The 2013 Dodge Durango is a study in simplicity; its sleek, modern exterior stands out among other SUVS, and its V-6 engine provides enough power to keep the Durango compelling.
I was ready for my family of four to spread out in the Durango, and did they ever. With six seats in three rows, we all enjoyed the abundance of personal space. Is that all it takes to make me happy? Not necessarily, but it's a great start.
My test car, a Durango SXT base trim, was fun to drive; I enjoyed its rear-wheel drive, and its 290-horsepower V-6 made quick work of a jaunt in the mountains. The Durango seemed cumbersome at times, but this was typically during conditions such as U-turns where I didn't expect it to be exactly nimble.
The 2013 Durango starts at $30,490, including a $995 destination charge. Add an appearance package and second-row captain's chairs and the final price of my test Durango was $34,145.
The 2013 Durango looks distinctive. It leans forward and looks low to the ground and stealthy. The Dodge crosshairs on the grille reminded anyone looking in their rearview mirror what's behind them. My test car's Rallye Appearance Group ($1,995) ensured that the Durango had an almost completely solid paint job, meaning the moldings, grille and even the "license plate brow" all matched the body color.
There were a couple issues with the Durango, however. Those long doors that contribute to the sleek look are parking-lot dynamite. They're not only long, but also they open very wide. This is fantastic for loading and unloading children and gear, but it creates the need for extreme caution when opening the doors in parking lots because door dings are likely. But it also is difficult for kids -- even my 8- and 10-year-olds -- to close the door from the inside of the Durango. Beware that small kids likely will need help climbing into the Durango.
The cargo area was flexible but small when the third row was in use. The 50/50-split third-row seats fold manually, which was easy for me to do at 5 feet 5 inches; the shorter the person, the trickier it is, though. It handled all my cargo needs with ease and I was happy as a clam with all that room to buy lots of new clothes, shoes and food for myself. I mean, my family.
The Durango has a standard 290-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 engine that's paired to a five-speed automatic transmission. With either rear- or all-wheel drive, it gets an EPA-estimated 16/23 mpg city/highway and uses regular unleaded gasoline. A 360-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 engine is optional.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
My Durango base model was pretty pared down on the inside; there was no multimedia system to test, though it's optional on the SXT trim. I enjoyed not having to learn jump through hoops to figure things out. One thing I did enjoy testing was the comfortable seats. I loved that they were soft yet supportive. I got the driver's seat adjusted just right and wound up being delighted that I drove the Durango all day without fatigue.
For the front row, there's plenty of storage as well as cupholders and bottleholders. In the second row, though, things are slightly less accommodating. There's a small center console between the optional captain's chairs ($795) that works as a step for getting into the third row. A three-seat bench for the second row is standard.
The second and third rows have vents that kids can control, which is great. Otherwise, there weren't many niceties for rear passengers. This can be wonderful if you loathe having to manage entertainment systems and the like, or it can be a bummer if you like things to be posh. Obviously, you can add features if you so desire.
I liked the captain's chairs; they tumble and fold forward as long as child-safety seats aren't installed on them. Each of my kids had their own space to do with as they (mostly) pleased, and I laughed when they decided their favorite seating configuration was one of them in the passenger's side captain's chair in the second row and the other in the driver's side seat in the third row. I think this allowed maximum spread-outedness. The legroom in both rows was plentiful. I could sit comfortably in the third row.
What I didn't like about the Durango was its lack of rear visibility. Sure, it was cool that the Durango had a third-row head restraint "dumping" button on the center stack that made them fold down. But with no backup camera on my test car, backing up became an exercise in extreme caution, and with the high windows, I double- and triple-checked when changing lanes.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
The 2013 Dodge Durango has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn IIHS' second-highest award, a car must receive the top score of Good in moderate overlap, side-impact, roof-strength and rear crash tests. It also received an overall safety score of four stars of five from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It scored four stars in the frontal crash test, five stars in the side-impact test and three stars in the rollover test.
The Durango SXT has standard rear-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with antiroll control and traction control, active front head restraints and six airbags, including side curtains for all three rows. All-wheel drive, a backup camera and rear parking sensors are optional.
This three-row SUV had two sets of lower Latch anchors in the second row's captain's chairs. The Latch anchors were almost hanging out from between the back and bottom seat cushions and were easy to use. There are four top tether anchors -- two in the second and third rows -- that are easy to use. The seat belt buckles sit on stable bases, though they're a little far down for shorter arms to reach. A rear-facing infant-safety seat fit just fine in the second row.