2021 Dodge Durango Review

Jack R. Nerad, Independent Expert | Aug 03, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Dodge deals!

The Dodge Durango is a member of one of the most popular classes in the American car market—midsize SUV. But the Durango is not a typical midsize SUV for several reasons. First, it is based on a rear-drive-oriented chassis, although it offers all-wheel drive (AWD). Second, it offers optional V8 engines. And third, it has high-performance variants that are much more potent and exciting than anything offered by a competitor.

The 2021 Dodge Durango offers an all-new super-high-performance version and additional changes across the model lineup:

  • New Durango SRT Hellcat is the most powerful mass-market SUV ever
  • New Durango R/T AWD trim with Tow N Go package offers added performance gear
  • Revised Durango Citadel equipment list
  • Refreshed exterior styling including new front end
  • Revised interior with redesigned instrument panel
  • Newly available 10.1-inch infotainment display
  • Redesigned center console with revised storage areas
  • Available wireless device charging
  • Available Uconnect 5 infotainment system

The 3-row Dodge Durango is available in six distinct versions: SXT, GT, Citadel, R/T, SRT 392, and SRT Hellcat. The SXT, GT, and Citadel trims are straightforward competitors to other SUVs in the segment. Starting with the R/T, though, the Durango offers V8 performance unavailable elsewhere in the segment except the Jeep Grand Cherokee, another Stellantis vehicle.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2020 Dodge Durango SRT. This review focuses on the Durango's updates for 2021 and how they potentially impact its overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Dodge Durango - Find the best Dodge deals!

2021 Dodge Durango RT AWD Tow N Go Red Front Quarter View

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 58 percent of new Dodge Durango buyers are male (vs. 56 percent for the segment), and the median age of a new Durango buyer is 48 years (vs. 55).

Owners say their favorite things about the Durango are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Powertrain
  • Feeling of safety
  • Setting up and starting

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Durango are (in descending order) the:

  • Fuel economy
  • Getting in and out
  • Infotainment system
  • Driving comfort
  • Interior design

In the 2020 APEAL Study, the Durango ranks number 3 out of 13 Midsize SUVs.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Dodge Durango - Find the best Dodge deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a 2021 Dodge Durango R/T AWD equipped with the following options:

  • Blind-spot warning and cross-path warning
  • Harman Kardon premium audio system with 19 speakers, including subwoofer
  • Second-row console with armrest
  • Technology Group including adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning

The price of the test vehicle came to $54,585, including the $1,495 destination charge.

Revised Exterior Styling

The 2020 Dodge Durango offered more aggressive styling than the vast bulk of models in the category, and the 2021 styling refresh takes that to the next plateau. The grille and front fascia retain the same general theme, but the grille openings are more pronounced and the fog lamp placement much more heavily sculpted. The Durango designers' goal was to give the SUV some of the aurae of the Dodge Challenger and Charger muscle cars. In addition to the new front fascia, the 2021 Durango sports new LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and a revised grille. At the rear, the designers added a spoiler and did very minor tweaking of the other elements.

New wheel designs are available across the 2021 Durango lineup. The new wheels on the R/T are 20 inches by 8 inches wide in a "Fine Silver" finish. The more expensive R/T equipped with the Tow N Go package captures many of the design elements of the more expensive SRT models, including 20-inch by 10-inch aluminum wheels with a "Matte Vapor" finish.

2021 Dodge Durango RT Interior in New Vitra Grey

New Interior with Redesigned Instrument Panel

While the exterior changes for 2021 are more aesthetic than functional, the redesigned interior adds significant functionality. The new instrument panel improves legibility and puts the instruments right in front of the driver.

The interior designers had a couple of overarching goals. One was to emphasize the driver in a way that virtually all other models in the class don't. The other was to bring in more of the essence of the Challenger/Charger siblings. In many ways, it's a muscle car interior in a much taller vehicle.

Of course, the large new 10.1-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash is hard to ignore, and the driver has a tough time ignoring it since it is angled seven degrees in the driver's direction. Under the display in the center stack, the designers added dedicated buttons for the heated and cooled seats. The Durango also has a reworked center console with better bin storage, a new key fob storage spot, and wireless charging, all in an area that is soft-wrapped with accent stitching. Designers also spruced up the interior with more upscale vent designs and offered the availability of an upscale "wrapped" instrument panel through much of the Durango lineup.

The R/T trim gets the benefit of virtually all of these tweaks. From the moment you slip inside, you get a luxury-brand aura, and there are still a few elements that remind you of the Durango's long-ago Daimler-Benz connections.

Though the interior delivers a muscle car vibe, it is still fully SUV-functional. It will seat as many as eight, and it gives the option of second-row captain's chairs with a pass-through to the third row. The R/T test model had comfortable second-row captain's chairs that could easily accommodate child safety seats.

