2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop Review

2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop ReviewBlacktop package adds intimidating look to well-seasoned SUV

2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop Review

Photo: K.Tuggay
2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop By Trevor Hofmann , Monday, 04 July 2016

With nearly 20 years under its belt and almost six in its current, third generation, the Dodge Durango remains a rugged-looking contender amid today’s often minivan-like crossover SUV crowd. My recent SXT AWD Blacktop tester appeared even more masculine than the model’s usual chrome-clad design.

Unique black trim
Its grey Billet Metallic paint and body-coloured detailing along with its blacked-out grille, headlight and fog lamp bezels, mirror caps, wheels and badging made it look as intimidating as a highway patrol ghost car, although the constabulary doesn’t normally spend the money required for 20” rims on 265/50 rubber. Still, this Durango’s only a couple of blue and red strobes away from striking fear into the hearts of surrounding motorists.

Believe it or not, I’m describing a base 2016 Dodge Durango SXT with $195 in paint and $1,595 for the Blacktop package, which also adds cool LED daytime running lamps and a dual exhaust while subtracting the roof rails. This, combined with a complete lack of chrome as well as a rich leather and pseudo suede cabin, endows the vehicle with a decidedly upscale, urbanite attitude. My tester also included the $1,250 Popular Equipment Group encompassing heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, a back-up camera, and rear parking assist.

No shortage of features 
The standard features menu is equally impressive thanks to auto on/off headlamps, proximity access with push-button ignition, LED interior lighting, illuminated cup holders, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, a multi-information display, tri-zone automatic HVAC with rear controls, a Uconnect colour infotainment touchscreen, outstanding audio with satellite radio, a comfortable 8-way power driver’s seat and 4-way power front passenger’s seat (which also folds forward for extra convenience), a 60/40-split second row, a 50/50-split third row, and more.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Dodge Durango’s standard safety kit includes trailer sway control, hill start assist, active head restraints, and all the usual active and passive safety equipment.

All of this comes in a cabin that will make you completely forget any previous Durango interior thanks to soft-touch surfaces like the dash top and halfway down the instrument panel, and even the lower extremities of the centre stack. Stylish, satin-silver inlays highlight the dash and door panels, while the thickly padded leatherette armrests boast contrasting grey stitching to match the seats. Likewise, the leather-wrapped steering wheel is padded and nicely stitched for extra grip, while the switchgear on its spokes and elsewhere around the cabin is well damped and has a high-quality feel and tight fit.

Small screen shortcomings 
The premium-level 7” colour TFT gauge cluster behind said steering wheel in the 2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD Blacktop immediately catches the eye, replete with a myriad of features and bright, clear legibility no matter the light outside. However, this advanced bit of electronic kit makes the entry-level Durango’s most glaring weakness all the more apparent ― a centre stack that comes across as more rudimentary than the majority of competitors due to an infotainment touchscreen that measures a mere 5” diagonal.

I’ve also tested the Durango with its available 8.4” touchscreen and let me tell you it’s a wholly different experience that I recommend if your budget allows (because you’ll need to move up in trims to get it).

The aforementioned rear-view camera incorporates active guidelines, while the audio system includes Bluetooth streaming and easy phone connectivity. A simple digital compass points the way instead of navigation, however. Unusual is a digital button that will automatically drop the third-row headrests for better rearward visibility.

No shortage in overall capacity 
Most should find the 2016 Dodge Durango quite spacious. It’s an SUV bordering on full-size dimensions, although not quite as big as a Chevy Tahoe or Ford Expedition, at least when it comes to width, but second-row passengers get plenty of legroom. That middle bench (bucket seats are available) folds out of the way for easy access to a third row that’s nicely finished and amply sized for normal adults.

Alternatively, the rearmost bench can be left folded into the floor for additional stowage room, expanding the reasonable 487L cargo hold (about the size of a large sedan’s trunk) to 1,351 litres behind the second row. When both rear rows are folded, the Durango is one of the most accommodating SUVs in its class with a massive 2,393 litres of cargo space.

