by Roger Biermann
Durango, a state in central Mexico, and home of general Pancho Villa, a prominent figure in the Mexican Revolution, who rebelled against, well, a lot of things. He was a man who carved his own path, despite the pressures of society. A suitable name then for a seven-seater, rear-wheel-drive, Hemi-powered SUV with track day ambitions. The Dodge Durango has a legacy of being an out-there SUV that doesn't stick to the script; a unique offering in an ocean awash with cookie-cutter cars that are more easily forgettable than reality TV shows about digging through other people's scrap. The 2019 Durango R/T is a performance-oriented version of the third generation Durango, a full-sized seven-seater SUV. The R/T is powered by an all-American Hemi V8 that sends 360 hp to either the rear or all four wheels. Inside, the Durango R/T comes equipped with model-specific interior details, and one of the best infotainment systems in its class. Despite its age, the Durango is still a rebel with a cause.
For 2019 Dodge has added a few nice-to-haves to the R/T's features list. The exterior gets three new paint colors; F8 Green, Reactor Blue, and Destroyer Gray, which can be found on other sporty models such as the Charger Hellcat. New standalone options include rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, and the tow package now gets you an integrated brake light. A new 825-watt Harman Kardon sound system is also available.
Who can forget the wild and wonderful Shelby Durango of the late '90s? It was brash and in your face, and we loved it. The 2019 Durango R/T is a far cry from the 1999 Shelby, but it hasn't lost its muscle car presence. The R/T doesn't hide the fact that it's a pretty fast SUV with sporting intentions. You can tell this from the blacked-out grille with red accents, twin exit exhaust system, performance hood, and large 20-inch satin carbon wheels. Other highlights include black-bezel HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, and premium LED fog lamps. You can opt for a sunroof, and if you really want to stick it to the man, you can deck your Durango R/T out with racing stripes, available in four different colors.
The Durango is a big car; it borrows its chassis from the Jeep Grand Cherokee but has been lengthened with a longer wheelbase to turn it into a proper seven-seater. The Durango measures 201.2 inches in length, three inches longer than the Ford Explorer. It's 71.9 inches tall, 75.8 inches wide and rides on a 119.8-inch wheelbase, one of the longest in its class. The Durango sits 8.1 inches off the ground, which is up there with the best of them. The R/T tips the scales at 5,176 pounds in RWD spec, climbing to 5,381 pounds for the AWD version. The Durango is an undeniably heavy car, weighing over 700 pounds more than the FWD Ford Explorer.
A loud car deserves a loud paint job, and Dodge has delivered the goods. For 2019, the Durango R/T gets three new paint options; F8 Green, Reactor Blue, and Destroyer Gray, and all three of them bring out the muscle in the R/T. Other colors available for the R/T are White Knuckle, Octane Red, DB Black, Redline, and for $595, Vice White. The beauty of the Durango R/T is that in a more sedate color, it can pass as an average family sedan for those not in the know, but colors such as Destroyer Gray and F8 Green make its intentions loud and clear. If an in-your-face color isn't enough, you can slap some optional racing stripes right down the middle of the car, just like the '99 Shelby. You even get to choose the color of your go-faster stripe; Sterling Silver, Gunmetal, Flame Red, and Bright Blue.
The Durango R/T straddles the line between family SUV and muscle car and perhaps leans a bit more to the latter. The R/T is the first car in the Durango ladder of vehicles to get a V8 engine, which immediately puts it above its less powerful siblings in terms of acceleration, towing capacity, and bragging rights. Acceleration is brisk, and the R/T has no problem shifting its 5,000+ lbs body to sixty in only 6.2 seconds, faster than a big chunk of the hot hatch fraternity. It also offers rear- and all-wheel-drive, setting it apart from rivals like the Ford Explorer that offers a FWD alternative. The two-speed transfer case on AWD derivatives gives the Durango genuine off-road ability, while it boasts a class-leading towing capacity of 7,400 lbs. At this price point, the Durango offers massive performance where other automakers stick to four-cylinder turbos and all motor V6 engines. The Durango pays for its added performance at the fuel pumps, but that's a small price to pay for reliable and accessible power.
