SUV Review: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT

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Dec 042018

Most Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) accentuate the U in SUV to appeal to consumers. For the first time, Dodge accentuates the S with the Durango full-size SUV Street and Racing Technology (SRT) trim. Latino Traffic Report recently drove the 2018 Durango SRT during a weeklong test drive. While the appeal for this model is fairly specific, Dodge apparently believes that sport car enthusiasts with cargo and towing needs will give the Durango SRT a look-see. As an added incentive, all new customers will get to push the sporty SUV to its limits with a free full-day session at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.

The three-row SUV still offers the versatility of other SUVs with seating for six, 84.5 cu. ft. of cargo room with both rows folded flat, and has a best-in-class towing capability of 8,700 pounds. But what distinguishes this SUV is what’s under the hood, namely a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with 475 horsepower and 470 lb.–ft. of torque that can accelerate from zero–60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds

This kind of power, however, does have one downside, namely fuel economy. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the V8 has an EPA city/highway fuel economy of 13/19 miles per gallon (mpg). On the test drive it averaged 12.9 mpg. Still, the buyer for this vehicle probably won’t be surprised by this news.

On the outside, the Durango SRT stands out among its siblings with a newly designed hood with a functional cold-air duct and heat extractors to cool the engine.

Adding to that is the new SRT seven-mode drive system that includes Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Valet, and ECO, giving the driver the ability to customize drive settings. ON the test drive along FM 2222 in west Austin, one of the curviest local roads, standard paddle shifters improved handling.

The Durango’s all-wheel drive system has been performance tuned and a new exhaust system offers the deep, high-performance exhaust note modeled after the Dodge Charger SRT.

On the plush side, the SRT is a top-of-the-line trim, which means it offers a bigger list of creature comforts to complement the power under the hood, including a hand-wrapped instrument panel with silver accent stitching, an SRT flat-bottom performance steering wheel, and heated and ventilated front and heated second-row captain’s chairs with embossed SRT logos.

The standard seven-inch thin-film-transistor screen in the instrument cluster has been redesigned and can be customized, the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen returns with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD radio, downloadable apps, and a five-year trial of SiriusXM Travel Link and Traffic with a one-year trial subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Rounding out this list is the standard BeatsAudio premium sound system featuring nine speakers, subwoofer and 506-watt amplifier.

The test model also included the Technology Group ($2,495) that added forward collision warning with crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control with stop, and a blind-spot monitor and rear cross path detection.

Built in Detroit, pricing for the 2018 Dodge Durango starts at $61,900. The as-tested price came to $73,360.

Si: The Durango adds excitement to a fairly staid segment.

No: Low fuel economy is pretty unacceptable in this day and age, plus safety features at this price point should be more available if not standard.

Reviews: 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus

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Jun 012016

Most recognized for its muscle cars like the Charger and Challenger, Dodge also includes more utilitarian models in its lineup. The Dart is one. The Dodge Journey is another. On a recent test drive of the 2016 Journey Crossroad Plus for Latino Traffic Report, I was pleasantly surprised by this Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).

Appropriately named, the Journey can transport five to seven passengers depending on how it’s configured. Classified as a small SUV by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation, the Journey’s 50/50-split third-row, available on all trim levels, sets it apart from the competition.

Dodge has reduced the number of trim levels in 2016, from seven to five, but added the Crossroad Plus that sits near the top of the lineup. Standard features like leather seats, the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system, sport mesh seat inserts, and creatively designed storage space elevate the SUV. My favorite was the Flip ‘n Stow in-seat storage under the passenger front seat cushion. It flips up easily and can fit a purse. That plus the fold-flat front passenger seat, second- and third-row seating, and second-row in-floor storage, give the Journey best-in-class storage.

On the outside, distinctive front and rear fascias with Platinum Chrome accents, Platinum Chrome side sills, Platinum Chrome roof rails and unique 19-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels, further distinguish this trim level.

