2012 Dodge Durango Expert Review

3.6 Overall Score
Performance 3.5 Comfort 3.5 Styling 3.7 Value 3.0

Editor's Overview

Despite its unibody design, the Dodge Durango offers a class-leading 7,400-pound towing capacity, all while riding in car-like comfort. Built on the rugged Jeep Grand Cherokee platform, the 2012 Durango seats seven with engine choices ranging from a standard V6 to an available 360-horsepower V8.

You'll Like The 2012 Dodge Durango If...

If you need the passenger-carrying capability of a full-size SUV, as well as the ability to tow up to 7,400 pounds, check out the 2012 Dodge Durango. With its sporty styling and impressive road manners, the Durango is far superior to most full-size truck-based SUVs and even earns an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating.

You May Not Like The 2012 Dodge Durango If...

If fuel economy takes precedent over power or passenger space, a diesel-powered Audi Q7, although more expensive, might be a better choice. If money is tight, the similarly-priced 7-passenger Toyota Highlander Hybrid also offers better fuel economy as well as superior resale value.

What's New

Changes for the 2012 Dodge Durango 7-passenger SUV include revisions to the automatic transmission on HEMI V8-equipped models, a 1-mpg improvement in the V6 AWD highway fuel-economy estimate and the availability of second-row captain's chair seating. The Express trim is replaced by the SXT trim.

Interior Features

If you're looking for luxury car-like quality and craftsmanship, look no further than the 2012 Durango's interior. Dodge has outdone itself (and everyone else in the field) with an interior that emphasizes comfort, visual elegance and supreme quiet. Detailed fabrics and soft-touch materials abound, while seats have been meticulously shaped to provide maximum comfort with minimum fatigue. Ample use of sound insulation helps create one of the quietest Dodge SUV cabins we've ever tested. Crew and Citadel trims take things one step further, offering such features as heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seating and available captain's chair second-row seats. When not solely dedicated to maximum people hauling, the 2012 Durango SUV's 28 possible configurations allow for any combination of people and cargo, from the roomy spot behind the second-row seat to the full-length flat floor created by the flush-folding front passenger seat. With 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space, the Durango's interior is about equal in size to the Honda Pilot, but smaller than the 116.9 cubic feet offered in the GMC Acadia.

Exterior Features

With the exception of the new Ford Explorer, we think the 2012 Dodge Durango is one of the freshest faces in the 7-passenger SUV segment. With styling inspired by the Dodge Charger (you can see the signature "Coke bottle" sweep in the Durango's profile), the 2012 Durango offers a sporty attitude befitting its Dodge heritage. The Durango's sport wagon-like appearance is only an illusion, however, as it retains its impressive ground clearance and tall roof line. Of course, the R/T trim does sacrifice some ride height and its more aggressive 20-inch rims and lowered ground effects clearly limit its off-road ability. Then again, the R/T trim is meant to excel on paved roads and, with the potent HEMI V8 under the hood, acceleration is also best in class. Other clever features found on the 2012 Dodge Durango SUV include an available flexible roof rack that incorporates folding cross bars that can be stowed in the side rails when not in use.

Driving Impressions

While we all the know the HEMI V8 is big on power and short on fuel economy, the engine that most impressed us is the Durango's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Despite the 2012 Dodge Durango's mass, the 290-horsepower V6 never failed to accelerate briskly or deliver up ample passing power when asked. We can certainly see instances where the V8 is preferable to the V6, such as when towing heavy loads (6,200 lbs. for the V6 vs. 7,400 lbs. for the V8), but for those only interested in hauling items that fit inside the Durango's cabin, we think the V6 is the way to go. As for its road manners, the 2012 Dodge Durango SUV has a slightly heavy steering feel, but the turn-in response is excellent and the Durango tracks straight and true on the highway. The Durango's suspension tuning is a bit stiff, a complaint heard especially often from those testing the R/T trim, but overall the ride is still compliant and fairly comfortable. As a result of added insulation and heavy-gauge steel used throughout the cabin, wind and tire noise are kept at a minimum.

