2016 Dodge Durango: Luxury Iron

By Frank A. Aukofer, December 26th, 2015

Usually when we talk about big honking Detroit iron, we're focused on muscle cars; the 2016 Dodge Durango Citadel most definitely is not one of these. But it still qualifies.

Manufacturer photo: The Durango Citadel has a stretched body to accommodate a third row of seats
Manufacturer photo: The Durango Citadel has a stretched body to accommodate a third row of seats

This is the big kid on the block, a bruiser of a crossover sport utility vehicle with the road presence of a full-size pickup truck, powerful Hemi V-8 engine, the capability to tow up to 7,400 pounds, and the gentility and appointments of a luxury car.

That conjures images of such giants as upscale versions of the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe, or even the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade. But with all of its luxury accouterments, the top-line Citadel comes with a price lower than the offerings from rivals Ford and General Motors. You can spend more than $92,000 for an Escalade or upwards of $73,000 for a Navigator. Ford's Expedition and Chevy's Tahoe can climb near $70,000.

The Durango Citadel tested for this review, with everything on it, entices you with a price tag of about $55,000. Moreover, unlike the GM and Ford sport utility vehicles, the Citadel is not built like a pickup truck with a body plunked down and bolted to a steel frame. Nope, the Dodge Durango is a fraternal cousin of the Jeep Grand Cherokee with a car-based unit body, like most of the newer crossover sport utility vehicles.

Mimicking the Grand Cherokee, the Durango with four-wheel drive has plenty of off-road qualifications, including a low range transfer case for muddling about off-road, backing up trailers and hauling big boats out of the water. It also can be flat towed behind your motorhome thanks to a neutral slot in the transfer case.

Manufacturer photo: The Durango Citadel has a stretched body to accommodate a third row of seats

The difference between it and the Grand Cherokee is that the Durango has a stretched body to accommodate a third row of seats. It can be ordered as an eight-passenger vehicle with a second-row bench seat or as a seven-passenger with second row captain's chairs -- the choice if you have a couple of close friends who enjoy cruising the hinterlands or sampling local scenery. Even the third row delivers decent head and knee room for modest sized adults.

In those travels, you all will settle into the Citadel's soft Nappa leather upholstery. Your bottoms will be soothed up front with heated and cooled seats, and in back with heated seats.

The reward for the driver is the silky smoothness of the Durango's drivetrain -- the 360-horsepower Hemi V-8 engine with 390 lb.-ft. of torque shoving its power through an easy shifting eight-speed automatic transmission with paddles on the steering wheel in case the wheel person wants to take over the shifting.

Want a side trip? The Durango will confidently leave the pavement and traverse terrain without so much as a logging road. However, don't expect it to compete with any of its lesser cousins like Jeep Wranglers. It is simply too big to negotiate tight turns and mighty mounds.

In truth, especially in the tested Citadel version, the Durango is more comfortable on snow covered streets lined with upscale clothing and jewelry emporiums. However, it also works well for minivan-averse small families on beach vacation trips where the priority is engulfing the kids with a load of umbrellas, sand chairs and water toys.

Manufacturer photo: The Durango Citadel has a stretched body to accommodate a third row of seats

The Durango was introduced in 1998 as Dodge's answer to the popular Ford Explorer. A midsize sport utility vehicle, it was based on Dodge's in-between Dakota pickup truck with body-on-frame construction. It grew to full-size stature and, finally, in 2011, adopted the unit body architecture of the Jeep Grand Cherokee as well as other components including engines and transmissions.

strong>There are four versions: SXT, Limited, R/T and the tested Citadel. The SXT, which starts at $31,490, comes standard with eight passenger, three row seating and a decent level of equipment. For 2016, all Durango versions with the 295-hp V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission get stop-start technology to improve fuel economy.

On the road, the Citadel cruises in quiet comfort with decent handling for so large a vehicle. Given the price and kinship with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango Citadel should be worth a look for customers who covet luxury features and need to carry up to eight people.

Specifications

Base price $44,590 (as tested: $54,660)
Curb weight 5,397 lbs.
Displacement 5.7-liter
Engine type 16-valve Hemi V-8 w/SMPFI
Epa mileage rating 14 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 24.6 gal.
Horsepower (net) 360 at 5150 rpm
Overall length 201.2 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 390 at 4250 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Vehicle type 7/8-passenger AWD SUV
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