Powered by a choice of two engines, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter V6, the test model came with the latter that produces 283 horsepower and 260 lb.–ft. of torque. Matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, it has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway for the two-wheel-drive version. I averaged 28.9 mpg.

All Journeys include Keyless Enter ‘n Go with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, Uconnect 4.3 with a 4.3-inch touchscreen, an AM/FM radio, CD player, MP3/WMA audio jack input, remote USB port, and black side roof rails.

The Journey also offers surprising options for this segment, like a heated steering wheel, a fold-flat front seat, and all-wheel-drive (AWD), featuring an on-demand system that provides added traction when needed and enhanced fuel economy when not.

The Crossroad Plus includes a black leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Liquid Graphite accents, a power driver’s seat, three-zone climate control and the afore mentioned front passenger fold-flat seat with storage.

Where the Journey falls short, however, is safety. While traditional features like anti-lock brakes and traction control are included, the rearview camera comes in a package reserved for the higher-end models, and a blind-spot warning system isn’t even offered.

Pricing for the Journey starts at $21,890, $2,600 less than the 2015 model. The test model included several packages like the Popular Equipment Group ($1250) that added the heated steering wheel, and the Navigation and Back-Up Camera Group ($1,195) bringing the as-tested price to $32,560.

Sí: Seating configurations and extra storage space give the Journey added versatility.

No: With all the extra packages on the test model, it still didn’t include critical safety features like blind spot monitor or collision avoidance, nor are they available.

Reviews: 2015 Dodge Dart SXT

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Dec 052015

2015-05-22 DartinLA

Trying to compete in one of the toughest automotive segments, the 2015 Dodge Dart hits the bull’s-eye with features not normally associated with compact cars, as well as neat styling and good fuel economy. I’ve driven it multiple times, including a three-month test drive, and most recently, in Los Angeles. My first impression remains the same—this is a lot of car for the money.

Dart trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of volume.

Dart trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of volume.

When it was introduced, the Dart was configurable in 100,000 possible ways. Not surprisingly, the features have since been bundled among five models, SE, SXT, Aero, Limited, and GT. On a test drive in California, I drove the SXT.

All Darts include the unmistakable Dodge split crosshair grille and racetrack tail lamps with 152 indirect glow LEDs. I was approached more than once in grocery store parking lots with questions and compliments about it.

On the inside, the dash grabbed my immediate attention, beginning with the seven-inch digital gauge cluster that can be configured in multiple ways to suit the driver’s preference, a capability normally found on luxury models.

2015-05-25 DartNLAThe Dart’s 8.4-inch touchscreen above the center stack is easy to program, from radio station presets to Bluetooth. For 2015, it’s updated to be compatible with an Android smartphone for Bluetooth, voice command and streaming music, and USB connectivity.

The Dart was also one of the first in its segment to offer advanced safety features like a rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines, a blind-spot monitor, and rear cross path detection. I put these features to use navigating through shopping destinations and parking in Beverly Hills.

2015-05-25 11.DartLAseatsAs a compact, the Dart must offer competitive fuel economy. It achieves this via three four-cylinder engines, a 2.0-liter, 2.4-liter, and 1.4-liter turbo. Happily, all three can be matched to three available six-speed transmissions, starting with a six-speed manual. I drove one of two available six-speed automatics. The best fuel economy should come from the 1.4-liter-six-speed-manual combination that has an EPA estimated 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

Competing in the value driven compact car segment, the Dodge Dart certainly holds its own.

Pricing for the 2015 Dart starts at $17,490. For 2015, air conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control and power equipment can be added to the Dodge Dart SE base model for a reduced price of $775. The test model Dart SXT also included the California Package that added a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual rear exhaust tips, and a touring suspension, among other features. With that and more extras, the as-tested price came to $23,070.2015-05-23 dart.rear


Sí: Well-equipped, the Dart offers technology like a configurable gauge cluster, normally reserved for fancier models and a six-speed manual transmission on more than just the base model.

No: Air conditioning should be standard on a base model, not part of a package, even an affordable one.

