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Roadshow Video Reviews
2014 Dodge Durango LimitedAlthough not particularly economical, in styling and connected tech the 2014 Dodge Durango shows what the future holds for SUVs.
The Dodge Durango used to be this body-on-frame truck-like SUV that no one got terribly excited about. This one, though, is a whole different story -- no longer truck frame, unibody now, but it is a sibling of the highly acclaimed Jeep Grand Cherokee that gives us reason enough to get intrigued. Let's drive the 2014 Dodge Durango Limited with a Hemi and check the tech. Now, being a sibling of the Grand Cherokee, we expect nice ride quality and we've got it. This is not a truck-like riding a vehicle, even though it's in the volume you'd expect to be a truck. Some story about the platform, not only does it share with the Grand Cherokee, it actually dates back to the bad marriage of DaimlerChrysler. Therefore, this is basically the same underpinnings as the Mercedes GL if you wanna look for some nice pedigree. And as we're gonna see when we return to the road later, the big headline here is both a Hemi engine that we've optioned upfront and a new 8-speed automatic right behind it. Inside a thoroughly modern cabin, a lot of tech and now a lot of LCDs. This is something new here. We have a 7-inch LCD for most but not all of our instrument panel. It's a whole bunch of information screens plus a digital or analog speedometer and then, around it, you still have physical gauges. Now, on the setting, you've got the 8.4-inch square LCD, one of the biggest and also one of the more square in the industry [unk] rectangular Dodge and Chrysler kind of go in equal directions. Navigation is here of course. That is optional; however, it doesn't cost much. Those, we'll see at the very end of the piece here and it's one of the best rated for simplicity. Great big buttons, easy to get around. If you can't figure this one out, you can't figure out anything. 3D mode, I think, is new for this year. Find nearest Target. -There are multiple entries for Target. -Four. -Line four, Target. Now [unk] -Yes. -Starting route guidance. -So, look, how simple that is by one gulp and freeform brand or category search as well as address. You just hit this thing and talk to it. They're more or less at the cutting edge of doing good simple voice command. All your media choices are here. Unfortunately, it's a hot mess how they spread them around. It's old school thinking where you've got AM, FM, HD of those, and SiriusXM on one screen. Media as if radio is not a medium is on another screen that includes your A/V jacks and the back SD card down here, bluetooth streaming of course, an optical disc which is optional, that's interesting here on the cabin. You don't get that without paying a separate fee and USB to pick up thumb drives or iPod. iPod/iPhone interface, of course, is important. It looks like this. Pretty good use of metatag space that with a screen this big, do they really have to run the title off the side that could have been formatted better, so I don't need to see scrolling. It's one of the things that the government is trying to push into interfaces now, is less scrolling so you can glance once and get back to the road, not watch this thing do this. Now, we have the audio upgrade here -- nine speakers, one of those is a sub, and 506 watts of output, but it's nothing crazy, fancy with all kinds of spatial soundstage modifications and surround processing. It's pretty straightforward. And then over here on the far right, you've got your apps and there's more media in there. Aha is a form of media. Pandora is a form of media. iHeartRadio is media so is Slacker. I do not like these little triple estates that they're doing in cars. Still, the smarter carmakers are putting everything more or less together under media. Now, this is a press car, so it's a jezebel. Everyone's used it at least once, little hard for us to get these apps working because they just won't. I think it's a registration issue, so I'm not gonna knock the car for that, but no matter what I do, I'm getting this weird loop of initializing the app and then telling me I've got to launch another app on my phone called Uconnect Access and I do that and it keeps telling me to do that again. Again, I think it's because this car has been around the block a few times, so I'm not gonna dock him on that, but if that's the case, in general, we've got a bug. You've also got a Wi-Fi Hotspot technology in this car, parental controls as you can see. There's a lot of things going on here. That's why media should come out. Yelp is built in. It does not require tethering. The other apps do. See that 3G logo down there? There's an early effort at some 3G technology built into this car and Yelp, of course, appears to be voice-only. So, let's see how that works. Yelp search. -After the beep, say something like car wash or pizza in Chicago. -Car wash in San Rafael, California. -To make a phone call, press the phone pickup button. Do you want me to press the phone button