Some SUVs come standard with a V-6 — but don't offer anything more. Others come only with a V-8 ... and cost a lot more.
The Dodge Durango offers buyers a choice of three — for less.
What It Is
The Durango is a full-sized, three-row SUV with the lowest asking price, the highest-available horsepower and the most towing capacity in its class.
It comes standard with a V-6 — for those who don't need a V-8.
But it's available with either of two V-8s.
No other full-size SUV gives you the option.
Prices start at $30,495 for the base rear-wheel-drive SXT trim with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Adding four-wheel drive bumps the price up to $33,095.
An R/T Durango equipped with a hunky 360 horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 engine starts at $43,995.
At the apex stands the Durango SRT. It comes with the biggest V-8 you can get, period — in anything. This means a 6.4-liter, 475-horsepower engine; an 8,700-pound tow rating; and the ability to get 5,500 pounds of SUV to 60 mph in an almost surreal 4.4 seconds.
It stickers for $62,995.
For 2020, the Durango gets a few minor trim tweaks such as a bright chrome Hemi badge for models equipped with the 5.7- and 6.4-liter V-8 engines.
Dinamica suede headliner and contrast stitching for the dash pad are included as part of the Premium Interior Group.
You pick your engine.
It pulls more weight.
You pay less.
What's Not So Good
An all-new Durango is on deck for 2021. If it's a better Durango, the resale value of the current Durango will likely dip quickly.
As the year proceeds, it will also become harder to order a 2020 Durango with the equipment you want.
You may have to pick from what's available on the lot.
Under the Hood
You have three options — as opposed to none in most of the Durango's rivals.
The engine lineup begins with a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 293 horsepower — or 295 if you buy the GT package, which comes with a rowdier-sounding, freer-flowing exhaust system.
V-6 Durangos can tow up to 6,200 pounds — nearly as much as full-size rivals like the Chevy Tahoe, which comes standard with a V-8 — and a much higher price tag ($49,000 to start). It can tow up to 8,600 pounds.
The Durango's next-up engine is a 5.7-liter V-8 that makes 360 horsepower. So equipped, the Durango's max tow rating rises to 7,400 pounds.
If that's not enough horsepower — and you want ultimate towing power — go the full monty and buy the Durango SRT. It can tow 8,700 pounds.
All three of the Durango's engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and your choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case and low-range gearing.
On the Road
The Durango has three distinct personalities: With the standard V-6, it's a mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll.
The V-8 R/T is, of course, Mr. Hyde. Its big V-8 rumbles and snorts.
Then there's Mr. Hyde's brother. The one they tried to keep chained up in the basement, but somehow he got out. The bellow produced by the biggest V-8 you can get is hard to hide. But it's lots of fun.
You're behind the wheel of a muscle car that happens to be a full-size SUV. It's basically a four-door, seven-passenger Challenger R/T that can carry seven people instead of four and pull the equivalent of two Challengers behind it.
There is nothing else like it — and it's not to be missed.
At the Curb
The Durango is 201.2 inches long — a few inches smaller than the Tahoe, which is 204 inches long — but it has almost the same second-row legroom (38.6 inches versus 39 inches for the Chevy) and nearly as much total cargo capacity (85.1 cubic feet versus 94.7).
And you can expand the usable space available inside the Durango by opting for the Lightweight Performance Package, which deletes the third row — something the Chevy doesn't offer.
The slightly smaller Toyota 4Runner has more cargo room — 89.7 cubic feet — but it has a much tighter second row, with just 32.9 inches of legroom.
In addition to room — and performance — the Durango also offers amenities, including a dual-screen Blu-ray rear seat entertainment system and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon ultrapremium stereo system.
An all-digital/flat-screen main instrument cluster is also available, along with an 8.3-inch secondary LCD display for the infotainment systems and apps.
The Bottom Line
Word is the 2021 Durango will shift from the current Durango's unibody construction to body-on-frame construction, based on the recently redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 pickup's underthings.
This will likely mean even more towing capacity — and knowing Dodge, there will probably be even more power (and choices). But the price is apt to be much higher than what Dodge is asking for the current Durango.
In fact, you will probably be able to swing an under-MSRP, or manufacturer's suggested retail price, deal on the current model as 2020 rolls along and dealers get motivated to clear out the remaining stock of 2020s to make room for the 2021s.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.