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- Highs Oozes machismo, unbeatable towing capacity, quick acceleration with the V-8.
- Lows Not particularly fuel efficient, driver-assistance features aren't standard, the third row of seats cost extra.
- Verdict In the mid-size SUV world, the 2021 Dodge Durango brings the muscle.
Among mid-size three-row crossovers, there's only one muscle-ute: the 2021 Dodge Durango. While many of its rivals start with a four-cylinder and offer a V-6 as an option, the Durango starts with the V-6 and lets buyers upgrade to a burly Hemi V-8 engine. The family can all pile in thanks to the optional third row of seats, and those up front get treated to comfortable chairs and an intuitive infotainment system. The Durango is perhaps the best choice in its class for towing tasks, especially when equipped with the V-8. Other SUVs may offer more panache, more high-tech driver-assistance features, or comfier rides, but when it comes to machismo, the Durango stands alone.
What's New for 2021?
Dodge has freshened the Durango's look for 2021 with new headlamps, an updated grille, a revised rear spoiler, and a tweaked front bumper, but changes are more noticeable inside. Changes to the dashboard create a more driver-oriented layout, with the infotainment display and lower controls angled slightly to the left. Speaking of infotainment, the Durango can now be had with a new optional 10.1-inch infotainment system running an updated version of the Uconnect interface; the larger display is also bundled with a wireless smartphone charging pad; the new system will be optional on the GT and standard on the Citadel and R/T. A new Tow N Go package is available on the top-spec R/T trim. It bumps maximum towing capacity to 8700 pounds and adds a dedicated towing mode as well as unique 20-inch wheels and flared fenders because, why not?
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The mid-range GT model is the best value of the bunch, and we'd stick with the standard V-6 over the thirstier V-8 engine. After all, if you're looking for a performance SUV, the Durango SRT or the limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat (both reviewed separately) are more likely to please. We'd be interested in upgrading from the standard 8.4-inch infotainment system to the new 10.1-inch unit, though, and that costs $995 on the GT model and also adds in-dash navigation, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Durango's optional 360-hp V-8 provides a significant boost in towing capacity (up to 8700 pounds), while the 295-hp V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission are a more efficient pairing. The Durango's fuel economy doesn't beat that of its four-cylinder rivals, of course, but the trade-off for the more entertaining V-8 and its burly towing capacity might be worth it for some buyers. We tested both the V-6 and V-8 engines with the standard eight-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive. The Durango with the V-6 managed a 7.4-second zero-to-60-mph run; the V-8 did it in 6.2 seconds. The Dodge's suspension walks the fine line between sport and comfort, but the steering feel and braking performance remind you that you're driving an SUV. Although it's not overtly sporty, the Durango's rear-wheel-drive platform lends an athletic feel to the Durango, and its muscle-car persona shines through in everyday use. It still manages to deliver a comfortable ride, making it a family-friendly SUV that's both fun to drive and easy to live with.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Crossovers with a four-cylinder under the hood are more fuel-efficient, but the Durango's V-6 is still competitive with other V-6–powered rivals. The EPA estimates the V-6 model will earn up to 19 mpg city and 26 highway. The V-8 version tops out at 14 mpg city and 22 highway. In our highway fuel-economy test, the 2020 V-8–powered Durango R/T surprised us by outperforming its EPA rating (and even its own V-6–powered variant) as well as the lighter and more modern GMC Acadia V-6. The V-8–powered Durango managed 23 mpg while the V-6 matched its EPA rating with a 22-mpg result.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Every manufacturer uses a combination of materials that range from cheap to high quality, but some designs such as the Durango's are better executed than others. Designers prioritized ergonomics, material quality, and overall comfort, but other rivals offer more second- and third-row passenger space. A set of gauges featuring red and white on a black background faces the driver. The steering wheel features a thick, leather-wrapped rim and handsome metal-look trim. On our R/T test vehicle, paddle shifters mounted behind the wheel operated with a satisfying click. We were able to fit 30 carry-on suitcases inside the Durango's cabin with all of its seats folded flat, but we only fit four behind the third row with all seats in place. That's two more than the Acadia managed in both measurements. The Ford Explorer held only 25 overall (the same as the Mazda CX-9), but it offered space for six of our cases behind the third row, making it best for hauling people and cargo at the same time.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Durango has one of the best infotainment systems on the market perched atop its sculpted dashboard. Base SXT and mid-range GT models come with an 8.4-inch display while a 10.1-inch screen is optional on the GT and standard on the Citadel and R/T. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard with both screens. A rear-seat entertainment system, also optional, adds dual screens and provides HDMI and RCA ports to connect even more devices. We noted good audio quality for Bluetooth phone calls, and one caller even commented that she could hear the V-8 engine's sonorous rumble.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
The 2021 Durango hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it was not named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Optional automated emergency braking adds an extra layer of protection and its standard backup camera helps with safely reversing the big beast. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking
- Available adaptive cruise control
- Available lane-keeping assist
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Dodge offers a typical warranty with all new Durangos; extended warranties are available for purchase through dealerships. The Hyundai Palisade offers a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is the best in the industry. Most other competitors offer roughly the same coverage as the Durango. GMC and Toyota provide two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance, but Durango buyers will have to pay separately for such services.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance