The 2014 Dodge Durango was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show this week, showcasing a new SUV that re-focuses on its most popular segment as a family people-mover that also boasts plenty of utility.  Better fuel economy, more interior luxury and technology, and updated styling come together to make the new Durango an SUV with many best-in-class boasts.

2014DodgeDurango

Style

The new 2014 Durango has made detail changes to bring it up to the current style trends Dodge has been pushing out across its lineup since the unveil of the new Dart last year.  For the most part, the Durango looks like its predecessor with just a few differences.

Most will notice the slimmer “split crosshair” grille whose mesh texture changes to denote the trim level of the Durango it adorns.  The headlights have changed as well, now sporting a projector-beam look consistent with today’s trends.  A raised front bumper makes the 2014 Durango look a little more dangerous than its predecessor – that sinister look Dodge is generally known for in its trucks and muscle cars.

The overall look of the new Durango is one of a prowling cat, with heavy brows over the headlamps and body sculpting to suggest leaning forward.

Details add to the overall look with each trim package, with the 2014 Durango Rallye and R/T having different headlamp bezels, colored lower fascias at front and rear, larger wheel flares, and different moldings overall.  Ride height is 20mm lower for the R/T package, improving drive dynamics.

Every trim level has a choice of 18- or 20-inch aluminum wheels in various finishes – seven in all.  V8-equipped models have standard 3.5-inch dual exhaust tips while the V6 models have a single 3-inch tip.

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Powertrain

The standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine puts out 290 horsepower, which is boosted to 295 hp on the Rallye trim.  It features best-in-class towing of 6,200 pounds and a best-in-class total range of up to 600 miles per tank of fuel.  This engine has been named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for three years running and Dodge has seen no reason to mess with a good thing.

The larger V8 option in Chrysler’s award-winning and well-vetted 5.7-liter HEMI, which produces 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, giving a best-in-class towing capacity of 7,400 pounds.  This latest iteration of the engine matches those in Chrysler’s Ram Trucks with new Fuel Saver Technology – cylinder de-activation – to give high fuel economy in four-cylinder mode and unmatched power when running all eight.  This switch is seamless and automatic, giving more or less power on demand without sacrificing capability or performance.

Both engines are coupled to Chrysler’s new eight-speed automatic transmission.  This debuted on the 2013 Ram 1500 V6 and has since been proliferating through Chrysler’s brands and models as an extremely efficient new standard.  Dodge puts it to go use in the 2014 Durango, boosting fuel economy up to nine percent.

For the 2014 Dodge Durango, the transmission has been tuned specifically for each engine option.  More than forty shift maps are programmed, each made for specific conditions to optimize shift quality and economy.  Under various circumstances, whether towing, climbing a hill, or just cruising the city streets with a couple of passengers – or any combination thereof – the transmission knows what it should do.

A new Eco Mode in the 2014 Durango contributes to improved fuel economy by reducing climate control drag, optimizing the transmission for economy, and makes the Fuel Saver Technology in the V8 more aggressive.  It also adds interactive deceleration fuel shut-off to cut fuel delivery while coasting.  Eco Mode is default in the 2014 Durango at all trim levels and can be de-activated with the push of a button.

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Interior Refinement and Tech

The 2014 Dodge Durango comes standard with seating for seven, but the second row can have the bench swapped for pilot chairs to make it six.  Both the rear and middle rows are split benches can be folded singly or as a whole.  This allows for a lot of versatility in how cargo and passenger space can be configured.

Ergonomics are big in the 2014 Durango with storage cubbies, pockets, and armrests throughout.  Small touches like the switch on the instrument panel to lower the third-row headrests when not in use for better rear visibility are a nice bonus.

Technology is big in the new Durango with the instrument cluster and dashboard being re-designed for the 2014 model year.  The changes are to accommodate updated tech like the 5- or 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screens in the center console.  The 5-inch screen is standard with higher trim levels of the 2014 Dodge Durango showcasing the larger screen.    The new instrument cluster is also coming from the Dodge Dart, featuring a new 7-inch TFT that is fully configurable to driver’s preferences.  Other additions include USB ports, simple knob controls, and the new twist-knob-controlled shifter featured as part of the 8-speed transmission.

Many common features on today’s smart phones can be integrated with the Uconnect system to allow for hands-free, voice commands.  Popular apps like Pandora, iHeartradio, and others.  Other in-car features like climate controls and audio controls can also be controlled with voice commands.  Even navigation, including entering destinations, can be done hands-free.  One-button emergency calling via the ASSIST button on the rear view mirror can summon emergency help, even without a cell phone.

Add to all this the array of safety features built-in to the 2014 Dodge Durango and you can see it’s definitely gunning for the top spot in the SUV market race.  The 2014 Durango will be manufactured at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan.

Gallery

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Video

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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