While this Dodge Durango SXT doesn’t quite meet premium-level expectations inside, the hefty thunk its doors make when closing, its overall quietness at speed, and the impressive way it takes to the road will make you wonder why the company doesn’t go all the way with luxury refinements. It’s a unibody design, in case you weren’t aware, so the Durango is no longer riding atop a pickup truck frame like it used to (and some of its aforementioned full-size colleagues still do). That’s why its structural rigidity is so sound, overall feel so substantive, and handling so agile ― similar to pricier SUV players from upmarket brands.

Surprising performance 
The 2016 Dodge Durango’s fully independent suspension provides a wonderfully compliant ride and confidence-inspiring road holding, while its advanced 8-speed automatic transmission wows with a space-saving, rotating-dial gear selector. Fully engaging paddle shifters help make the most of the 3.6L Pentastar V6’s 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. These numbers aren’t class-leading, but takeoff feels more than strong enough.

Meanwhile, the big brute surprisingly achieves the best fuel economy in its AWD class at 12.8L/100km city and 9.5L/100km highway, this due in part to auto stop/start technology that comes into play when the engine would otherwise be idling. The V6 runs smoothly, too, although it makes a wonderfully gritty growl at full throttle. The autobox is similarly smooth, yet capable of quick, crisp shifts when pushed hard. Furthermore, the available Sport mode is actually quite aggressive, requiring the use of those paddles so as not to rev the engine too high and needlessly waste fuel.

Final verdict 
At the end of my test week, I only had one complaint that also has affected a number of other FCA vehicles equipped with proximity-sensing access ― a regular need to press the door handle-mounted button multiple times to gain entry. I found that shifting my body position sometimes helped, no doubt relative to which pocket held the key, but seeing that I haven’t needed to do likewise with the passive entry systems used by other automakers, it may be something FCA should look into.

This small irritant aside, the 2016 Dodge Durango is an impressive SUV that still measures up to more recently updated competitors in most respects. The larger infotainment display and rear-view camera should be standard, though, especially considering the base price of $43,395 plus freight and dealer fees. Dodge preferred to invest its money into one of the best drivetrains in the industry.

While as smooth and refined as anything in its class, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tougher-looking SUV, which seems fitting considering it hails from a brand that also purveys the badass Charger and the even more alluring Challenger, not to mention the now-legendary Viper. Even with its pint-sized infotainment screen, I couldn’t help liking it, but if my money were on the line I’d upgrade to get the more advanced system. It’s your call, but either way you’ll be well served with a Dodge Durango.


 

 

 

Photos: K.Tuggay
2016 Dodge Durango SXT pictures

 

2016 Dodge Charger SXT review

2016 Dodge Charger SXT review

The Charger has been updated over the years, but what’s always made it good remains

The Dodge Charger is now in its second year of an update that brought a Dart-style front fascia and a number of other new design elements. In fact, every body panel was altered with this update, not just the nose. Overall, the redesign achieved its goal of keeping the Charger fresh for a few more years.

It’s easy to try to dismiss the Charger as a vehicle from another era, when full-size three-box American sedans were the default vehicle of everybody who didn’t own a truck or a hatchback. But the addition of the newest tech and innate convenience features combined with a very modest starting price can still surprise at a time when there are much smaller sedans claiming to be premium that easily surpass the Charger’s sticker price.

Under the hood of the Charger is a 3.6-liter V6 good for 300 hp, with power sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission (that no longer uses the recalled Monostable shifter, by the way). This is the base engine and, even though the Hellcat Charger offers more than double the horsepower count, the performance is more than enough to keep things moving. Acceleration comes without the nose lifting, thanks to all-wheel drive, and nosediving on hard braking is kept in check as well — impressive for something this big.

The Charger’s wide stance would suggest a propensity to lean in the corners but this is something that Dodge engineers have managed to keep a very tight lid on. The Charger stays very well composed in the twisties even if there is a bit of protest from the wide tires, and there is not as much body lean as you’d expect in something this large. That’s perhaps one of the best parts of the chassis; the Charger is nimble enough to perform sudden maneuvers without much drama, which is probably why the police agencies of so many states are fond of it. The fact the platform itself is not exactly new makes this quality all the more impressive, even though the turning radius is not a tidy as it could be.