Powering the Durango R/T is a mighty 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that pushes out 360 hp and a meaty 390 lb-ft of torque. This engine is the heart and soul of the R/T, and without it, the R/T would be all dressed up with nowhere to go. The V8 engine adds to the practicality of the Durango in many aspects; it increases towing capacity by over 1,000 pounds to 7,400 lbs in RWD format, improves acceleration, overtaking and highway merging capability and makes it a more laid back car to drive, believe it or not. There are bucketloads of torque across the rev range; choose any gear, put your foot down, and the R/T responds with lively acceleration. The Ford Explorer's paltry 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque pale in comparison. The Durango R/T feeds its power through a ZF eight-speed transmission which happily manages the V8's power, and while it may be slow on downshifts, manages torque well and selects the right gear almost every time.
There's no getting around the fact that the Durango R/T is a large SUV, but for something of this size, the R/T does an admirable job of delivering an enjoyable driving experience that can't be classified as sporty but sure is entertaining. As with most modern SUVs, the handling feels decidedly car-like, partly thanks to independent suspension in the front and rear. The suspension, which Dodge sells as sporty, is lower than standard, but still feels well-damped and comfortable, and keeps the Durango R/T planted and surprisingly flat when cornering, but heads will still bob around on uneven surfaces.
Steering is on the heavier side, which is a refreshing change from the overly light steering you find in most electrically assisted systems, and suits the brawny characteristics of the car, although the suburban soccer uber crowd won't appreciate it as much. It's a slow rack that works to the detriment of the Durango though, and it feels lumbering and slow to turn in as a result. The lumbering giant impression continues with wooden brakes prone to fade and with way too much pedal travel, never letting you forget just how big the Durango is.
The Durango offers a more sporty drive than its competitors but doesn't hide the fact that it's a big SUV. In AWD configuration, the Durango R/T feels more planted, and somewhat more refined, but it takes away from the R/T's muscle car appeal.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is a thirsty unit, and a hefty curb weight only helps to chip away at the Durango R/T's fuel efficiency, making it one of the least efficient SUVs in its price range. Nevertheless, buyers looking for a sporty and reasonably quick SUV will happily overlook these figures in favor of everyday driveability and solid performance. The R/T achieves estimates of 14/22/17 mpg city/highway/combined, but those numbers will almost certainly dip in real-world driving situations, especially around town, where the V8's addictive torque is only a jab of the gas pedal away. The top of the range Volkswagen Atlas, powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine will return 17/23/19 mpg, and the Ford Explorer will do 18/25/21 mpg. The Durango has a special trick up its sleeve, however; it is fitted with a significant 24.6-gallon fuel tank, which will give it an estimated range of 418 miles.
Dodge has stepped up its game when it comes to interior design and comfort, and the Durango R/T pays testament to the fact that American SUVs can impress with interior quality. The Durango R/Ts interior finds an excellent middle ground between functionality, comfort, and quality. The layout is cleanly designed and doesn't come across as overly complicated, perfect for an SUV that needs to handle the daily use and abuse of a family taxi. The gauge cluster features a seven-inch display screen which shows off the sporty red black and white rev counter, speed indicator, fuel gauge, and engine temperature. The rest of the interior is purposeful, but small design flares such as second-row pillar mounted handgrips, and clean flowing lines makes you feel like you're sitting in a car with a particular purpose. Visibility out the front of the R/T is above average, but the rear is somewhat limited by big headrests and chunky roof pillars.
The Durango R/T was designed to seat seven people in a 2-3-2 layout. The big Dodge offers its passengers capacious interior room and is widely customizable with 50 available seating configurations (The second-row bench can be swapped out for captain's chairs). All of this flexibility gives the R/T the enviable ability to switch from passenger carrier to cargo hauler in no time. The second-row bench is a 60/40 split-folding setup while the third row splits 50/50. Front seats are eight-way power-adjustable, heated and even gets a memory function. Access to the front seats is good, and the taller ride height makes it easier to get into the seat. Rear doors have a wide opening and make getting in and out of the back a pain-free process. Front legroom is 40.3 inches, and headroom is a generous 39.9 inches. Front shoulder room is 58.5 inches, which should give you an idea of how roomy the Durango is. Rear legroom is 38.6 inches and headroom measures 39.8 inches. Tall people are welcome, but six-footers may find it a struggle to get to the third-row.
Dodge has stepped up its game regarding the use of materials. The Durango R/T gets an all-leather interior as standard, which consists of black Capri leather with suede inserts. Perforated Nappa leather with Tungsten stitching is an optional extra and can be configured in either red or combination black/sepia, too. There is a mixture of hard and soft plastics scattered around the interior and you'll find aluminum accents in the doors, around the air vents as well as on the steering wheel and center console. Fit and finish are good and gives the interior of the Durango a rattle-free and well-insulated feel.
