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An update to Dodge's largest SUV, the 2014 Durango has been lightly restyled and gains transmission and interior upgrades. Due in dealerships by the end of 2013, the seven-seater competes with the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.
As before, the Durango comes in SXT, Rallye, R/T and Citadel trim levels. New for 2014 is the Limited. The Crew trim level has been discontinued.
New taillights bring the Durango's rear end in line with the rest of the Dodge family. What Dodge calls racetrack taillights - the LED ring that runs the Durango's width - distinguish the Durango, day or night. The front gets an updated floating crosshair grille, another move to unify the Dodge family face. It also has a raised front bumper and new projector-beam headlights with available LED daytime running lights. A more sculpted hood and pronounced fenders give it a muscular look, channeling the Challenger's curves.
Each trim level's grille has a different mesh texture or color, and some have body colored rather than gray body molding. The R/T's ride height is three-quarters of an inch lower. The Rallye Group brings a monochrome treatment and 20-inch wheels called Hyper Black. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard.
The Durango has a new three-spoke steering wheel with standard shift paddles.
A redesigned center control panel is home to the Uconnect multimedia system, with either a 5-inch or 8.4-inch touch-screen, depending on trim. The available Uconnect Access system provides navigation with 3-D mapping, Wi-Fi capability, hands-free texting and Bluetooth streaming audio with mobile apps like Pandora and iHeartRadio.
Also new is the instrument cluster: It's now a 7-inch LCD screen that's similar to what's in the compact Dart. Dodge says there are more than 100 ways drivers can customize it. More new equipment includes an available dual-screen Blu-ray- and DVD-compatible rear entertainment system. The 9-inch screens are mounted in the front-seat backrests.
The big news is the Durango's new eight-speed automatic transmission, which is standard across the lineup, replacing last year's five-speed. The new unit replaces the traditional shift lever with a rotary knob. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are standard.
The Durango's engines carry over for 2014: a 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and 360-hp, 5.7-liter V-8. A standard capless fuel filler is new this year. Chrysler says the 2014 Durango will be "up to 9 percent" more efficient than the outgoing model thanks to the new transmission and new Eco mode; the latter alters throttle response and the transmission's shift points to maximize fuel efficiency.
Standard safety features include seven airbags: In addition to the required frontal pair are a driver's knee airbag, front-seat-mounted torso airbags and side curtains that extend alongside all three seat rows.
Safety options include a new forward-collision warning and mitigation system that can hit the brakes if sensors determine the Durango is closing too rapidly on another vehicle. Other options include blind spot monitoring, cross-path detection and Uconnect Access, which provides 911 calls and roadside assistance.