2016 Dodge Charger SXT Premium Rallye Photo 5

The interior of the Charger in SXT Premium trim is a spacious and comfortable space in which to spend time, and it makes a good use of the materials in a way that doesn’t bore the eyes. The cabin feels well put together, and despite the abundance of black plastic up front the interior looks and feels reasonably luxurious. A few details like cross-stitching on the seats and center console, as well as the door panels, add an expensive feel to the cabin. There is still plenty of plastic to go around, but it doesn’t feel like the cheap, shiny kind that some other sedans in this price range still serve up from time to time. When it comes to infotainment, the corporate UConnect touchscreen remains one of the more intuitive systems out there with easy-to-read icons and an easy-to-reach surface, and all the controls are easy to decipher.

Overall, the cabin feels well proportioned, it’s easy to climb into and out of, and there’s generous headroom.

With a starting price of $32,990, the Charger offers a lot for the buck, and optioned with the Rallye pack and the AWD Premium Group it arrives right at the $40,000 mark. Much smaller premium sedans have no trouble reaching this price point with a few options added on. I’d keep it closer to the starting price if ordering one, just to stay out of the Chrysler 300’s price range.

2016 Dodge Charger SXT Premium Rallye Photo 9
OTHER VOICES:

We’ve had the same basic Charger around for quite a while now — yes, engines have changed, as have transmission options, body panels and suspension…everything except the fundamental bones (and Chrysler execs have even argued that point with me). Some folks decry the lack of advancement, but the Charger doesn’t really need anything new. It’s possibly the best current example of the classic full-size, rear-drive American car (or AWD as the case may be), ironic considering it’s made in Canada using a lot of German components by an Italian car company headquartered in Belgium. But hey, globalization!

Point is, I always enjoy spending time in a Dodge Charger, whether it’s a gussied-up V6 like this or a monster Hellcat. Interior furnishings can best be described as plain but effective — there’s a lot of black rubber and plastic, but everything comes across as well-screwed-together and free of squeaks and rattles. More importantly, it’s easy to get comfortable, and the UConnect infotainment system that controls the stereo, phone, navigation and seat/steering wheel heat remains easy to learn and use.

Don’t think you’re compromising by picking the V6, either. No, it’s not the supercharged Hellcat V8, or even the SRT 392 “big block”; instead, it’s a well-mannered, efficient engine with plenty of power even if your plans include the occasional track day. Push the “Super Trac Pack” button on the dash and make sure everything is in sport mode, and the car converts to a pretty damn good sports sedan, firing off quick shifts from the 8-speed automatic transmission and generally behaving better than a 2-ton domestic sedan has any right to do.

The entire full-size sedan market is in the crapper right now, but Dodge manages to keep moving Chargers at a decent clip. No surprise — it’s a throwback in the best possible sense.

Andrew Stoy, digital editor

2016 Dodge Charger SXT Premium Rallye Photo 7

The Dodge Charger SXT Premium is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 300 hp, connected to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Photo by Autoweek

As Andy said, the Charger is part of a dying breed — the rear-drive full-size American sedan. Sure, this Charger is actually about as American as poutine or Tim Hortons, but it’s the last dying breath of an American staple.

While the Charger is considerably better at destroying tires in its Scat Pack or Hellcat trims, this stylish V6-powered SXT isn’t a slouch. Much to my surprise, engaging the launch control proved that this Charger could actually hustle – albeit much more quietly than its V8 counterparts.

Unlike the remaining sporty rear-drive American sedans, the Charger handles like a yacht on the water — it rolls, it dives and that’s perfectly fine. The soft suspension means that this thing also absorbs bumps along the roadway without rattling your teeth loose.

The Uconnect infotainment system might give you troubles when connecting an iPhone while using third-party media apps like Spotify or Pandora, though for those who just use MP3s and podcasts to avoid listening to the radio — you’ll be fine. Despite the Beats Audio badging everywhere, I didn’t feel that this stereo system was much better than the one found in the regular Charger.

All in all, if you are looking for a big family cruiser, and don’t want a crossover or something vintage, the Charger is a good-looking, fun-driving, decently efficient highway hauler.

