The 2018 Dodge Durango is a blend of Beauty and the Beast, but the matinee idol of this duo is the Beast.
Sure, there's beauty. Durango, like your typical minivan-surrogate crossover SUV, has a fully-independent suspension, car-like unibody construction, available no-brainer all-wheel drive and standard V-6 power in SXT, GT and Citadel trims. But every Durango also has a bad boy inside, with its rear-drive platform, hefty towing talent and muscular styling that all but shouts, "Yeah, in fact, I do own the road."
That attitudinal display comes to the forefront in R/T or SRT trims, where suddenly it's no more Mr. Nice Guy.
SRT, with its hot-rod 475-hp 6.4-liter V-8, zero-to-60 sprint of four-and-a-half seconds and towing muscle of 8,700 pounds, is in a class by itself -- different beast all together. But the R/T we drove -- an AWD edition base-priced nearly $17,000 less than an SRT -- blends the best of both worlds.
New for 2018 is a styling update for R/T that raids SRT's clothes closet. Wide fender flares, mesh-filled non-crosshair grille and a gnarly looking vented hood all contribute to a tough-guy persona. No minivan surrogate here, seven-passenger seating notwithstanding.
Standard in R/T is Dodge's marvelous 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that makes 360 hp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque through a standard eight-speed automatic. The exhaust note is growly, its 7,200 pounds of AWD towing talent is impressive, its two-speed transfer case -- yep, there's low range in an R/T AWD -- gives it rough-country capability only dreamed of in most seven-passenger rides, and its acceleration is gratifying. We greeted 60 mph in this bad boy in a blink over 6 seconds.
If there's a downside, it's fuel economy. In 160 miles, three-quarters of it around town, we realized 14 mpg.
While SXT can be had with two rows of seats, every other Durango comes standard with three. Our R/T, however, optioned out of the standard seven-passenger, 2/3/2 configuration, choosing instead the available twin middle-row captain's chairs, giving our Durango seating for six while providing a middle-row experience, complete with floor console, not unlike the front seats.
Room is fabulous in front, comfortable in the middle row and -- surprise -- accommodating for two adults in the third.
Durango's maximum 84.5 cubic feet of seats-folded cargo room isn't the best in town. A Chevy Traverse, for example, boasts 98.2 cubes. But the Chevy isn't in the same performance league as Durango.
Loaded with tech toys, our Durango R/T boasted Chrysler Group's marvelous 8.4-inch touch-screen infotainment interface -- it's a 7-incher in lower trims -- with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, along with optional twin-screen rear-seat DVD video and Durango's Technology Group that brought along adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with auto braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
Durango looks cool, offers a visceral driving experience and can accommodate all the kids and their buds. Unless high mpg and copious cargo space are the priorities, it's hard to do better in this segment than the muscular Dodge Durango.
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