Archive for the ‘SUV’ Tag

2017 Jeep Compass debuts with tiny Grand Cherokee looks

Meet the Jeep Compass. It is, thankfully, completely new and entirely unrelated to the Jeep Compass and Patriot that are on sale now. Bet you almost forgot about that pair. As the new C-Segment SUV in Jeep’s lineup, it’ll replace both of those models and take a spot in between the Renegade and Cherokee.

 

The new Compass is based on a stretched version of the Renegade platform, what Fiat Chrysler Automotive in a fit of eloquence calls the “Small Wide 4×4” architecture. We expect front-wheel drive as standard and four-wheel drive as a very commonly selected option. The Compass should offer either a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four or a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter inline-four, both mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. There’s a chance it’ll get a manual, but it’s a very slim chance. That being said, globally there will be 17 powertrain options, according to FCA, and that may mean US consumers will have more than one choice in the matter. Judging by the first photo above, a an off-road-ready Trailhawk model is a good bet.

We’ve already seen this thing completely uncovered in these spy shots, which were taken in Brazil, where it will be produced, so the overall mini-Grand Cherokee aesthetic isn’t a surprise. The interior looks more like the Cherokee’s than the Renegade’s, however, and you’ll notice there’s no controversial T-handle shifter in sight.

So why didn’t we see the new Compass at the New York Auto Show, like everybody expected? Jeep says it’s because it wanted the reveal to occur at the plant that’s going to build the thing, highlighting the importance of the South and Central American markets for the brand. There will be a North American debut with more information coming at the LA Auto Show in November, so we won’t have too long to wait for more details. As originally planned, the Compass should hit American dealerships in early 2017.

Read more at: http://www.autoblog.com/2016/09/26/2017-jeep-compass-debut-official/?ncid=edlinkusauto00000016#slide-4075447

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How big will the next Dodge Charger be?

Back in 1960, Chrysler Corporation converted almost its entire product line from body-on-frame to unibody (still using subframes). The revolutionary change could have frightened customers off, as the Airflow did, despite extensive testing.

The company’s leaders thought they could prevent customer resistance by making the cars look fairly similar to the 1959s, a successful strategy. They were lighter and handled better, and that’s all most customers noticed. Chrysler could have made major changes to the styling to call attention to the change, but chose not to.

That made a comment by reliable source oh2o especially interesting: he wrote that the next-generation Charger would be about the size it is today. Most sources have claimed that the Charger would be shrinking to differentiate it more from the 300.

This goes along with yet-unconfirmed rumors that Chrysler might make a large front wheel drive car — a niche flagship which, thanks to shared engineering and a shared plant with the Pacifica, would not need to sell in large numbers to make a profit. The Chrysler could be even larger inside, perhaps sacrificing the V8 for a six, turbocharged or not.

The Charger would stay a muscle car, keeping its size and successful market niche, but with higher gas mileage, better acceleration with its standard engines, and better handling.

As for running against Mustangs and Camaros, there’s no reason for the Charger to do that anyway — now that we have the Dodge Challenger. Indeed, when the original Dodge Charger was made, it was not aimed at the Mustang or Camaro; that was the job of the Plymouth Barracuda (joined in 1970 by the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Duster).

Read more at: http://www.allpar.com/news/2016/05/how-big-will-the-next-dodge-charger-be-31783

2016 Dodge Journey

Two words best sum up the 2016 Dodge Journey’s success: “versatility and value.” With a price starting just under $22,000, the Journey undercuts more expensive rivals like the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda Pilot. Granted, two of the three come standard with a V6 engine, and the 4-cylinder Journey has neither the power nor the features (Bluetooth isn’t even standard) to compete with the above-mentioned group. However, the Journey’s higher trim levels do come well appointed and can be equipped with one of the most powerful V6 engines in this class. Though aging, the 2016 Dodge Journey still has some surprises in store, such as clever in-floor storage and one of the best infotainment systems money can buy.

