing equipment, the Durango will easily drag 8,700 lbs behind it. The only issue with this engine is, and you’ll have guessed it, it loves fuel. Any amount of mild-ish throttle results in 14L-15L /100km so a heavy right foot will be penalized severely. In a week’s time, I massaged a horrific 18L/100km out of the HEMI, but I’d not have driven this Durango any differently.
The accompanying 8-speed automatic transmission is responsive and works wonderfully. It’s never shy about dropping a few gears when the driver wants to feel the HEMI’s power. Or, when he or she wants to hear it. My tested F8 Green Durango R/T example was specified with the Tow N Go Package. The near $5,500 option throws in SRT wheels and tires, Brembo brakes, body flares and sills, and a lower valance, as well as a retuned SRT-performance exhaust. If you want to hear it, please watch my video – just fast-forward to the 14:20 mark.
Needs one more mode
The addictive and enthralling rumble is impossible to resist and so is the package. It also includes extra drive modes, namely Track, Sport, Snow, and Tow. All modes provide name-appropriate changes to the AWD system, throttle response, and finally, dampening.
My list of “issues” with this Durango is very short. Fuel consumption is one, but not a surprise, another is the tested unit’s options and pricing, and finally, the SRT Active Damping Suspension, as part of the Tow N Go Package. Unfortunately, the dampening is adjusted via programmed drive modes. In other words, if I want Sport mode, I need to deal with the tightened-up suspension damping. On some surfaces, the ride quality suffers. A custom mode or an individual suspension setup button would be nice.
Finally, about the price. Look, I love this truck for all the right reasons, but I would do unspeakable things to get my hands on an SRT 392. The R/T is priced from $61,395 while the SRT 392 starts at $75,995. So far, the gaps justify the R/T. However, my tester included the aforementioned Tow N Go Package, the Harman/Kardon audio system, rear entertainment system, SRT interior appearance package, and more for a grand total of just shy of $80,000. The thing is once you go full-SRT, there’s no turning back.
In the segment, there are plenty of alternatives (Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, among the better ones) but there’s only one midsize 3-row SUV that is this entertaining.