Wesley Wren, associate editor

2016 Dodge Charger SXT Premium Rallye Photo 8

The Dodge Charger SXT Premium is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 300 hp, connected to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Photo by Autoweek

OPTIONS: AWD premium group including leather trim seats, SiriusXM traffic with five-year traffic subscription, SiriusXM travel link with five-year travel link subscription, bi-function HID projector headlamps, UConnect 8.4 NAV, GPS navigation, HD radio, Beats premium speakers with subwoofers, 552-watt amplifier, power front driver and passenger seats, driver/passenger power four-way lumbar adjust, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, ParkView rear back-up camera, ParkSense rear park assist system, blind spot and cross path detection, adaptive cruise control with stop, full speed forward collision warning plus, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, advanced brake assist, exterior mirrors with courtesy lamps, automatic high beam headlamp control, rain sensitive windshield wipers, power adjustable pedals with memory, power tilt/telescope steering column, auto adjust in reverse exterior mirrors, driver’s auto-dimming exterior mirror and memory for radio, driver seat and mirrors ($5,995)

Dodge Challenger Sales Boom Thanks to Refreshed 2015 Models

hellcat challenger at naias
While the Dodge Challenger trailed both the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro in January sales, the numbers from the first month of 2015 are a very clear sign that the 2015 Challenger has led to a big spike in muscle car sales for the Chrysler Group – one which is likely to continue as we get into the summer.

Over the past 37 months (dating back to January 2012), the Dodge Challenger has ranked third in muscle car sales all but one time. In the modern era of the Challenger, it has never led the segment in sales and the only time that it was second came back in September 2014, when the Challenger outsold the Mustang, but fell short of the Camaro. Because of this, the muscle car sales race coverage doesn’t touch much on the Challenger, but since the 2015 models began reaching dealerships late last year, the sales numbers for the brawny Mopar muscle car has been consistently strong.

While the Dodge Challenger might not pose a real risk to the Mustang and Camaro, the continued success of the 2015 models is something that should be noted by everyone in the industry.

Challenger Sales Soar with 2015 Models
The 2015 Dodge Challenger began reaching dealerships and owners at full force late in 2014, and that led to huge year over year sales increases through the 4th quarter of the year. Dodge sold 4,140 Challengers in October 2014, 4,157 Challengers in November 2014 and 4,938 Challengers in December 2014 for a total of 13,235 new Mopar muscle cars delivered in the 4th quarter of the year. When we add up the numbers from the same months in 2013 (3,256 in October, 2,757 in November, 2,872 in December), we get a total of just 8,885 Challengers sold in the 4th quarter of 2013. This means that the arrival of the refreshed 2015 Challenger helped lead to an increase of 49% in the 4th quarter of 2014.

In January 2015, winter finally hit many parts of the United States for the first time this season and that led to reduced sports car sales in many northern areas, but the Challenger still posted the best January in the modern history of the model. Since being introduced back in 2008, the Challenger has never sold more units in January than it did in 2015 with 4,592 units sold. For comparison, Dodge sold just 2,458 Challengers in January 2014, 3,497 Challengers in January 2013 and 2,551 Challengers in January 2012.

Winter is traditionally the worse time of year for muscle car sales, yet the 2015 Dodge Challenger has sold at record levels…and its only likely to get better as the weather warms up around the US.

New Models Lead to More Sales
The 2015 Dodge Challenger has sold well since hitting dealerships late last year, but that is to be expected from any new version of a model with such a strong enthusiast community. The early rush to get the new Hellcat Challenger has helped bolster sales over the last two months while the general interest in the redesigned Challenger has further helped sales numbers to grow, so it isn’t just Hellcat enthusiasm boosting the sales figures.

In addition to the popularity of these new models growing as winter fades, the Dodge brand has more new Challenger trimlines planned for a spring arrival. When the 2015 Challenger was first introduced last April in New York, the SRT Hellcat model wasn’t there, but there were two different trimlines with the modern Shaker hood design. Both the Challenger R/T with the 5.7L Hemi and the R/T Scat Pack with the 6.4L Hemi were introduced in New York, but those models haven’t been marketed as the new models have reached showrooms. Instead, Chrysler has delayed the arrival of the 2015 Challenger Shaker models, with an expected spring arrival of the 375 and 485 horsepower Shaker models. When the Shaker versions of the 2015 Challenger arrive later this year, we can expect to see another sales rush and while it won’t be anywhere near the initial rush last year for the 2015 Challenger – the demand for the Shaker packages could help keep Challenger sales strong well into the summer months.