Mountain Wheels: Choosing the appropriate package for the Dodge Durango |

Mountain Wheels: Choosing the appropriate package for the Dodge Durango

The 2016 Dodge Durango is highly customizable, with paint options for those one the conservative end and those looking for the Brass Monkey of vehicles.
Special to the Daily |

2016 Dodge Durango Citadel AWD

MSRP: $43,895; As tested, $50,670

Powertrain: 295-HP 3.6-liter V6 engine; eight-speed automatic transmission

EPA figures: 21 mpg combined (18 city, 25 highway)

I would not normally contend that paint and chrome would be a key factor in maybe not especially liking one particular variant of an otherwise likable automobile. But in the case of the large 2016 Dodge Durango, a Velvet Red Pearl/Anodized Platinum pick on the overall model configurator turned what I’d mentally associated with a sleek, dark and menacing full-size SUV into kind of an overly flashy one, better associated with the brand’s older days.

In this case, the Durango — a higher-capacity and significantly retooled variation of its sister, the Jeep Grand Cherokee — ended up with a case of chrome overload, with a gleaming wire mesh grille, body line trim, overly busy chrome wheels and even side-mirror caps, all of it looking a bit like a really overdone early 2000s Chrysler 200, in the process. Minus, of course, that one-piece, body-wide tail lamp, the Durango’s most distinctive feature from the rear.

That’s all a matter of taste and individual style and is apparently important to potential Durango owners, so you can go in a number of directions to reel in the flash. There’s the more desirable blacked-out models, with their dark wheels, windows and lamps making them look like perfect fleet vehicles for a futuristic anti-terrorist squad with its own series on the CW Network. Or you can go completely ape-spit crazy and step up to the new (for real) Brass Monkey edition, which adds bronze-y highlights to stretch taste into even sketchier territory.

And given that folks in this market might really dig a particularly flashy three-row beast with seatback video screens, rear AC controls and ceiling-mounted vents all the way to the very back — and some 50 different available variations of seating, including the two dedicated second-row captains chairs and the larger-than-usual pair of third-row seats — gaudy is good, I guess. Flatten it out and you’ll get up to 85 cubic feet of storage space, as well.

For plusho parents not quite hip to my preferred “Call of Duty”/gangsta look in the darkened-out Durangos, the top-of-the-line Citadel model I drove had all of the high-end bits to mark it as Fiat Chrysler America’s brashest family hauler — good quality leather bucket seats, faux wood trim and (of course) more chrome flash on control surrounds and even the bottoms of those front-seat-mounted pop-up monitors.

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You can also eke out 25 highway mpg, or more, with the standard 3.6-liter V6 engine, a 295-horsepower setup here that felt entirely capable and powerful at all altitudes on the I-70 drive, even with quietly integrated AWD as part of the package. The V6 is good for 6,200 pounds of trailer hauling and will get as much as 600 miles on a tank of gas; you can also opt for a 360-HP 5.7-liter Hemi V8, though I was impressed by what the V6 was capable of doing.

Durango’s scale is also useful for keeping the wolves at bay, as you’d expect with a full-size SUV, and a new sport mode button on all models does not exactly make it a Charger Hellcat, but it does bump up the revs and instill an extra sense of oomph. Durango is reasonably well composed for its size, so cornering on the Citadel’s standard 20-inch wheels is still an indication you’re dealing with a three-row monster (though not a totally ungainly disaster), and ride quality is smooth and exceptionally absorbing for ruts and holes in the road.

The eight-speed transmission is also generally responsive and you can even paddle shift things if you’d like, while the still unexpectedly unusual rotary shift knob controls the standard directional gear choices.

The back of the Durango is really the most important part of the vehicle, overall, and here the four-person-only setup I sampled offered ample, comfortable room and better-than-average accessibility to the significant third row (second row seats fold and tumble). That configuration, which also included a center console with a USB charging port, a 12-volt auxiliary power outlet and even illuminated cupholders, was part of a $1,295 option package.

I’ve never seen the actual structures of seats quite as electronically integrated as those in the Durango but you’ll find the HDMI and AV connections for those optional screens built right into the sides of the front seats; wireless headphones are also part of the $2,490 entertainment package that includes a Beats premium audio setup and Blu-ray dual screens.

Durango’s front cabin is a slight variation on the standard Dodge layout, with a periscope-style instrument cluster featuring a large video screen and graphics and lettering unique to the Durango.

For 2016, other changes include the inclusion of a fuel-saving automatic stop-start function as a standard choice on the 3.6-liter engine models, plus those new appearance packages.

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