You’ll Like This Car If…

Those who need 7-passenger accommodations and are on a limited budget will appreciate the 4-cylinder engine offered on four of the five available Journey trims. The family-friendly Journey is extremely versatile with lots of places to hide cargo and precious items.

You May Not Like This Car If…

If you need a large 3rd-row seat, a Chevy Traverse or Honda Pilot makes a better choice. The Journey’s 4-cylinder engine and outdated 4-speed automatic are not the best choice for a 7-passenger SUV. Look to the Kia Sorento for a better 4-cylinder entry model, as well as a better warranty.

2016 sees the entry-level AVP trim dropped and the model lineup reduced to just five trim levels. SE, SXT and Crossroad trims have lower base prices than last year, while a new Crossroad Plus trim builds on the success of the Crossroad by offering standard leather seating and the Uconnect 8.4-inch display.


Driving the Journey

Driving Impressions Those accustomed to older, truck-based SUVs will be quite pleased with the way Dodge’s Journey crossover SUV for 2016 rides and drives. A unit body and advanced suspension setup help the Journey return car-like driving characteristics similar to a tall-riding station wagon, which is essentially what the Journey is. Confident on highway runs and surprisingly agile over narrow, twisting roads, the Journey is devoid of the bobbing and weaving one might experience in a truck-based SUV. Although we found the 173-horsepower 4-cylinder engine adequate with two people aboard, any additional bodies or cargo demands the Pentastar V6, which delivers an additional 100 horsepower and nearly the same fuel economy. We like the Journey’s upright seating position and found the front seats to be remarkably supportive and comfortable, even after driving long distances.

Favorite Features

CARGO FLEXIBILITY


Dodge’s Journey SUV for 2016 has numerous clever storage ideas. Not only does the rear seat fold flush, there are additional storage bins beneath the 2nd-row floor and front-passenger seat cushion. The same seat can fold flat to better accommodate long items such as a surfboard and skis.

3.6-LITER PENTASTAR V6 ENGINE


Dodge’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine is not only smooth and powerful, it also returns impressive fuel economy on par with the Journey’s smaller 4-cylinder engine.

The 2016 Dodge Journey’s cabin is available in a 2-row, 5-passenger layout or as a 3-row, 7-passenger configuration. Passenger space for adults is commendable up front and good in the second row, but legroom is very tight in the third row, which is best left for kids or occasional use. One of the best features of the Journey is its available Uconnect infotainment system. In addition to a large and easy-to-use 8.4-inch touch screen centered in the dash, there are supplementary buttons for climate and audio that are simple to see and use.


Exterior

Is it a sport-utility vehicle or the reincarnation of a station wagon? With the 2016 Journey from Dodge, its 192.4-inch length exceeds much of the competition, but Dodge’s designers have given it exterior treatments such as the chrome-trimmed cross-hair grille and eye-catching aluminum-alloy wheel choices that keep it from being merely bland. If a more stylish look is important, opt for the R/T version, with its 19-inch wheels, monochromatic treatment and distinctive R/T labels. For a tougher-looking version, there’s the Dodge Journey Crossroad, which features a faux skidplate, standard roof rails and blacked-out wheels.

Notable Equipment


Standard Equipment

The 2016 Dodge Journey 7-passenger crossover SUV is available in a five trims, from the base SE to the top-line R/T. At its most basic, the 2016 Journey includes dual-zone climate control, 4.3-inch touch-screen media center, keyless entry and push-button start, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and power windows and door locks. Entertainment is provided by a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD system with auxiliary and USB inputs, but no Bluetooth streaming as standard. Safety features include electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags for all rows.

