Overview

Introduction

Although Dodge has a semi-substantial update for the soon to be released 2014 Durango model what with its new Charger sedan like tail-lamp treatment, more upscale dash with a rising automatic transmission shift knob stolen directly out of the Jaguar XF playbook and an overall sprucing up of the interior décor, we are here to tell you that the 2013 Dodge Durango (tested here in rough and tumble R/T form) was not really in dire need of any changes. Quite frankly, we didn't need to see many changes to this nicely sized, roomy and shockingly agile SUV which in our BlackTop Edition was screaming out for immediate attention.

But isn't newer always supposed to be better? Well, not exactly in this case. Whereas we may soon find ourselves bowled over by the 2014 model's updates, the 2013 R/T model tested here with the standard 5.7 liter V8 engine truly took our breath away thanks to its inimitable sonic rumbling and bad ass aural nature even at idle. We also appreciated the perfectly judged size of this SUV compared to Suburbans and Tahoes both of which feel overwhelming to pilot in places where there are other vehicles and generally in need of a diet replete with fewer Hostess Cupcakes. Or Twinkies.

Lineup

The 2013 Dodge Durango is available in many trim levels with a choice of two engines—a 3.6 liter 295 horsepower Pentastar V6 or a 5.7 liter 391 horsepower 5.7 liter Hemi V8. We drove the V8 version for this test but have found the Durango to be plenty powerful in a previous drive in a model with the V6 motor.

Exterior Styling

To some, the blacked out wheels and grille of our test 2013 Dodge Durango R/T's exterior will seem a bit too in your face and not quite the image they want to present publicly. Well, that doesn't mean you can't have a Durango because Dodge also sells the Citadel edition which starts at $39,995 and instead of blacking out exterior pieces and wheels, this model uses a tasteful amount of chrome bright work. The interior has Nappa leather but it comes in tans and greys more suited to a mild mannered individual. Also, do note that the Citadel comes with a thumping Alpine Audio System, power moonroof and either the Hemi V8 or 3.6 liter 290 horsepower base V6.

Truly, the 2013 Dodge Durango is just one of those vehicles that not only is smartly sized (not too big, not too small to fit adults in the third row of seats) but it also drives like a much smaller SUV. That is to say, it is nowhere near as cumbersome in parking lots as, for example, a Chevy Suburban or even in a slightly different mindset so is a Nissan Titan pick-up truck. Visibility is good from all angles in the Dodge when you are in the driver's seat but in case that isn't enough you can order your Durango with Blind Spot Warning Assist, back-up sonar warning assistance, a forward collision system and many other safety features. All it lacks is a driver to pay attention for you.

Interior

At cruising speeds the Durango's interior is noisier than a Lexus thanks to its favored 20-inch wheels but other than that tire roar on rough pavement, the Durango R/T proved it would make for an excellent cross country road trip cruiser. We only wish that we had the time with a Durango to plan something like that but on a semi-long sojourn down to San Diego we found the seats remained comfortable the whole trip and that Nappa leather slathered all over an SUV interior can really, really make it feel expensive.

Those who haven't been inside a Chrysler product's since Fiat took over corporate operation post-Bankruptcy a few years back will be in for a big surprise when they get a look at the 2013 Dodge Durango R/T's uniquely American yet undeniably high quality interior. Soft touch plastics abound, the black leather seats in our tester were embroidered with cool "R/T" logos in red and the dashboard was clearly designed with ease of use in mind.

Trust us, even the most easily confused driver can figure out how to pilot a Durango R/T which is saying something in an SUV of this size with this amount of capability. One last issue that is so often a problem with three row SUVs is an utter lack of legroom back there but the 2013 Dodge Durango leaves no passenger without comfort. The Durango has seating for seven should you need it and if you plan on moving your least favorite Aunt clear across town so she can't just "stop by" anymore, the Durango R/T offers 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

Driving Experience

What is there to say about the 5.7 liter 360 horsepower/390 lb. feet of torque V8 tested here that hasn't already been said? We almost dare not try and describe the mellifluous crescendo of its barrel chested V8 rumble as you rev it all the way to its easy and relaxed redline. With this much power, the Hemi never feels like it is having to work hard at all, even when shoehorned under the hood of an SUV like the Durango which weighs over 5,000 pounds depending on equipment.

As for the standard 6-speed automatic, it proved perfectly capable of getting the most from the Hemi V8 in a way that was nearly invisible in most driving situations. The Durango R/T really does the powertrain job just like we want it—the parts that we don't need to be aware of are muted but the gorgeously sonorous and inspiring noise from the legendary Hemi are allowed (when called upon) to make their way into the cabin. A great balance of refinement and raucous hooliganism.

As far as large SUVs go, the 2013 Dodge Durango is easily one of the most maneuverable and confidence inspiring when you are behind the wheel in real life urban and suburban traffic situations. The steering has a good self-centering feel with none of the dead play on the straight ahead that blights so many poor handling SUVs. When you turn the Durango's wheel, it responds and surprisingly does so with minimal body roll and a decent amount of skilled grace.

This is the place in our review where you see us get really, really impressed because not only is the Hemi V8 powered 2013 Dodge Durango R/T seriously fast on the road but it can also haul a heavy load and tow that extra-large bass fishing boat you had to have the same year you bought your first motorcycle. (We are only implying that perhaps it was a midlife crisis, only you can decide that for sure.) All told the 2013 Dodge Durango with the 5.7 liter 360 horsepower V8 engine can tow a whopping 7,400 pounds which puts pretty much every other similarly sized and marketed SUV in the shade. Many modern SUVs can only tow 1,500 pounds or so which seems decidedly wimpy in this company.

