Who’d have thought a 2018 Dodge Durango would instigate a mild marital disagreement? The wife, preparing to drive 300 miles into potentially snowy weather, favored the muscular, winter-ready Durango over the luxurious 2017 Lexus NX 300h, also with all-wheel drive. The husband took note of the Lexus’ significant fuel-economy advantage and superior safety rating; he argued for keeping the Durango close to home.
The Durango hasn’t changed much since 2011, and judging by the way friends and coworkers and spouses reacted to our Granite Metallic Durango R/T, the folks at Dodge figure they’d better not mess with a good thing. Everybody seemed to like the Durango — not just the way it looked, but the way it drove. It’s reassuringly big and powerful, handles competently and rides comfortably.
One of the things we liked about the new Durango — compared with the last one we drove, a 2017 model with a V-6 engine — was the forceful personality of the Hemi V-8. Smooth and powerful, it delivered acceptable fuel economy of 22 mpg, or a little more on a good day.
In R/T trim, the Durango is a near-luxury SUV featuring leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, power-adjustable front seats with lumbar adjustment, three-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, power liftgate and remote start. Optional equipment added about $6,500 to the base price, bring the bottom line to $53,870. The options were desirable, for the most part: blind-spot monitoring and other collision-preventing electronics; rear DVD entertainment center; second-row fold-and-tumble captain’s chairs; and a hand-wrapped dashboard with live stitch.
The base Durango SXT, with a 295-horsepower V-6 and rear-wheel drive, starts at $29,995. All-wheel drive adds about $2,600 to the sticker price.
Durango sales have increased every year since 2013, and the numbers look good for the new year, with 5,145 units sold in January — 438 ahead of January 2017. During the same period, overall Dodge sales have declined every year. That may help to explain corporate owner Fiat Chrysler’s decision not to change the look or personality of one of the brand’s most successful models. (Dodge pickup trucks, sold under the Ram badge since 2011, have been doing as well if not better than the Durango, which still wears the Dodge nameplate.)
Given the popularity of midsize SUVs in the current market, the Durango has plenty of competition: the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-9 foremost among them. But the Durango has one thing its medium-priced rivals don’t: raw power. Our test truck’s Hemi engine boasted 360 horsepower, and more muscle is available. The 2018 Durango SRT’s 475-horsepower V-8 will propel this heavy SUV to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
In the brief conflict over temporary custody of the Durango, frugal won out over fun. But neither did the Durango spent much time sulking in the driveway. It got its share of miles, too.
2018 Dodge Durango R/T AWD
Engine: 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, 360 horsepower, 390 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Ground clearance: 8.1 in.
Weight: 5,381 lb.
Suspension: four-wheel independent
Wheels: 20×8-in. low-gloss granite crystal
Tires: 265/50R20 all-season
Seating capacity: 6
Luggage capacity: 17.2 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 84.5 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 7,200 lb.
Fuel capacity: 24.6 gal.
Fuel economy: 14 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.