2014 Dodge Durango

Young makes a world of difference

What does the word "young" sounds to you when you perceive it? Most apparently its authentic meaning: someone who looks young not aged or someone who is living for a short time. This is essentially what popped into my mind when I first saw the Dodge Durango. It's now been updated for 2014, and it steals even more attitude than before.  The height of the grille was taken down; the headlamps were made squinty, and LED running lamps were added. At the rear, the Durango receives the taillamp cure from the Charger, which accentuates its wide posture. 

Exterior
The Dodge Design team went to work to create a new exterior that conveys how advanced the Durango is, while maintaining the muscular body and confident personality customers expect from Dodge.

The new face of Durango is still distinctly Dodge and features a new, slimmer "split crosshair" grille with mesh textures unique to each trim level. Combined with the redesigned projector-beam headlamps and a raised front bumper, the 2014 Dodge Durango has an even more sinister look than the previous model. Durango's sculpted hood and grille complete the unique to Dodge forward-leaning profile that continues through the deeply browed headlamps.

For a more monochromatic appearance, the Rallye and R/T are equipped with dark-tinted headlamp bezels, body-color front and rear lower fascias, wheel flares, grille and sill moldings, all unique to the these packages. The R/T's ride height has also been lowered by 20 mm, further enhancing its sporty appearance and driving dynamics.

The 2014 Dodge Durango now features projector beam headlamps, with LED daytime running lamps on Rallye, Limited, RT and Citadel. The LED lamps run horizontally along the bottom edge of the headlamp and form a unique "hockey-stick" shape. Bi-xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps are standard on R/T and Citadel, turning the night into day. Auto-leveling technology adjusts headlight beam aim for slight changes in elevation.

The new front-end design features new projector fog lamps and fog lamp surrounds and matching crosshair grille texture. Combined with the taller front bumper, the new lower fascia gives the 2014 Dodge Durango a wider and more aggressive look.

In line with Dodge Charger, the side profile of the Durango maintains its powerful shape, accented by muscular fender arches and curves that flow back in through the doors, resembling the iconic shape of a coke bottle. The greenhouse of the new Durango blends seamlessly into the body, and a body-color rear spoiler significantly reduces drag while adding visual drama to the side profile.

The 2014 Dodge Durango receives all-new 18- and 20-inch aluminum wheel designs for every trim level, and feature finishes ranging from silver painted to polished aluminum to class-exclusive Hyper Black. In total, there are seven wheel designs and finishes to select from.

The rear of the Durango sees the addition of the dramatic LED racetrack tail lamp design inspired by the Dodge Charger and all-new Dart. Still immediately recognizable as a Durango, this latest evolution of the racetrack design features a new technology that blends the individual LEDs into one seamless looking ribbon of light. In total, there are 192 LEDs in the new tail lamp assembly that give Durango a presence on the street and make it instantly recognizable as a Dodge.

The rear fascia has been re-sculpted to fully integrate the trailer hitch. This gives Dodge Durango a cleaner, more premium look. Large 3.5-inch dual exhaust tips are standard on V-8-equipped vehicles, including the R/T, along with the Rallye; other V-6 powered Durango models have a 3-inch single tip.

Interior
For 2014, Dodge designers are bringing Durango to the forefront of technology in the three-row SUV segment, while taking nothing away from the utility and build quality for which Durango is known.

The new instrument panel features a redesigned center stack that houses the new 5-inch and 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreens. Under these large, easy-to-use touchscreens are redundant button and knob controls for audio and climate functions. The bottom of the center stack houses a new media hub with an SD card slot, USB outlet and auxiliary jacks, as well as a storage bin.

The center console features a new segment-first rotary shifter for the standard eight-speed automatic that adds another level of refinement over the traditional gated automatic shifter. Manual shift functions have moved to paddle shifters on the back of the Durango's new steering wheel. These paddle shifters are standard on all 2014 Dodge Durango models.

The instrument cluster has also been given the high-tech treatment and now includes a full-color 7-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) screen similar to the one found in the all-new Dodge Dart. Standard on all models, this screen allows for drivers to customize more than 100 ways how information is presented.