Optional Equipment

Plenty of options can be had on the 2016 Journey. Among the more popular are 3-row seating (Flexible Seating Group), traction-enhancing all-wheel drive in lieu of the standard front-drive setup, an 8.4-inch touch-screen Uconnect infotainment system and navigation. Amenities that bring an upscale feel include leather seating, Infinity speakers, rear-seat video entertainment system with 9-inch screen and two wireless headphones, in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, and heated front seats and heated steering wheel. A Driver Convenience Group adds a rearview camera and distance-alert function when in reverse, but more advanced safety functions like blind-spot monitoring and automatic braking are not available.

Under the Hood

Two engines are available for Dodge’s 2016 Journey crossover SUV. Standard on lower trims is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes an only-adequate 173 horsepower. The engine we recommend is the 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that is optional on all but base Dodge Journeys and standard in higher trims. The V6 is also your only choice if you require all-wheel drive (AWD) instead of the standard front-wheel drive (FWD) to deal with inclement weather and slippery roads. Both engines run on regular unleaded gasoline. All Dodge Journeys use automatic transmissions, with the 4-cylinder stuck with an older-style 4-speed and the 6-cylinder using a newer 6-speed. The Journey’s towing capacity is on the light end, limited to 1,000 pounds with the 4-cylinder and 2,500 with the V6.

2.4-liter inline-4 (SE, SXT, Crossroad)

173 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

166 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg

3.6-liter V6 (SE, SXT, Crossroad, R/T)

283 horsepower @ 6,350 rpm

260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 mpg (FWD), 16/24 mpg (AWD)

Pricing Notes

The 2016 Dodge Journey has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $22,000, including destination charge. Better-equipped mid-level versions of the Journey such as the SXT and Crossroad are in the mid-$20,000 range, while a top-line R/T version with AWD reaches the mid-$30,000 level. At its base price, the Dodge Journey SE remains the lowest-priced midsize SUV, and even after climbing trims is a good value among midsize SUVs such as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9 and Kia Sorento. The Mitsubishi Outlander with seating for seven is also a value leader among 3-row SUVs, but is smaller than the Journey. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Journey SUV. In the years ahead, the Journey’s residual value is expected to be average, still lagging the Toyota Highlander.

Read more at: http://www.kbb.com/dodge/journey/2016/?r=45198081889915920

Crossovers replacing sedans: Back to the past

Sergio Marchionne’s comment that the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 would be allowed to “run their course” and then be replaced by cars from a “potential partner” caused a range of emotional reactions.

This is not the first time for such thoughts. In the late 1980s, GM, Ford, and Chrysler all lost money on each compact car. Chrysler changed that with the Neon and Cirrus/Stratus, which made hefty profits even while GM and Ford kept losing money. This time, though, insiders claim the company does not have the facilities nor the experienced engineers to make it happen; and even Ford now wants a partner for its sedans.

The earliest mass-produced cars included sedans, but many were the equivalent, in size and shape, of today’s crossovers — the area where Sergio Marchionne wants FCA to focus, at least in North America. Long, low, and sleek appeared as “the look to have” a few years after World War II, for 20-30 years; then the hatchback came into style.

Chrysler sparked a resurgence in the large sedan market in the early 1990s, then helped to rejuvenate midsize and small cars. The moribund large sedan market revived, and sedans in general gained a new lease on life.

Still, the popularity of the low sedan is recent and may be at an end. Ordinary sedans have been getting taller, with the 300 just two inches from the Nissan Juke and six from the Compass and 500L. The 1946 Plymouth was taller than any of them — and the Jeep Cherokee: 68 inches.

So why do many of us, including me, prefer sedans? Is it because they are lower to the ground and handle better? I don’t think so, given how most people drive, and the competent handling of most new crossovers (not to mention the popularity of BMW and Porsche’s crossovers).

Even gas mileage is not really penalized much now, with their larger frontal area countered by aerodynamic design, valve timing, and wide-range transmissions. They also have more space for the large batteries and other gear needed for light and full hybrid systems.

