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2012 Dodge Durango Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Dodge Durango was new.


Performance: 8.2

Reviewers are impressed with the 2012 Dodge Durango’s performance, especially when equipped with the optional Hemi V8 engine. This generation of the Durango, along with its platform-mate, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, was derived from the 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class’ platform, and the auto press says the SUV’s German roots contribute to its surprisingly nimble driving dynamics. However, auto writers do have some complaints about its fuel economy and slow-to-react five-speed automatic transmission.

  • "The Heat and R/T versions bring a sporty flair not often found in this class of vehicles.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "We sampled V6- and V8-powered Durangos on the roads in and around Napa Valley, California, and as with the new Grand Cherokee, the Teutonic foundations - the architecture will also be put to work under the next Mercedes M-class - pay big dividends in the driving department.” -- Car and Driver
  • "On a long interstate cruise, the Durango provides a quiet and relaxed cabin environment.” -- Edmunds
  • "Of course, most rivals also offer a driving experience about as exciting as watching ‘builder beige’ paint dry. Yawn. Here, as well, is where the Durango forges its own path.” -- Left Lane News

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Dodge Durango has two engines to choose from: the base V6 and a Hemi V8. The V6 engine makes a decent 290 horsepower, while the V8 engine puts 360 ponies to the ground. Reviewers say the V6 is probably plenty powerful for most people’s needs, and it can tow up to 6,200 pounds, which is above average for the class. But shoppers looking for real speed and capability should consider the Durango’s optional Hemi V8, which increases the Durango’s towing capacity and horsepower, but comes with a significant dip in fuel economy. However, for a fun driving experience and a husky, growling soundtrack, reviewers say it’s hard to pass on the big, bad Hemi.

Some reviewers take issue with the five-speed automatic transmission, which isn’t as responsive as they’d like. Keep in mind that the five-speed transmission is paired with the V6 engine, while V8s are paired with a new-for-2012 six-speed automatic transmission. For even more performance out of the already-sporty Durango, take a look at the Heat and R/T trims.

  • "Without question, one of the best V6 engines ever produced by the company, this engine has more than enough power to satisfy most SUV drivers. Equipped with dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, the 3.6-liter Pentastar is capable of achieving maximum performance without sacrificing fuel economy.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Only V6 Durango models have been made available for testing so far. So equipped, it has decent power from a stop and during highway passing and merging. The nearly 5,000-pound curb weight blunts acceleration compared to other crossovers. The transmission works smoothly, but a deep stab of the throttle is often required in order to coax a downshift.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "Providing good grunt and a NASCAR-ready soundtrack at higher RPMs, the HEMI is every bit the engine we’ve come to love in the Dodge Challenger and Charger. Its biggest demerit might be a sales killer for many: 13 mpg in the city with all-wheel-drive (14 mpg with rear-wheel-drive). Highway driving, at 20 mpg, is a little easier to swallow.” -- Left Lane News
  • "The new V-6 not only seriously outperforms the old six-pot, but even the old 4.7-liter V-8. Its Achilles' heel is the old, slow-shifting five-speed auto with its long gears and refusal to take manual shift commands seriously.” -- Motor Trend 

Handling and Braking

Though the 2012 Dodge Durango doesn’t handle like a sports car, or even like a sporty luxury SUV like the BMW X5, reviewers are surprised at how nimble it is. They say that it can be fun to drive, which is uncommon praise for a 5,000-pound minivan substitute. A few mention that its turning radius is small for its size, which should make it easier to maneuver in the grocery store parking lot.

If you’re looking for an SUV that offers comfortable family accommodations but has sportier pretensions than the Durango can offer, check out the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. It only seats five instead of the Durango’s maximum of seven, but it’s far more nimble and powerful than the V8 Durango.

  • "Despite large overall dimensions and a heavy curb weight, Durango is surprisingly nimble. Steering and brake-pedal feel are quite good. Body lean in fast turns is well controlled. An impressively tight turning radius is a boon for close-quarters maneuvering.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "Thanks to its unibody architecture, nearly 50/50 weight distribution, and more carlike driving position, brisk runs along mountain roads in a Durango are possible and even sort of enjoyable." -- Car and Driver
  • "In the real world, the Durango is very easy to drive, thanks especially to its impressively small turning circle. Even with its tighter, sedan-like handling, the ride is still smooth and compliant. Throw it at a turn and the Durango will lean a bit, but even two-wheel-drive variants hold tight to the road in emergency maneuvers, giving up only gradual understeer when pressed hard." -- Motor Trend

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