The Durango is a large car in every sense of the word and offers impressive trunk and cargo space. Behind the third row, you'll get access to 17.2 cubic feet, larger than most sedans. Behind the second-row you get a cavernous 43.3 cubic feet, growing to 85.1 cubic feet when folded flat. That's space enough for fireworks to light up your 4th of July street party 20 times over. The Volkswagen Atlas is one of the few seven-seater SUVs that manages to outclass the Durango in terms of interior space and cargo capacity: behind the third row it offers 20.6 cubic feet, behind the second row it's 55.5, and behind the front seats its a massive 96.8 cubic feet.
Since a redesign back in 2014, Dodge has brought about small additions to the Durango's features list which has now grown to include plenty of standard features and tech conveniences that make it easier to live with than ever. Exterior features include a power liftgate and optional sunroof as well as remote start, keyless entry, and rain-sensing window wipers. Interior features include three-zone automatic climate control, a universal memory system that remembers radio presets, seat and steering wheel positions and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, along with power front seat adjustment and heated front and second-row seats. The Durango R/T's leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, and you'll find all the essential audio and voice recognition controls set into the three-spoke design. The features list grows significantly once you start delving into the optional packages. Unfortunately, key driver assistance features aren't included as standard but can be added optionally.
Dodge has done an excellent job with the infotainment system on the 2019 Durango R/T. The Dodge Uconnect system is fast and intuitive and gives the Durango the edge over its competitors. As part of the standard infotainment package, Dodge has included a one-year trial subscription to SiriusXM radio and a five-year subscription to SiriusXM Travel Link. Music is channeled through a premium 506-watt Alpine sound system with nine speakers, and a powerful subwoofer which provides rich bass notes. The optional Harman Kardon sound system adds an additional ten speakers and turns the Durango into a mobile theater. The display measures 8.4-inches and delivers crisp visuals, but chrome interior trim tends to deflect the sun onto the screen, obstructing visuals. With standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, pairing your smartphone up to the infotainment system is effortless. A standard 4G Wi-Fi hotspot enhances connectivity.
There are three recent recalls affecting the Durango range. The first was issued in May 2018 for a defective transmission rod that would fail to allow the driver to put the transmission in park, which could lead to unattended cars rolling and possibly causing serious accidents and injury. The second was issued in the same month for an issue with the cruise control system which would not cancel, and in some cases actually pick up speed, which could cause serious accidents and jury. The final recall was issued in August of the same year for a possible voltage regulation failure which could cause the car to stall. There have been no recalls for 2019.
The Durango R/T is covered by a basic three-year/36,000 mile warranty, a five-year drivetrain warranty, and five years of roadside assistance.
According to the IIHS and NHTSA, the 2019 Dodge Durango R/T provides moderate levels of safety in the event of a crash. The IIHS gave the R/T the best possible score of Good in most tests. The NHTSA gave the Durango a four out of five overall score and only three stars for its rollover rating.
Due to the Durango R/T being higher up in the range, it comes loaded with safety features. Standard issue safety tech such as ABS, traction control, and electronic stability control are all present, as is a slew of airbags that include side-curtain, supplemental side, and knee airbags. Active head restraints will keep melons in place during an accident. Other dynamic safety features included in the R/T package is hill start assistance, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, and trailer sway damping. More advanced tech such as rear parking assistance, a backup camera and enhanced collision assist are nice additions. Unfortunately, most of the advanced driver assistance features are optional. The optional technology group package includes forward collision warning, active braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance and rain-sensing window wipers.
In an age where sensible SUVs roam the roads, the Durango R/T is a breath of whiskey tinged air that forces you to sit up and notice it. Dodge is well known, and loved, for building some of the wildest modern-day muscle cars in the world, and while the Durango R/T might not be one of the hottest in the range, it definitely makes its presence known with its macho looks. The fact that Dodge gives new buyers the option of racing stripe decals lets you know that the R/T isn't your run-of-the-mill family hauler. Underneath the gung-ho exterior, the true nature of the R/T is revealed: a 360 hp, 390 lb-ft 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and sport-tuned suspension transforms the Durango R/T from a family-friendly SUV, into a family-friendly SUV with cojones. The Durango R/T drives like a muscle car thanks to independent suspension and well-weighted steering but lacks the quickness on turn-in to make it truly nimble. The interior is comfortable, practical, and offers great space. The ability of the Durango to quickly and easily rearrange its seating configuration should make it more attractive to active families. At its price range, you're going to have difficulty finding something that can match its ability and performance, but in a world of crossovers, the Durango is feeling more and more archaic by the day.