I have had numerous sedans in my life, no SUVs, and just two minivans; my only crossover was a PT Cruiser GT. Still, I can see the attraction of the crossover, especially now that everyone has minivans, SUVs, pickups, and crossovers, which makes visibility rather hard from a low-slung car.

I think the sedan will become more and more specialized over time. Two-door cars (including sedans) used to be extremely common, but they rapidly declined from the 1970s on, and now FCA US only makes the Dodge Challenger, Dodge Viper, Jeep Wrangler, Rams, and Fiat 500 in that form; and even in pickups and Wranglers, the two-door form is less and less popular.

I don’t think this presages the death of Chrysler or Dodge. The 200 and Dart (and Fiat 500) need high incentives to sell. Is replacing them worth delaying rear wheel drive cars for Dodge or large cars and crossovers for Chrysler and Dodge? Mr. Marchionne has a finite number of engineers at hand, and only so many factories. Paying off $5 billion in debt will earn the company more cash than building a new plant.

(I am very, very disappointed that Mr. Marchionne’s pledge that Chrysler would “lead” the engineering of future compact and midsize and large cars has been completely ignored and reneged upon.)

Limited resources, limited time, and a class of car that appears to be disappearing, selling only with large incentives … I can’t say I’d have been able to do anything different.

Or… it’s another trial balloon or an attempt to mis-lead competitors. We are talking about Sergio Marchionne, after all; and his announcements tend not to be set in stone.

Update: When buyers choose sedans, they almost invariably choose imports. Of the top ten 2015 best sellers in the US, there were no American sedans — Camry, Corolla, Accord, Civic and Altima accompanied two imported crossovers (CR-V and RAV4) and the three American pickups. The best selling cars (Camry and Corolla) combined barely outsold Ford’s pickups. In Europe, Fiat’s Panda has grown to challenge its best-seller, the 500; while the 500X, in its first year, nearly matched the declining Punto (both were beaten by the 500L). Fiat’s sales in Europe, 500 aside, are heavily biased in favor of crossovers, vans, and utilities. The same is not true for everyone — over half of Ford’s sales are the Fiesta and Focus.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2016/02/crossovers-replacing-sedans-back-to-the-past-31159

Wrangler: “best resale value”

The Jeep Wrangler has won Kelley Blue Books’s 2016 Best Resale Value award in the Small Crossover/SUV segment. Kelley’s analysts expect Wrangler to keep more of their value over five years than any competitors, including numerous Asian entries.

The Wrangler also came in at number five on KBB’s Top Ten list, with an estimated resale value of 66% of its original price after three years, and 55% at five years.

KBB wrote, “You could count on one hand the number of new vehicles that actually thrive by doing things the same way for decades, and the Jeep Wrangler is one of them. In fact, it could be the poster child for such an exclusive set… the Wrangler’s core mission hasn’t deviated far from that of its World War II-era ancestors: to affordably go where others can not.”

They pointed to its relatively low pricing, starting at $25,000. “No matter which Wrangler you choose, it will make you smile — even when it’s time to sell.”

Read more at: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/12/wrangler-wins-best-resale-value-award-30797

Nissan Juke Vs. Jeep Renegade: Compare Cars

Believe it or not, the Jeep Renegade and Nissan Juke are in the same category of small SUVs. But they could hardly be more different. The Renegade is Jeep’s littlest SUV, with square-cut styling and genuine off-road prowess. The Juke, on the other hand, is a style-first urban warrior whose all-wheel-drive option is more for on-road traction than anything even in the neighborhood of rocky trails or mountain climbing.

New in 2015, the Renegade is the first vehicle developed from the ground up for global sale by the combined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. While it’ll likely sell well in North America, its minimal dimensions make it best-suited to bring the Jeep brand to more crowded and less affluent markets in Europe, Asia, and South America. Its design is every inch classic SUV, with oversize lights and other details for visual interest.
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The interior is straightforward, modern, and contains a number of Jeep-brand reminders in the form of “Easter Egg” design elements. The Renegade’s front seats are comfortable, but there’s not that much room in the rear unless rear-seat riders bargain aggressively with those in the front. The seats are comfortable and nicely bolstered, and the Renegade is clearly wider than other AWD entries, meaning the shoulders of the two front-seat riders are suitably separated.