Framing the new instrument cluster is a redesigned three-spoke steering wheel with the previously mentioned standard paddle shifters. The buttons to control TFT driver information functions are now larger and illuminated to make them easier to operate. Buttons for Uconnect and phone access now reside along the bottom edge of the vertical spokes. As before, Durango's popular audio controls are still found on the back of the upper steering wheel spokes.

A large lockable glove box has a viscous-dampened hinge, which helps it open and close smoothly.

With standard seven-passenger seating and luxurious second-row captain's chairs available on all models, the seats in the 2014 Durango can be converted to as many as 50 different configurations.

Families with three or more children will find the Durango's available captain's chairs with pass through especially helpful as two car seats can stay latched into the second row seats, and there's still easy pass-through for passengers to walk between to get to the third row. The second-row captain's chairs will also make adults feel like they are riding in first-class, with comfortable bucket seats with individual armrests.

The available second-row console features a dual-hinged door/armrest that when flipped forward, features a hard surface so that the armrest is not damaged by cargo. It also offers class-exclusive storage and features, including USB ports for charging electronics.

A fold-flat front passenger seat is standard on models that aren't equipped with the ventilated seat option. By folding forward, the passenger seat provides more utility, which lets customers load and carry long objects. Once flat, the seat back panel also serves as a convenient utility table. A new active head restraint system adds to the long list of available safety and security features.

A versatile 60/40 split folding second-row seat conveniently folds and tumbles. Transporting long items, like 10-foot 2x4s, is not a problem as the left side of the second row folds 60 percent, allowing the versatility of folding the 40 percent seat in tandem with the front passenger fold-flat seat. Longer items can be stowed even with passengers in the second row. To make passengers more comfortable, second-row seats also are available with heat, and they recline 18 degrees.

The third-row seat features a 50/50 split and is easily folded from the rear of the vehicle. For even more utility, both the second- and third-row seats fold to provide a flat load floor to haul a 6-foot couch with room for a coffee table. Clever touches abound, including a switch in the instrument panel to remotely lower the third-row headrests when not in use.

Driving Impressions
With market demographic trending almost ten years to the younger end of the segment, Fiat Group is building momentum for the Durango which - for 2014 - is addressing those features that are important to young families on the go while continuing to satisfy the value and performance needs of their older generation loyalists.

Dodge Durango delivers on the pavement with aggressive shock and spring rates and large sway bars to handle body roll in hard turning maneuvers. Electro-hydraulic power steering, unique caster and camber settings along with standard electronic stability control also contribute to maintain tire grip and vehicle stability.

The Durango's two AWD systems - one for the HEMI V8 and one for Pentastar V6-powered models - greatly enhance the vehicle's traction and handling by delivering a smooth driving experience on a wide range of road conditions. The new 2014 Dodge Durango now features Chrysler Group's new eight-speed automatic transmission with rotary shifter and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters as standard equipment on all models. This state-of-the-art transmission improves fuel economy up to 9 percent, along with enhanced performance and smoother shifts. All these attributes perfectly enhance Durango's fun-to-drive nature.

Fully electronic, the eight-speed automatic features on-the-fly shift map changing, with manual shifting capability using steering-wheel paddle controls. More than 40 individual shift maps for specific conditions optimize shift quality and shift points for fuel economy, performance and drivability. The intelligent software is attuned to the performance requirements of almost any driving demand.

The transmission efficiency and wide ratio spread provide the best possible fuel economy by operating at a lower engine rpm in both city and highway environments. The addition of more gear ratios also helps reduce the gaps normally associated with upshifting and downshifting.

Gear changes are nearly imperceptible due to the evenly spaced gear steps between each gear ratio. Internally, the transmission has four gear sets and five shift elements (multi-disc clutches and brakes). Only two shift elements are open at any time. With fewer open shift elements, drag losses due to multiple parts rotating relative to one another are reduced, improving fuel efficiency.

U-Connect Infotainment System
Five-inch and 8.4-inch touchscreens, a customizable 7-inch TFT gauge display, forward collision warning with crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control with stop and the latest generation of Uconnect Access Via Mobile are just some of the 2014 Dodge Durango's available state-of-the-art features.

The forward collision warning system with crash mitigation alerts the driver if they're approaching a vehicle in front too quickly, and the new adaptive cruise control with stop will keep Durango at a driver-selected distance from the vehicle in front when cruise control is engaged and can even bring the SUV to a controlled stop.

