WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., – This planned community is just northwest of Los Angeles in Ventura County, which means it abuts the mountains and canyons that line the Pacific Coast Highway.
It is a lot of fun driving sports or sporty cars on these twisting, tight, two lane thoroughfares that include Mulholland HWY, Decker Hwy and Kanan Road that go through the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu Creek State Park.
But the thought of a full-size 2014 Dodge Durango sport utility on these narrow roads was cause for anxiety. That nervousness soon dissipated after a few minutes climbing up into the mountains and making the first switch back turn with ease as we descended.
The Durango is a unibody constructed three-rowed seven passenger sport-utility that rode more like a sedan than a truck. We had the R/T rear-wheel-drive trim line that was powered by a 5.7 liter 360 horsepower HEMI V8 that made 390 pound-feet of torque.
It was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that was smooth, decisive and adept at shifting the gears of the full-size sport utility through these mountains without a glitch. With its latest transmissions, which the eight speed automatic is one, Chrysler, the parent company of Dodge, has leap frogged its domestic competitors to become a powertrain leader rather than lag the field as it did for decades.
Coupled to the big HEMI V8 that powered the Durango, the eight-speed transmission improved fuel economy by 15 percent to 14 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway for the rear-wheel-drive model.
2014 Dodge Durango R/TOur test vehicle had the safety, security and convenience group package. It included a power tilt telescoping steering wheel and rain sensitive windshield wipers. There was also blind spot monitoring with rear cross path protection.
A new addition to the Durango’s option list was the second row fold and tumble captain’s chairs with a full console in-between. An 8.4-inch touch screen that came with the latest generation of UConnect’s navigation system, Bluetooth and voice commands is the latest technology package that Dodge is rolling out throughout its lineup. The system also had the ability to turn the Durango into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The base price of this Dodge Durango was a surprising $38,995. Even with the options and the $995 freight charge, the total was $43,275. That didn’t seem like too much for a full-size sport utility with a V8 that generated 360 horsepower.
For 2014, the Dodge Durango has new projector headlights, LED taillights with that distinctive across the rump glow that is part of the new look of Dodge. There was also a rotary shifter that left more room on the center console as well as an uncluttered steering column.
A new three-spoke steering wheel gave the new Durango a more sophisticated look. And it now has a Blu-ray/DVD rear seat entertainment system with two nine-inch screens in the driver and front passenger seat backs.
2014 Dodge Durango LimitedThere are four trim lines for the Durango. The SXT has a base price of $30,790, while the Limited starts at $36,990, and our test vehicle, the R/T starts at $39,990 and the top of the line Citadel is $41,990.
All-wheel-drive and a trailer tow are available on all of the trim lines. In addition to the HEMI V8, the Durango can be equipped with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque. The eight-speed transmission is standard across all trim lines.
The AWD version equipped with the HEMI gets 14 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. For the V6, the numbers are 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway for the front-wheel-drive models and 17 mpg and 24 mpg for the AWD versions.
The 2014 Dodge Durango has the swagger and panache that Dodge is now building into all of its models.