The Juke, on the other hand, has been with us since the 2011 model year. Its wild-style design is polarizing: You either love for it for its in-your-face, tall, haunched, bug-eyed appearance or hate it for the same reasons. A light restyle for 2015 has made it, if anything, even more mean-looking. The Juke’s layout and switchgear are straightforward even if the motorcycle-inspired gauges, shiny nylon upholstery, and colorful inserts give it far more design edge.

Interior space is adequate in the front, with a somewhat upright seating position, but quite cramped in the rear–and the Juke has less cargo space to boot, just 36 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down (which is how we expect most Jukes will be driven), against 51 cubic feet for the Renegade. In the end, the Jeep is simply far better at the utility jobs that many people need: hauling people and stuff.

The Jeep Renegade comes with two powertrain options. The base model is propelled by a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. If you don’t want to shift for yourself, you’ll move up to the 180-hp 2.4-liter four, which uses the new nine-speed automatic transmission that’s increasingly common in new Chrysler, Jeep, and Fiat products. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional for both engines.

The Nissan Juke is powered by a 188-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with either front- or all-wheel drive, and a continuously variable (CVT) transmission. The CVT makes it somewhat sluggish around town unless you drive it hard, when it tightens up and offers more fun. Performance fans, however, will go for the Juke NISMO or NISMO RS—both offering a manual gearbox. The NISMO RS gets a top-performance version of the same engine, boosted to 215 hp. The NISMO versions also get more than 100 upgrades to suit their hot-hatch personae.

While the NISMOs are in a separate category–they’re smaller competitors to cars like the Subaru WRX and VW Golf GTI–the conventional Juke powertrain just isn’t as direct or enjoyable to drive as the Jeep’s pair. Not to mention that the AWD Juke gave us truly atrocious fuel economy during a test several years ago–only slightly more than 20 mpg.

The Juke’s safety ratings are mixed–not unexpected for an older design–while the Renegade hasn’t yet been rated for crash safety by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The 2015 Renegade comes in four trim levels: the base Sport (starting at $18,990 for the base 2WD version), the mid-level Latitude ($22,290), and the top-of-the-line Limited ($25,790). All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option. Then there’s the Trailhawk model ($26,990) with its greater off-road capability, which only comes with all-wheel drive and the larger 2.4-liter engine with the nine-speed automatic. All prices above include the mandatory $995 delivery fee.

The 2015 Juke starts at $21,705 and rises to more than $30,000 for a top-spec NISMO model. Even the base Juke S includes Intelligent Key with push-button start, a backup camera, and the NissanConnect system with Mobile Apps and a text message assistant. The mid-range Juke SV adds a moonroof; a rearview camera system; push-button start; satellite radio; the I-CON system; automatic temperature control; and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The top-trim Juke (other than NISMO models) is the SL, which layers on navigation; leather-trimmed seats; and an 8-inch Rockford Fosgate subwoofer with six upgraded speakers.

Overall, the Jeep Renegade easily gets the nod here. When the Juke was the sole hot-hatch SUV on the market, it was a new and interesting way to get that capability in a smaller size than the usual compact crossover. But now that we have entries from not only Jeep but also Chevy, Fiat, and even Buick, the Juke comes up short: It’s too small and cramped, and doesn’t offer the sturdy off-roading ability of the littlest Jeep.

Read more at: http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/1098188_nissan-juke-vs-jeep-renegade-compare-cars?fbfanpage

More praise for Jeeps and Durango

Car & Driver recently compared SUVs in two categories: Mid-Size Crossovers and SUVs and 3-row Crossovers and SUVs.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has won more awards than any other SUV, bested the Dodge Journey, Volkswagen Touareg, Toyota 4Runner, Nissan XTerra, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Nissan Murano and Ford Edge in the mid-size SUV class.