for you? -No. It's not what I asked. -Please try again. -Pizza in San Francisco. -Do you want me to press the phone button for you? -No. -Cancelled. -Pizza in San Francisco. -Sorry, I missed that. -Pizza in San Francisco. -To make a phone call, press the phone pickup button. Do you want me to press the phone button for you? -No. I want you to go to hell. This has been going on for the three days I've had this car. This Yelp app and mostly apps on here seem dumb as a post. So, I'm disappointed by that. Let's move on more successfully, I hope, to the drive controls. Real simple and clean. You've got a rotary transmission control right here -- park, reverse, neutral, drive, boom, that's it. There's no Sport mode you have to get into or anything like that, no suspension settings per se, but you do have an Eco mode down here and this is going to primarily affect cylinder deactivation. You'll run on eight or four cylinders when that's enabled. When it's disabled, you're gonna run on eight all the time. And of course, you have the trademark back of the wheel, Chrysler control, so not just these buttons but these ones back here you can't see. There's a button in the middle and there's an up and down rocker around it on both sides for volume, seek, source mode, things like that. Takes a little getting used to 'cause they're not labeled obviously. In back, there's an optional rear-seat entertainment system that is notable for its Blu-ray ability and dual HDMI inputs, but otherwise, it's a common dual 9-inch headrest rig that isn't very interesting. The seat and steering wheel heaters actually do double duty, warming you or making pop tarts. Yes, they get that hot. Now, under the hood on our car, we've optioned up to Hemi, the 5.7-liter V8. Base on this guy is gonna be a Pentastar V6, but that's another story. Numbers on this guy are 360 horse, 390-foot pounds of torque. It's a torquey beast. Base is out through an 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive. You can also option up all-wheel drive same gearbox, the new 8-speed automatic from ZF. It's a really nice transmission. 5,100 pounds plus on this guy, all Hemi, and four-wheel drive up. You're gonna get 18/25 MPG, though. That's pretty good. Thank that cylinder deactivation for part of that and 0 to 60 if you really care on this vehicle. It's 6.6 seconds with the big engine, a full-second faster than the V6. Let's see how it all comes together on the road. Okay. On the road, I'm gonna kick this thing into Manual mode so I can really get that Hemi working, unless you can pick that up or not, but there's a nice Hemi growl in there. The exhaust system is there, but not intrusive, just like it should be. The paddle shifting is pretty quick for a vehicle of this type and price. I wish there was a Sport mode because you've gotta either get into Manual mode here or go into an Automatic mode that is just too sleepy. The kick-down on the automatic mode is just numb. So, I'm in here shifting a lot which I'd rather not be to be honest. Suspension is too willowy for my taste. In fact, when people were in this car, we were driving around, they kept grabbing for stuff which is never a good sign 'cause the thing feels pretty tippy. There is no sport suspension on the limited. The R/T, the next one up, you can get a sport suspension. It also has greater towing rating. It's 7,400 pounds towing on the R/T, 6,200 on this guy. But overall, the driving experience is very American. Let's face it. It's large. It's powerful. It's isolated from the road and pretty numb. This is no cayenne killer. Outward visibility is pretty bad to the rear quarter. I mean, that's a huge sail panel back there. I wouldn't even call it a C-pillar. It's just cave, just keep going forward. Luckily, this backup camera is large and it is standard, but it doesn't help you when you're in forward motion. For that, we do have passive blind-spot and cross traffic alert technology on this guy. There's also available forward collision alert with adaptive cruise control. Let's price our Durango Limited which is pretty close to the top. It's $37,000 or so with destination charge, but we're not CNET style yet. We're not even this style. You wanna add that Hemi, that's $2,800 more. Another $2,400 for all-wheel drive should that matter. $2,395 for the premium group that brings you a lot of CNET style stuff including the upgraded audio, navigation system, power liftgate, these bigger fancier wheels and tires, and the power sunroof. Now, here's the kicker. If you want a CD drive to go with that, that's 450 bucks extra. They're basically telling you, you don't. The rear-seat entertainment system is impressive technically with Blu-ray and HDMI and dual 9-inch screens, but for $2,000, I'd pass on that all day and get the kids a couple tablets. Now, I'm not sure the world needs another Grand Cherokee, but in the Dodge aficionado circles, this is your huckleberry. It's a nicely put together vehicle, real solid. It does the big things right in terms of tech, but has some issues around the fringe on the fine details.