Webster’s defines a Citadel as “a castle or fort that in past times was used to protect the people of a city if the city was attacked”. Of course, most of us would think of Citadel as the rigorous military academy in South Carolina. Either way, a three-row crossover bearing the name Citadel better exude excellence and security. When that name accompanies Dodge and Durango, you can expect spirited performance and ample capability too.
My favorite Durango is probably the Blacktop edition with red paint and black wheels that I tested last year, but the Citadel version is a pretty classy ride. Satin platinum crosshair grille, mirrors, doorhandles, foglamps bezels, and lower sills elevate the style – as do 20” Satin Carbon alloy wheels and dual exhaust tips. Smooth lines and muscular fenders lend a wisp of athlete while Dodge’s signature LED “racetrack” taillamps leave awe in their dark wake.
Inside, it’s a luxury car fit for family and friends. Three rows of soft leather seats are not just for show. Six passengers fit comfortably in front and rear captain’s chairs plus a rear bench. The rear rows fold flat for loading cargo through the power hatch. Heated/cooled front seats, heated middle row seats, and a heated steering wheel ease extreme seasons. Rain-sensing wipers, power sunroof, and power steering column are part of the kit. Keeping rear passengers smiling are dedicated climate control, household power plug, USBs everywhere, and deep console. Plug into the rear seat entertainment system with twin screens and Blue-Ray video.
The Citadel is loaded like a Winnebago, but the infotainment system is a delight. Chrysler’s 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen with redundant knobs and buttons below – plus voice commands – is about the world’s easiest to use. At the bottom of the screen are icons for radio, media, climate, and navigation. Direct-tune stations on the screen, or use actual knobs for volume and tuning. Siri Eyes Free and a 7” reconfigurable instrument screen reduce stress. Gears are selected with a rotary knob ala Range Rover. Crank up the thumpin’ 506-watt Beats Audio system and enjoy a good throttle.
It doesn’t sound as sexy as a HEMI, but the standard 3.6-liter V6 engine dispatches speed and power with acceptable verve. Step in to accelerate with 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque – all routed to the all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Even with the V6, Durango can tow up to a best-in-class 6,200 lbs. If you need more thrust, opt for the 360 horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V8. Drive lightly without disabling auto stop/start to see 18/25-MPG city/hwy.
What appears as a Dodge is just as much Jeep and Mercedes-Benz. Think of the Durango as a stretched Jeep Grand Cherokee or affordable Mercedes M-Class because all three vehicles were developed together on essentially the same architecture while Daimler controlled Chrysler. What does that mean to you? Well, the Durango has the swagger of a Charger and the road manners of a Mercedes. It’s a driver’s crossover.
Under the sleek skin is a four-wheel independent suspension system that soaks up bumps like an iron sponge, but won’t act a fool on speedway on-ramps or curvy backroads. The driver select system offers a Sport mode for firmer steering and more aggressive shift pattern or an Eco mode to conserve fossils. Unlike most of the front-drive-based crossovers in the class, the Durango feels like a big Mercedes had a fling with a Charger. “Safe driving” is enhanced by forward collision warning with crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross path detection.
If Dodge is going to storm the luxury crossover citadel, the Durango is an able sword. It has evolved from a truck-based SUV to an American three-row crossover with legit German pedigree. It’s the wagon for people who need comfortable seating for six, but still want to enjoy driving. A base price of $30,495, or $52,760 as tested in Citadel trim, makes the Durango formidable competition for the Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Hyundai Santa Fe, and upscale Europeans like the Volvo XC90, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE, and Audi Q7.
E-mail Casey at [email protected]; follow him on YouTube and Twitter: @AutoCasey.
2017 Dodge Durango Citadel
Six-passenger, AWD Crossover
Powertrain: 295hp 3.6-liter V6, 8-spd auto trans
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Space, Performance
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Detroit, MI
Base/as-tested price: $30,495/52,760