The 2019 Dodge Durango R/T costs $44,245 MSRP in RWD configuration, and you'll pay $46,845 for it to drive all four wheels. Vehicles in the same price range include the seven-seater Volkswagen Atlas 3.6L V6 4Motion priced at $45,145 and the Ford Explorer 4WD V6 priced at $46,625. The Dodge offers a great deal of value in terms of outright performance and practicality when compared to some of its closest rivals, and is a continuation of Dodge's efforts to dominate the market with low-priced, high-powered American muscle. All prices quoted exclude a destination charge of $1,495.
The 2019 Dodge Durango R/T forms part of the Durango range of SUVs and is the only model to come standard with the 360-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine. The exterior of the R/T gets a more aggressive styling package which includes a set of 20-inch wheels finished off in satin carbon, a blacked out performance grille and optional (but essential) racing stripes. The R/T is equipped with a power liftgate, but a set of roof rails and a sunroof are optional extras. The interior is home to heated front and second-row seats covered in leather and suede, tri-zone climate control, and the full Uconnect infotainment suite. Hill-start and parking assistance are standard, as is cruise control and tire pressure monitoring.
5.7-liter V8 Gas
The R/T is quite customizable, just as any muscle car worth its salt should be. The Durango R/T is eligible for five optional packages, two of which are appearance-based, while the other three actually add to the practicality of the car. The first is called the $1,095 Blacktop package, which gets you a set of high-gloss wheels, gloss black badging, and matching exterior mirrors. The $1,095 Brass Monkey appearance package adds a set of bronze wheels and blacked-out badges. The Cargo plus package includes roof rails and a cargo compartment cover and costs $595. The most significant optional package on this list must be the Technology Group package: you get adaptive cruise control with advanced forward collision warning, brake assistance, and lane departure assistance and it costs $2,395. Last but not least is the Trailer-Tow group package which will set you up for some serious towing action: you get a seven and four-pin wiring harness, a class four-receiver hitch, a space-saver tire, a full-sized spare wheel, and trailer brake control, all for $1,195.
You should buy the one and only R/T. The 2019 Dodge Durango R/T offers class-leading performance from its mighty 5.7-liter Hemi V8, that blows the competition out of the water but pays for it at the fuel pumps. The next reason why you should buy the Durango R/T is the fact that it offers great interior room, from the front all the way to the third row, and thanks to a re-configurable interior layout (there are 50 different ways to set it up) the Durango R/T not only looks good and drives like a car, but is infinitely practical. Keep the Durango in RWD, add the optional Technology Package and paint it black or white if you like sleeper cars.
Both these cars are considered performance SUVs, but they come in two slightly different flavors. First off, the R/T goes for an MSRP of $44,245 while the SRT goes for $63,245, a glaring $19,000 difference. That margin starts to make sense when you work your way down the spec sheet. The SRT is powered by an all-motor 6.4-liter V8 that hits hard with 475 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Both cars make use of an eight-speed gearbox, but the SRT is only available in AWD. The SRT makes use of bigger wheels and tires. All that power means the SRT will use more fuel than the R/T, but only just: the official estimates are 13/19/15 mpg city/highway/combined, only two miles per gallon off the R/T's number. The extra power also means the SRT can tow more than the R/T; 8,700 lbs vs. 7,400 lbs. However, the SRT is classified as a six-seater and gets model specific appearance touches, but all other interior dimensions remain the same, while the sportier SRT also gets more standard features. The R/T offers 95% of everything the SRT does, for $19,000 and around 100 hp less, making it the realistic pick of the two.
The Citadel sits below the R/T in the Durango lineup and starts at $43,245, with the R/T only $1,000 more. The Citadel is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 295 hp and 260 lb-ft, a far cry from the brutish 5.7-liter Hemi V8 found in the R/T. One benefit of driving around with the less powerful V6 is that you'll spend less time and money at the gas station; the Citadel returns 19/36/21 mpg city/highway/combined. The Citadel is classified as a six-seater, but other interior dimensions remain the same as the seven-seat R/T. The less powerful engine is only capable of towing 6,200 lbs, 1,200 less than the R/T. In terms of features, the Citadel and R/T shares most of the same gear, including the tremendous Uconnect infotainment system. If you can forego the performance benefits of the R/T, then the Citadel is a more sensible option.