Embedded cellular technology that leverages Fiat Group's strategic partnership with Sprint allows the latest Uconnect Access system to work its magic. The advanced service-delivery platform affords the kind of stability that enables direct communication when it's needed most.

In the 2014 Dodge Durango, customers can put away their smartphones, keep their hands on the steering wheel and still interact with their devices in the ways to which they are accustomed. Media apps from Pandora to iHeartradio to Slacker are all available via voice command - a function of Uconnect's powerful, Cloud-based voice recognition capability.

Additional convenience is achieved when Uconnect syncs a customer's existing app so their favorite artists and stations are available at the touch of the screen, or by the sound of their voice.

Uconnect Access also allows the driver to execute many of the normal functions, such as climate, audio and Bluetooth, all by voice. The Cloud also enables voice texting, a breakthrough feature of Uconnect Access. Again leveraging the Sprint network, paired, Bluetooth-equipped cell phones that use the Message Access Protocol (MAP) can: Receive a text message, Announce receipt of the text, Identify the sender and Read the message aloud.

To respond, drivers can simply dictate. The Cloud helps the system's voice-recognition system assemble the response and "read" it back for accuracy before sending. Verbatim. No memorizing pre-approved messages such as, "I'm on my way."

The same advanced voice-recognition protocol simplifies the often-problematic process of entering navigation-system destinations with both hands on the wheel. The system will accept continuous, single-sentence instructions, such as: "Navigate to Ross Boulevard, Dodge City, Kansas."

The Durango's navigation system also features new 3D maps with graphic representations of well-known landmarks and terrain, designed to make on-road travel even easier to navigate.

Durango also has the ability to be used as a Wi-Fi hot spot. A powerful Bing search engine can be used via voice command if the driver needs to find a destination. Uconnect navigation then calculates a route and stores the destination's telephone number for handsfree calling.

A new 5-inch touchscreen is now standard on SXT models and controls audio, climate, phone and other vehicle functions, such as turning on the heated seats or determining how long the headlamps stay on after the ignition has been turned off. The high-resolution screen is intuitive and easy to use, yet redundant controls for audio and climate can be found below the touchscreen for drivers who prefer the classic dial approach.

Standard on Limited, R/T and Citadel models (and available on SXT and Rallye) is the award-winning 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen that controls audio, climate, phone, vehicle functions, navigation (if equipped) and the new Uconnect Access system. This system provides large, easy-to-read graphics - including new 3D mapping - with intuitive, easy-to-use controls.

The most looked at area of the interior, the instrument cluster, also has a new premium high-tech appearance with the new dynamic gauge cluster. Standard on all models and featuring a customizable 7-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) liquid-crystal display, the cluster can be configured more than 100 ways for the ultimate driver-customized experience. Navigation, audio and fuel economy information and warning indicators can all be displayed in the 7-inch screen.

Mounted on the back of the front seats is an available all-new class-exclusive Blu-ray video rear entertainment system. This new system features two high-resolution 9-inch screens, one on each front seat back. Each screen offers four-times better resolution when compared with previous models and allow customers to watch their movies on Blu-ray or standard DVDs or play their high-definition media interface (HDMI) gaming systems via inputs for HDMI cables or RCAs for each screen integrated into the front seat backs. Wireless headphones are included as is a wireless remote.

Drivetrain
Durango's standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine paired with the new standard eight-speed transmission delivers up to a 9 percent improvement in fuel-economy when compared with the previous transmission, not to mention improved performance. The standard flex-fuel 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine generates an impressive 290 horsepower (295 horsepower on Rallye) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, and can tow up to a best-in-class 6,200 pounds.

The 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine produces a best-in-class 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque with a best-in-class tow rating of 7,400 pounds. The 5.7-liter engine's Fuel Saver Technology with cylinder-deactivation seamlessly alternates between smooth, high-fuel-economy four-cylinder mode when less power is needed and V-8 mode when more power is in demand. This optimizes fuel economy when V-8 power is not required, without sacrificing vehicle performance or capability.

Verdict
Again, on this different set of road and traffic conditions we faced in Lebanon, the Durango exceeded our expectations - powering with delicacy through traffic with comfort - bold looking and bold proficient - driven equally boldly with confidence by our team.  It is now available at your nearest dealership in the Middle-East and Levant.

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