It’s a Durango, kid

Dodge SUV still lives up to its rugged name

Closing out a second decade on America’s roadways, the Dodge Durango continues to be refined and inch its way more toward the crossover status that seems to hold more cachet throughout suburbia.

Let’s make no mistake, though. While the 2016 Durango can provide the ride for the family, it can also do the work of its ancestors in both hauling and towing. It is a large sport-utility vehicle with three rows of seats and a desirable exterior sheeting that fits nicely between being considered too soft or too hard.

Durangos are similar to Jeep Grand Cherokees. They come in SXT, Limited, Citadel and R/T trims, each with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The entry-price point is $30,495 for an SXT with RWD and the top-end R/T starts at $41,995. All-wheel drive is $2,600 more at each level.

While the R/T gets Dodge’s crowd-pleasing Hemi V8 (a 5.7-liter engine producing 360 horsepower and 390 lbs.-ft. of torque), the base engine is a 290-hp, 3.6-liter V6. We tested the latter in a Citadel with all-wheel drive and found it to be more than satisfactory. The Durango is built to haul so responsiveness is on point. To those so inclined, towing capability is up to 6,200 pounds (7,400 pounds with the Hemi engine).

Fuel economy with the V6 is a reasonable 18 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway, numbers that benefit from a new automatic stop-start system.

Driving the Durango is not much different than handling a much smaller SUV than this 16-foot, 9-inch version. The eight-speed automatic transmission performs well and the steering wheel comes with paddle shifters. Moving more than two-and-a-half tons is never going to be done daintily, but the Durango can finesse its way around winding country roads and city streets.

Traditional Durango seating is for seven people with folding second- and third-row seats. Front-seat passengers get the requisite amenities that you would expect, from expansive/supportive buckets (both heated and ventilated on the Citadel trim), to an array of technology.

Most noteworthy is the Uconnect 8.4 that includes an 8.4-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, voice controls, USB port, auxiliary audio jack, media player interface and connective service.

The vehicle we drove came with optional second-row captain’s chairs ($995) that, like the three-person bench it replaces, fold and tumble. There is plenty of cabin configuration versatility that can expand cargo space from 17.2 cubic feet with all seats in place to 84.5 cubic feet when the seats are down.

The Dodge Durango started as a large utilitarian people mover and hauler. The current entry sticks to the basics but brings refinement along for the ride.

David Mikesell is a free-lance automotive reviewer based in Indianapolis.

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