Car & Driver’s editors said: “Whether you want to climb a mountain or just move up the ladder of success, the Grand Cherokee has you covered. With a choice of four 4×4 systems plus an optional Quadra-Lift air suspension, there’s no obstacle too difficult to tackle.”

In the 3-row category, the Dodge Durango was judged the best of the bunch. It beat the Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Pathfinder (which is being discontinued), Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, Ford Flex, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.

“The Durango remains big, brawny, and masculine in an era of soft, curvaceous crossovers, but it’s not as trucklike as other large sport-utes…The V-6 models are enough for most, with smooth acceleration, while Hemi models deliver excellent torque, especially handy for towing.”

In Great Britain, the Jeep Renegade was named 4×4 Magazine’s “4×4 of the Year.” The decision by the magazine’s expert judges was unanimous and followed a tough off-road evaluation course. Those doing the testing also said the entire Renegade lineup was worthy of the top award.

“It’s a credit that any manufacturer should consider producing such a capable small off-roader,” says Nigel Fryatt, Editor, 4×4 Magazine. “That it’s so well built, while also fun and funky, is a delight.’

The Renegade also won the magazine’s “Mid-range SUV sub-£30,000 (~$45,600)” category while the Wrangler took the “Hardcore” class for the fourth consecutive year.

Read more at: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/12/more-praise-for-jeeps-and-durango-30779

Wrangler looks to aluminum suspension, not body

The Jeep Grand Cherokee may have shown the future direction of the Jeep Wrangler: using aluminum and other lightweight materials for the suspension and peripherals, but not for the frame or key body parts.

Cheap body repairs are important for Wrangler, because it’s intended to be taken off-road. However, if the company can use relatively light, “high-strength” steel alloy for skid plates and more aluminum in the suspension and other major components, it could still cut weight, or at least maintain weight in the face of higher safety standards (both Federal and insurance-industry).

Key design changes, including using permanent A-pillars and having the windshield itself slide down over the hood rather than folding down both the windshield and pillars at once, could help the Wrangler to have greater “natural” torsional stiffness, so that chassis reinforcement would not be needed, also cutting weight while letting the Wrangler meet normal rollover standards.

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is also likely to have a hydroformed frame, as Ram trucks do, increasing stiffness without weight gains. Some reports claim the windshield and grille will only be a little more slanted than the current Wrangler.

This gives the company more time to develop aluminum-bodied cars. Scuttlebutt now has the Grand Cherokee as the first to go with the expensive but lightweight metal.

Read more at: http://news.allpar.com/index.php/2015/09/wrangler-looks-to-aluminum-suspension-not-body-29910

2015 Dodge Durango – Full Review and Test Drive

Ever wanted a Jeep Grand Cherokee with three rows of seats and room for seven people? Is the extent of your off-road adventuring limited to farm roads, campground trails, and blizzards? Well then, I have good news!

The Dodge Durango is just the SUV you’ve been wanting. It just doesn’t have a Jeep badge on it.

Say what now?

Yep, under the sheet-metal, the 2015 Dodge Durango shares its heart and soul with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Durango sits on a wheelbase stretched five inches, is about a foot longer, and rides half an inch closer to the ground, negatively impacting its ability to travel as far off the beaten path as a Grand Cherokee.

Otherwise, the two vehicles overlap in terms of powertrains, infotainment technologies, materials, and even that all-important new car smell. No surprise, they’re built in the same Detroit assembly plant, too.

Of the two, I prefer the Durango. It is more practical, and it drives better on pavement, where 90-percent of typical SUV buyers spend 100-percent of their time. In fact, the Durango is one of my favorite family-sized SUVs, and except for a “Marginal” rating in an important crash-test assessment and a 3-star rollover resistance rating when it is equipped with 2-wheel drive, I have but one qualm about recommending one.