New Uconnect 5 Infotainment System

The series of Uconnect infotainment interfaces in various Stellantis vehicles have always been among the best offered. The most recent version is Uconnect 5, which had one of its first installations in the revised 2021 Dodge Durango. The system retains everything that made previous generations of the system so good and adds a significant amount of speed and computing power. Dodge says Uconnect 5 is five times faster than the previous system, and that was apparent in the rapid pace at which it responded to commands.

The lower-priced Durango trims have Uconnect 4C with an 8.4-inch display. It offers AM/FM radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio with a 6-month trial subscription. Standard Bluetooth facilitates audio streaming and voice recognition. The system has an audio input jack and two USB ports.

While the Uconnect 4C system works well, the Uconnect 5 with the 10.1-inch screen works even better. First, there is the screen size itself. It is 20 percent larger than the 8.4-inch screen, and that means the icons are more prominent and the graphics are clearer. In the 2021 Durango, the system features Dodge-themed graphics that use black and red as their signature colors. Among the other small niceties are using a specific type font and some amusing "Easter Egg" graphics.

Another surprise-and-delight feature is the SRT Performance Pages that are standard on the R/T. Also standard on the more expensive SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat trims, they provide information on vehicle performance, including timers, g-force, and engine and dyno readouts. The system also offers configurable drive modes to give the driver custom control over the driving experience. Race Options enables the driver to activate, deactivate, and set parameters for the launch control and shift light features.

The Uconnect 5 NAV system standard on the R/T includes a customizable home screen, voice command with Bluetooth, voice text reply, HD Radio, Sirius XM 360L, SiriusXM Guardian, SiriusXM Traffic, SiriusXM Travel Link, TomTom Navigation, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. The system also includes the added convenience of wireless Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. Occupants can pair two phones with the system simultaneously. With the LTE Wi-Fi package, those with Alexa-enabled devices at home can remotely start their Durango and lock or unlock the doors.

Indeed, the system has many features, but probably its best feature is the way the system integrates it all in a way that doesn't require flipping through multiple screens to perform simple tasks. The Uconnect 5 system doesn't require much learning, either.

2021 Dodge Durango RT AWD Tow N Go Red Front View

2021 Dodge Durango Doubles Down on Performance

The vast majority of models in the midsize SUV segment are competent people-haulers with a significant amount of interior space and a degree of versatility. Most are based on front-drive platforms and offer the availability of AWD. But even the few rear-drive-based models in the segment—Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner—don't push the performance envelope the way the Dodge Durango does.

Except for the similar Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango is the only model in the segment that continues to offer the availability of V8 power. And the Durango takes that to the illogical extreme by installing a 710-horsepower supercharged V8 in the SRT Hellcat. That is the Durango's "halo" model, but for buyers who don't want to take things quite that far, Dodge also offers 5.7-liter and 6.4-liter naturally aspirated V8 engines. The latter is in the SRT 392, and the former is standard in the R/T (the test vehicle) and optionally available in the Citadel luxury-oriented trim.

With rear-drive-bias and V8 engines as the key differentiators, Dodge leverages these features by portraying the Durango as a 3-row muscle car. And it walks the talk by making performance equipment like Brembo brakes available across several trims in the lineup.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Dodge deals!

2021 Dodge Durango RT AWD Tow N Go Red Rear Quarter View

For all its muscle car bravado, the Dodge Durango is also a fully functional 3-row SUV. It will transport up to eight people in comfort, and it has the interior amenities to make that an excellent experience. Seating in the front-row buckets is excellent, and the second-row captain's chairs are very comfortable as well. The Durango's third row isn't all that accommodating for adults, but it isn't markedly worse than the standard in the class.

Depending upon trim level, the Durango's interiors range from nice to downright luxurious. And trims with sporty aspirations have interiors that pay that off. Then there are the considerable advantages of the Uconnect 5 infotainment system with its substantial 10.1-inch display. The system works so well that it is difficult not to wish that many luxury-brand models had a just as good system.

From a functionality point of view, the Durango's vehicle architecture makes it an excellent vehicle for towing. Several of the V8-equipped Durango trims will tow up to 8,700-pound loads when properly equipped. Among them is the R/T with the Tow N Go package. Even without Tow N Go, which is a pricey package, an R/T trim like the test model will tow up to 7,200 pounds. These tow ratings are a significant advantage to the Durango compared with virtually all other models in the category.

Then there are the everyday drivability and performance advantages of the Dodge Durango. The R/T trim is a proper dual-use vehicle that can perform all the functions of the typical midsize SUV and then offer V8 performance and a hefty dose of driving fun. The fact it can do all that for $55,000 is another compelling feature of the Dodge Durango.

Jack R. Nerad has been road testing and writing about vehicles for decades for Web and print publications, including JDPower.com and others. He has a weekly Sports Map Radio Network show called America on the Road, and his work has appeared in scores of prestigious newspapers, magazines, and online publications.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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