We don’t normally think of three-row crossover SUVs as fun vehicles, but that’s precisely what the 2018 Dodge Durango is. This SUV blends athleticism with utility, delivering a vehicle that almost makes us forget our sport sedans.

Best Value

Dodge offers the 2018 Durango in five trims: SXT, GT, R/T, Citadel, and SRT. This three-row midsizer seats seven and offers three engine choices. Standard rear-wheel drive, available all-wheel drive, and a host of package upgrades give shoppers much to consider. The Durango not only hauls butt, it delivers upwards of 8,700 pounds of towing capacity, making this an ideal all-around SUV for some.

We chose the R/T with all-wheel drive ($46,295) as our “best value” model as it offers the performance steering and sport suspension to go with its 5.7-liter V8 engine. It also delivers a fully functional hood scoop and low-gloss granite 20-inch wheels that raise this SUV’s styling points even further beyond the traditionally dull styling of the three-row market. Leather-trimmed seats, an enhanced telematics system, and a long list of creature comforts make this model a keeper in our eyes.

  • Model: 2018 Dodge Durango R/T
  • Engine: 5.7-liter V8 engine
  • Output: 360 hp/390 lb. ft.
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 14 City / 22 Hwy
  • Options: All-wheel drive ($2,600), Technology Group ($2,495, full-speed adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path alert, and lane departure warning), Second-Row Fold/Tumble Captain Chairs ($995)
  • Base Price:$44,790 (including $1,095 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$50,880

Performance

Dodge Durango

The Durango’s performance ranges from mild to wild. The base engine runs smooth and quiet, and still manages to pull over three tons with a full contingent of people onboard. More suitable for hauling is the 5.7-liter V8, which tows up to 7,400 pounds and offers wonderful step-off acceleration. The beast here is the SRT’s engine as it has the best performance of a mainstream SUV that doesn’t wear a Jeep badge. You might not think about towing with this performance model, but you can — reaching 8,700 pounds, which is as much as some pickup trucks.

Eight-speed automatic transmissions are standard with each engine, but they're among the very best in the segment. Quick, smooth, smart, and efficient, this transmission is used by numerous mainstream and premium automakers around the world, and it's not hard to see why. It's invisible when you want it to be, but it's a willing accomplice when it comes time to push the engine hard.

The Durango's main demerit is its harsh ride. The Dodge may be a crossover, but it doesn’t offer the refinement of models such as the Buick Enclave or Toyota Highlander. On the plus side, we found the steering hefty, but with precise handling.

Style

The Dodge Durango’s muscular looks are in keeping with the Dodge brand, offering an SUV variant to the Challenger coupe and the Charger sedan. Happily, it doesn’t have the blandness or the dated look of the Dodge Journey.

Up front, you’ll find the brand’s well-recognized crosshair, suggesting a Peterbilt look. Styling elements change for some trim, with additional chrome on the Citadel and a wide body look and lowered stance with the R/T and SRT trims. Track lighting brings up the rear, a look that’s been around for a few years but still looks great.

Inside, the Dodge Durango seats seven on paper, but the two-place third-row seat is best left for youngsters. Swapping out the middle, three-place bench seat with captains chairs is better for everyone, offering more comfortable seats in the middle row and more room to move around in the third row. Still, folding down the third row to fit extra gear is something we like.

Logic is the operative word when it comes to the Durango’s dashboard, with everything placed where you’d expect to find it. The standard cloth seats will suit families, while the two available leather grades are what make the Durango elegant. Add in the available suede-like headliner and you may forget you’re in a Dodge.

The Best and Worst Things

Few SUVs offer such a balance between family utility and a raucous driving fun. The Durango comes close, especially in R/T and SRT guise.

This Durango sucks gas and will tap your wallet often. At least premium grade fuel isn’t required, although Dodge recommends fueling with mid-grade gasoline.

Right For?

Dodge Durango

SUV shoppers who want a performance edge, utility, and off-road chops. The good thing is that you don’t have to go crazy with the options catalog to get a model that blends all three traits.

Wrong For?

Anyone expecting a car-like crossover. This isn’t the Chevrolet Traverse or Honda Pilot, but an SUV with truck-like bona fides despite its unibody design. Then again, competing models offer nothing larger than a V6 either.

The Bottom Line

If an SUV with muscular style, performance credentials, and a classy interior are important to you, the Dodge Durango delivers. From it, don’t expect the smooth ride most crossovers deliver, but do expect your perceptions of what a three-row SUV can deliver to change (and for the better).