Long-term Review: 2014 Dodge Dart Limited

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Jan 082015

2014-09-23 18.Dart

Some vehicles make a good first impression, others may need to grow on you.

I first met the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart at the launch in 2012. It immediately impressed me with its technology, design, and fuel economy. After spending three months with the 2014 Dodge Dart Limited, I’m happy to say my first impressions have held true—it’s a game changer for the brand offering good fuel economy and value.

When it was first introduced, the Dart was configurable in 100,000 possible ways. Not surprisingly, the features have since been bundled among five models, SE, SXT, Aero, Limited and GT for 2014. I’m driving the Limited.

The first Chrysler vehicle to share a platform with its European siblings, the Dart also grows the manufacturer’s fuel-efficient lineup. All Limited models are powered by a peppy 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 184 horsepower. The test model comes equipped with the six-speed automatic but a six-speed manual is the standard transmission on every trim level but the Limited, which is rare—most standard transmissions are relegated to base models only.

2014-09-24 09dart.dashThe EPA estimated fuel economy is 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway for the 2.4-liter. I’m averaging 26 mpg in the city and the best mileage so far on the highway has been 33 mpg.

I spent $395 in gasoline during the loan and traveled 4186 miles. While I like the fuel economy, it was a challenge to stretch $20 of gas beyond four days before heading back to the pump.

The best fuel economy on any Dart comes from the Aero model, powered by 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo—it should get 41 mpg on the highway. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder powers the base model.

The Dart is styled with the unmistakable Dodge split crosshair grille and racetrack taillamps with 152 indirect glow LEDs. I was approached more than once in grocery store parking lots with questions and compliments about it.

2014-09-24 09.Dart.seatsOn the inside, the sculpted instrument cluster grabs immediate attention. The test model included standard leather seating that reflects Dodge’s new attention to fit and finish. The stitching on the dash adds polish, but the choice of white (bone) and black leather seats with black accent stitching takes confidence. Admittedly, the white leather did show some black scuffs after three months, but saddle soap removed them quickly and easily.

The focus on detail is also apparent with soft-touch accents throughout. The available seven-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) customizable gauge cluster display offered easy interactivity and striking graphics. I settled on the eco graphic with a sunflower that added or detracted petals based on fuel-efficient driving. FYI, I completed my flower once I achieved 30 mpg or better, typically on a road trip.2014-09-23 19.Dart.sunflower

The display was also helpful when the tire pressure monitor indicator came on. Most tire pressure monitors just alert you that you need to add air but not to which tire. The Dart TFT also included a tire pressure screen that showed tire pressure levels for each tire.

For added versatility, the 60/40 split seats are easy to deploy, just pull the loops on either side, adding extra storage to an already roomy trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of cargo room.

Multiple storage options include a roomy glove box that harkens back to the days when a glove box fit more than just an owner’s manual. An excellent package of standard equipment on the Limited included 60 safety and security features, particularly a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, and blind side warning.

2014-08-10 18.04.55Pricing on the base model, or Dart SE, starts at $15,995. With an MSRP of $24,985, the Dart Limited that I drove packed a lot of features into that cost, like a sunroof, leather seats, a heated steering wheel as well as front seats, a digital configurable instrument panel, and an eight-inch touch screen above the center stack with navigation that has been extremely easy and intuitive to use. There were several locations that I don’t think I could have found as easily and quickly without navigation, and the Dart’s system was particularly simple and intuitive. The voice prompt that overrides manual programming if the car is moving was a little less effective. I would also appreciate at least six more presets for the XM stations. But the best news is that you can get a CD player. It’s standard on all trim levels but located in the center storage compartment on the Limited to make room for the eight-inch display screen.

2014-07-02 14.50.23Optional equipment on the test model included the Customer Preferred Package  ($995) with the afore mentioned safety and convenience features, like a blind spot monitor, and rear back-up camera (how did we ever parallel park without them?).

I was impressed with the Dart when we first met and two years later, I like it even more.