I have no bias against big, truck-based SUVs. In fact, I grew up with one: It was a Scout, produced by a company called International Harvester. It was far from comfy, but totally fun and a major challenge to drive. My mother-in-law had one, and she often said you just had to "herd it down the road." I mention all this because I want you to know where I'm coming from when I tell you that the Dodge Durango is a modern-day Scout. If you're considering one, you should know that the Durango surpasses truck-like and verges into boxcar territory.
The Durango doesn't like corners, and it really doesn't like it when I go off my driveway's curb at a bit of an angle. Head-bonks against the window were reported by numerous passengers. Grocery-getting was also a hassle in the Dodge. I couldn't take a corner without everything shifting and sliding all over the place. I suppose that would be fine if you didn't give a rip about your $150 haul from the market - which, incidentally, used to be only $100, but I'll have to ream my grocery store some other time. The Durango has no grocery hooks to help me out; there's just a smallish foldout cargo bin there to mock me. If you need to haul anything other than cinderblocks you'll be wishing for a supplemental cargo net. Maybe other people are totally fine with that, but I'd like a side of solutions with my crazy cargo sandwich. Check out the specs, and how this car compares with the 2007 Durango, in this side-by-side comparison.
I don't know how to live with the Durango's weird, panel-y interior either. There's this one gratuitous piece of wood on the dash that looks and feels like it's glued on. Seriously, who do they think they're kidding here? And what's with the crazy, disorganized button locations, like the rear wiper switch on the center console? There are no other controls for anything resembling wipers, defrost or anything like that on the console, but I guess Dodge didn't want to put another stem on the steering column. In addition to being illogical, the interior is also unpleasant to look at; everything is square, rectangular or polygon-y. (Yep, just made that word up.) There was no curvy spot in this car for my eyes to rest on.
Speaking of resting, the bright side of the Durango is that the seats are comfortable, and it was a cinch to get the kids to buckle themselves in and out of their boosters. The third row has a top tether anchor, and there's room in the cargo space for a stroller (either the umbrella type or a midsize one laid on its side), even when the third row is in use. The third row folds easily, and I enjoyed the abundance of storage space up front. (Really, though, does anybody out there actually use those sculpted coin slots? I always have the best of intentions...)
But I digress. Here's something interesting for you to know: The Durango's running boards are an enigma. Once I climbed up on them I had to seriously duck to get in the cabin. I always wound up either grazing my head on the doorjamb or just plain making a sloppy entrance. For some reason, I could never find that get-in rhythm. Oh, and I'm glad there's a backup camera, because I couldn't see a darn thing out of this behemoth.
I'm curious to understand the Durango's allure. I got used to the Scout growing up, and am yet left unfulfilled by the Durango. I'm hoping some of you loyal Durango fans out there will enlighten me in the comments section below (as I'm sure you can't wait to do): Why do you love this vehicle so?
*For more information on the Dodge Durango and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 8
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Some
2008 Dodge Durango
Base price: $31,710
Price as tested: $40,760
Engine: 335-hp, 5.7-liter V-8
Fuel: 13/19 mpg
Ground Clearance: 8.7"
Turning Radius: 19.8'
Cargo space: 20.1-102.4 cu. ft. (with seats folded)
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: 5 Stars
Passenger's side: 5 Stars
Front occupant: not rated
Rear occupant: not rated
Rollover resistance: 4 Stars (3 stars for two-wheel drive)