The most obvious change can be seen from the outside with a 'new face' comprising a new, slimmer split crosshair grille with mesh textures unique to each trim level. There are also redesigned headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, new projector fog lamps and fog lamps surround a raised front bumper and a more sculpted hood. Each trim level gets its unique detailing. For example, the Rallye and R/T gets dark-tinted headlamp bezels, body-color front and rear lower fascias, wheel flares, grille and sill moldings. Also, the R/T's ride height has also been lowered by 20 mm, while the top-line Citadel gets a lot of chrome. Wheels are 18" or 20" depending on the trim; and finishes ranges from silver painted to polished aluminum to class-exclusive hyper black. From the rear, the Durango receives the family dramatic looking LED racetrack tail lamp design inspired by Charger and Dart. This tail long lamp comprises 192 LEDs that blend into one seamless ribbon of light.
Inside, the Durango cabin has also been upgraded in line with the exterior and features a new instrument panel with a redesigned center stack that houses the Uconnect touchscreens. The center console features a new segment-first rotary shifter for the new 8 speed automatic with standard paddle shifters. The instrument cluster has also been given the high-tech treatment and now includes a full-color 7 inch thin-film transistor (TFT) screen that allows for drivers to customize more than 100 ways how information is presented. Drivers will welcome a new three-spoke steering wheel holding a variety of now larger and illuminated buttons to remote activate a host of functions. The three-row cabin is large and airy and the seats can be converted to as many as 50 different configurations. Customers can opt for six or seven seats by having a twin captain's seat or a three-seat bench seat in the middle row. Families with a bunch of kids will find the captain's chairs choice helpful as there's an easy pass-through between the second and third row. With either seat choice, both chairs folds and tumbles. The 50/50 split third-row seat is easily folded from the rear and when both the second- and third-rows fold, the Durango can easily haul a 6-foot couch and a coffee table.
For IT fans, the 2014 Durango gets all of Chrysler's group latest technology hardware: a 8.4 inch touch screen, 3D navigation maps, a customizable 7 inch TFT gauge display, rear entertainment system, a forward collision warning with crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control with stop and the latest generation of Uconnect features such as controlling climate, audio and Bluetooth by voice.
The major technical new highlight of the 2014 Durango is a Chrysler Group's new ZF-sourced eight speed automatic transmission with rotary shifter and steering-mounted paddles. Chrysler claims that the new box improves fuel economy up to nine percent, thanks to wider ratios that operates at a lower engine rpm in both city and highway environments reducing the gaps normally associated with upshifting and downshifting. The new gearbox can be had with the Durango's either engine: a 290 hp 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 or the 360 hp 5.7 liter HEMI V8 with Fuel Saver Technology that runs on four cylinders in soft driving conditions to cut fuel consumption further.
To see how the 2014 Durango drives with its new improvements, Dodge organized a 200 kilometer round trip from Dubai to Fujairah and back. My car was a Hemi-equipped Citadel. Though big in size and numbers, I always find the 5.7 liter big block a bit lazy and reluctant to spin, always needing constant encouragement from the gas pedal. But the new gearbox helps here a lot. Thanks to a shorter final drive and lower first-gear ratio, the smaller steps in the eight speed's gearing allow the engine to stay in the fat part of its torque curve more of the time, so the driver doesn't have to step into the throttle as strongly or frequently.
Though it looks sleek and slim, the Durango is really a heavyweight tipping the scale at almost 2.5 tons! But the muscular V8 -when it's in prime - help the car achieve a respectable 7.0 seconds to cut the 100 kilometer mark, which is very acceptable.
The new transmission is a revelation compared to the previous five speed box. It shifts seamlessly and ultra-smoothly, doing its business with minimum fuss and zero complaint from me. And even fuel economy is the main target; the box switches to a more aggressive mapping once a sporty drive is dialed in as it shifts at a tick before the redline.
With a stiff structure, a sport-tuned suspension and a precise steering, the 2010 Durango was always a car that knew how to please its driver and the 2014 version is even better. On the sweeping long corners, it showed minimal body roll - an achievement for something so tall and it's also very well balanced. But physics is physics and the 1.9 meter high Durango shows a bit of understeer at the limit, but is easy to control. The steering was a very welcome treat. It's slow off-center - the entire better for relaxed highway tracking - and effort builds as the limit nears and the wheel offers a good amount of feedback. And the 330 mm all-round brake discs (vented up front) brought the car to a standstill in very reasonable braking distances and with superb confidence and feedback.
Any complaints? Well only one: the 20 inch wheels banged over bumps and potholes, but that's it really. The 2014 Durango confirms once more the Chrysler Group's new-found brilliance and mastery in building beautiful, comfortable, well-built fast cars that are also fun to drive.
3.6 liter V6, 290 hp, 353 Nm
Hemi 5.7 liter V8, 360 hp, 529 Nm
AWD, ZF Eight speed automatic transmission
V6: from 2157 to2312 kg
V8: from 2348 to 2448