Do take note that even the standard 3.6 liter V6 engine can tow 6,200 pounds when properly equipped with the tow package and that figure is mighty impressive as well. The tow package for the Durango not only comes with the usual wiring and receiver but also has a self-leveling rear suspension, a heavy duty engine cooling system and a beefed up alternator. But since it is more likely that Hemi powered Durango owners will be towing heavier, unwieldy trailers Dodge decided the Durango also needed Trailer Sway Damping available on that model. This feature uses the electronic stability control to make directional corrections when needed by the trailer as well as improving transmission performance by delaying upshifts and maintaining lower gears on downhill sections of road to help keep the gearbox from overheating.

Competition

There are no two ways to say it—the 2013 Dodge Durango R/T really pushed all of our buttons when it comes to giving an SUV a rave review. We loved the engine's seemingly endless power and intoxicatingly addictive growl. This SUV's towing ability is truly first rate as is the driving experience and the feeling of quality one gets from the interior. But, hey, if the 2013 Durango isn't good enough for you check out the 2014 model and see if those improvements change your mind.

If you are looking for a roomy three row SUV that can tow or haul a lot of heavy cargo then really the Durango doesn't have much competition. Ford does offer the Explorer which gets closer than most to its capabilities but more than likely you would have to go for a GMC Yukon or something similarly oversized to find an SUV that manages all of the feats the Durango can do with ease. Models like the 2014 Kia Sorento have three rows but are nowhere near as accomplished as far as hauling people and stuff.

Well, Dodge is rolling out a stylistically refreshed 2014 Dodge Durango soon that is quite handsome so it would be a coin toss to us when deciding whether or not to buy the 2013 or next year's model. Honestly, you might find that you could get a better deal from a Dodge dealer on a 2013 model as they will no doubt soon be looking to clear out the last of their leftover inventory. Lastly, although the Hemi V8 we tested here will see no powertrain changes for 2014 but know that the base Pentastar 3.6 liter 290 horsepower V6 motor will get a state of the art 8-speed automatic instead of the current 5-speed.

What We Loved


  • The prodigious power and addictive rumble of the 5.7 liter Hemi V8

  • The easily manageable size and maneuverable driving feel

  • The unbeatable cargo and people hauling capabilities


What We Would Change


  • An even better one is coming out for 2014

  • Decisions, decisions

  • A little less road noise at cruising speeds


Vehicle Tested

Our 2013 Dodge Durango R/T came with standard all-wheel drive and started out with a sticker price of $38,745 which included leather seats, 3-zone climate control, power front seats, Sirius XM, power windows, door locks, a trailer towing sway control system, keyless go entry, a 6-speed automatic transmission, the 5.7 liter Hemi V8, third row seat and a UConnect AM/FM/CD/USB i-Pod connected, Bluetooth enabled in dash head unit with a 6.5 inch touch screen. Not a bad deal for that much equipment, power and ability.

But, as is so often the way, our eyes were seduced by the lengthy options list which helped to push our as tested price to $46,505 with destination by the time we finished. First the $1,595 Technology Group with Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning, Cross Path Warning and a Forward Collision System added to the $295 aforementioned Blacktop Package (20-inch alloys, blacked out grille) plus an $895 trailer tow package (hitch, class IV receiver, 7 and 4 pin wiring harness). Next we shelled out over $2,000 for soft Nappa leather seats, heated front seats, driver memory functionality, heated steering wheel, leather wrapped door panels and a whole lot of fancy trim upgrades.

Perhaps a smarter investment is the affordably priced $895 in dash navigation system which comes with a center screen rear back-up camera system. Lastly, for $1,095 Dodge turned the second row seats into Captain's Chairs that fold flat and can easily tumble forward and adds a second row console with storage, USB port, 12-volt plug and illuminated cupholders.

By James Hamel

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
SUV - AWD
SXT AWD 4dr SXT V6 AWD 32145
Crew AWD 4dr Crew V6 AWD 37545
R/T AWD 4dr R/T 8 Cylinder AWD 39245
Citadel AWD 4dr Citadel V6 AWD 42345
SUV - RWD
SXT 2WD 4dr SXT V6 RWD 29795
Crew 2WD 4dr Crew V6 RWD 35195
R/T 2WD 4dr R/T 8 Cylinder RWD 36495
Citadel 2WD 4dr Citadel V6 RWD 39995

Comparison of 2013 Dodge Durango with Similar Cars

2013 Dodge Durango MSRP Invoice
2013 Dodge Durango $29,795 $28,349
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2013 Ford Explorer $29,100 $27,427 2013 Dodge Durango VS 2013 Ford Explorer
2013 Toyota Highlander $29,020 $26,494 2013 Dodge Durango VS 2013 Toyota Highlander
2013 Chevrolet Traverse $30,510 $29,290 2013 Dodge Durango VS 2013 Chevrolet Traverse
2013 Honda Pilot $29,520 $27,000 2013 Dodge Durango VS 2013 Honda Pilot
2013 Toyota 4runner $31,490 $28,971 2013 Dodge Durango VS 2013 Toyota 4runner

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2013 Dodge Durango ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2013 Dodge Durango rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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