A solid Total Car Score for the 2012 Dodge Durango shows how this new generation -- that's still more SUV than crossover -- has all the right attributes. It's capable of being an off-roader, behaves well on the road, has towing talent to spare (up to 7,400 pounds) and makes a convincing premium SUV in its upper trim level.
Apparently the TV ads showing the new Durango on a racetrack aren't all hype, as reviewers praised the Durango's driving experience -- a rarity in this segment. The V6 engine option got good press, while the V8 -- although thirstier -- was appreciated for its muscle.
The occasional minor gripe over fuel economy was one of the few negatives. Access to the third row of seats might be an issue for adults, but the young, small and supple (for whom those seats are intended) will be able to scamper into them easily.
Even the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) likes the current Durango, naming it a Top Safety Pick.
Following a debut last year, changes for the 2012 Durango include the availability of captain's chairs in the second row, a six-speed auto transmission for V8-powered versions and a little tweaking of the trim levels.
The 2012 Dodge Durango mid-size crossover/SUV can seat up to seven and is available with all-wheel-drive or rear-drive in all trims: SXT, Crew, R/T and Citadel.
The standard engine (except for R/T versions) is a 3.6-liter V6 developing 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive versions also have a transfer case for lower gearing.
The R/T has a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that makes 360 hp and 390 lb-ft. This is also an option in Crew and Citadel trims. It pairs with a six-speed auto transmission and all-wheel-drive versions have their own transfer case, a more sophisticated unit than the V6's.
The "basic" SXT still comes with things like satellite radio, three-zone climate control, heated mirrors and reclining second-row seats. The Crew has keyless/remote ignition, a power liftgate, power-adjustable front seats with driver's side memory, a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth.
The sporty R/T has an appropriate suspension setup, while Citadel is the most luxurious, offering leather, rain-sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, 20-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.
Options include captain's chairs for the second row, a towing package, rear-seat DVD and internet access via mobile Wi-Fi.
Standard safety equipment includes full-length side curtain airbags plus traction, stability and trailer sway controls. Citadel versions also have blind spot monitoring and rear cross-path alert.
EPA estimates for the 2012 Durango start with 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for V6 models with either drive configuration. Rear-drive V8 models achieve 14/20/16 mpg; all-wheel-drive V8 versions return 13/20/15 mpg.
Properly equipped, the 2012 Dodge Durango can tow up to 7,400 pounds.
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