Pricing Notes

The 2012 Dodge Durango SXT has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $30,000 for the rear-drive model and $32,000 for all-wheel drive (AWD). The Crew bumps the price to around $34,500, while a fully-loaded Citadel with the HEMI V8 and all-wheel drive tops out just under $49,000. These prices compare well with a comparably-equipped Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot and Ford Flex, none of which offer the option of a V8 engine. To get the best deal on your Durango, be sure to take a look at the Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com to learn what buyers in your area are actually paying. As for resale, we expect the new Durango will do much better than the vehicle it replaces, probably holding its own against the Ford Flex and Chevrolet Traverse, but still far short of the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer.

Notable Equipment

The entry-level SXT trim features a 3.6-liter V6 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps, heated power side mirrors, tri-zone automatic air conditioning, 12-volt outlet and removable LED flashlight in the cargo area, tilt/telescopic steering column and an AM/FM/CD radio with WMA/MP3 support, SIRIUS Satellite Radio and auxiliary input jack. At the opposite end of the Durango spectrum, the Citadel adds 20-inch wheels, a power rear liftgate, HID headlamps, power folding and auto-dimming side mirrors, Nappa leather and suede seats, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, Rear Cross Path Detection system, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, keyless Enter-N-Go, 8-way power front seats, heated second-row seating, heated steering wheel and Garmin navigation. Standard safety features on all 2012 Dodge Durangos include electronic traction and stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, Hill-start Assist, front seat side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags covering all three rows.

Notable Options

Options vary by trim and include a Garmin-equipped navigation radio with 30 GB hard drive and SIRIUS Travel Link, ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, side Blind-spot Monitoring, Smartbeam auto-dimming high beams, UConnect phone (Bluetooth), skid plates, Alpine premium audio, Bluetooth streaming audio, heated second-row seats, power rear liftgate, rain-sensing wipers and a heated steering wheel. Option packages include the Trailer Tow Group IV that adds a 220-amp alternator, heavy-duty engine oil cooler, Class IV hitch receiver, 4- and 7-pin wiring harness and rear load-leveling shocks.

Favorite Features

R/T Trim
About the closest you'll get to an SRT version of the 2012 Durango, the R/T's lowered sport suspension, recalibrated shocks and springs and aggressive 20-inch tires make this one playful full-sized SUV. Oh, did we forget to mention it's got a HEMI?

Blind-Spot Monitoring
Big SUVs have lots of side glass for good visibility, but that doesn't always help when trying to change lanes with a car full of boisterous kids. Thankfully, the 2012 Dodge Durango's Blind-spot Monitoring system will alert when something other than air is occupying the space you're attempting to fill.

Under the Hood

The 2012 Dodge Durango's standard engine on all but the R/T trim is Chrysler's new Pentastar V6. Without question, one of the best V6 engines ever produced by the company, this engine has more than enough power to satisfy most SUV drivers. Equipped with dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, the 3.6-liter Pentastar is capable of achieving maximum performance without sacrificing fuel economy. The Durango's optional 5.7-liter HEMI V8 features a fuel-saver mode that deactivates four of the eight cylinders when full power is not required. When power is needed, however, the Durango's HEMI has it in spades, delivering 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of tow-ready torque. The AWD V8 model includes a low-speed transfer case with a neutral position setting.

3.6-liter V6
290 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23

5.7-liter HEMI V8
360 horsepower @ 5,150 rpm
390 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (rear-wheel drive), 13/20 (AWD)

Editors' Notes

While the one-two punch of high gas prices and a weak economy had many predicting the end of the full-size SUV, Dodge came up with a better idea. With the 2012 Dodge Durango, the company has managed to create a lighter, more fuel-efficient SUV without sacrificing the things full-size SUV buyers demand, namely room, comfort and power. Sharing its body and engine/transmission setup with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango adds more length and by doing so provides an additional third-row seat not offered by the Jeep. The newest Durango also employs unit-body construction, which makes it more rigid and agile. With a choice of V6 or HEMI V8 gasoline engines, the 2012 Dodge Durango is evenly matched against such market competitors as the Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner and Chevy Tahoe, but it might have been nice to see a diesel or hybrid option to further distance the Durango from the crowded SUV pack. Ah, well; maybe next year.

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