My test vehicle sure looks swanky with its blacked out grille, wheels, and badges, but this appearance, included in the optional Blacktop Package, isn’t really for me. I prefer my Durango blinged out, Citadel-style. This Bright White Durango Limited, though, attracted plenty of attention; usually from the types of guys that I hope my daughters never bring home to meet the parents.

A Durango Limited starts at $37,890, including a destination charge of $995. An all-wheel-drive system costs $2,600, and improves the Durango’s rollover resistance rating to 4 stars.

My test model had the standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine, but you can choose a 5.7-liter V-8 if you’ve got an extra $3,795 that you don’t know what to do with. Add the Blacktop Package, the Premium Group, the Safety/Security and Convenience Group, and a set of second-row captain’s chairs, and the price rises to $45,765 for the Durango I tested.

Good looking, and equipped with an interior featuring quality materials rendered in tasteful tones and textures, the Durango strikes me as a quality piece of work, even luxurious in some respects. Think twice about getting black leather seats, though, because they transform the cabin into a cave. Thoughtfully, Dodge makes the Black/Light Frost leather option available with nearly every paint color.

Comfort levels are high, especially for front seat occupants, and unlike many other 3-row SUVs, adults can actually ride in a Durango’s rearmost seating area for more than just a few minutes before committing mutiny.

My test vehicle’s Premium Group added a power rear liftgate, a premium sound system, a power sunroof, and a navigation system. The awkwardly named Safety/Security and Convenience Group installed a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-path detection, rain-sensing wipers, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and HID headlights with automatic high-beam control. The rear-seat entertainment system’s omission meant my kids looked out of the Durango’s windows and discovered the world around them, or took a much-needed nap.

Trailer towing equipment is optional for the Durango, and because this SUV is built on a more robust platform than your typical crossover SUV, it can tow a substantial amount of weight. My test model’s 3.6-liter V-6 engine – bumped from 290-horsepower to 295-horsepower thanks to the Blacktop option package – could tug up to 6,200 pounds. The optional 360-horse, 5.7-liter V-8 engine can handle up to 7,400 lbs. of trailer.

As far as cargo carrying is concerned, a Durango can haul up to seven people and as much as 17.2 cu.-ft. of cargo, but that last number is a bit misleading. You’ll be stacking stuff to the roof in order to take advantage of the maximum number, so what you’ve really got is about 12 cu.-ft. of space in combination with a full load of passengers.

Put the kids in the second-row seat, fold the third-row seat, and a Durango supplies 47.7 cu.-ft. of cargo, a generous amount of space. Maximum utility measures 84.5 cu.-ft. Compare those numbers to the 5-passenger Grand Cherokee, which comes in at 36.3 cu.-ft. and 68.3 cu.-ft., respectively.

Though my test vehicle did not have the optional V-8 engine, I never felt the Durango demonstrated a lack of power. Dip into the throttle, and the Durango moves off the line with authority. As revs climb, such as when entering a fast-moving freeway, the engine’s response fades somewhat, but you’re unlikely to wish for extra grunt unless you’ve got a trailer attached, and you’re heading up a mountain grade.

An 8-speed automatic transmission with a rather unconventional rotary shift dial fed the power to the ground on a continuous basis, splitting delivery in half with 50-percent going to the front wheels and 50-percent going to the rear wheels. This is perfect for dwellers of foul-weather regions, as you never need to manually engage the AWD or choose a specific type of program with regard to how the power flows to the wheels.

Does this negatively impact fuel economy? In combined driving, the ratings drops from 20 mpg for the rear-drive model to 19 mpg for the AWD model, so the answer is “not really.” I averaged 18.6 mpg, so the EPA’s official numbers appear to be somewhat accurate, for a change.

Despite the optional 20-inch aluminum wheels, the Durango’s ride quality is impressive, and this is a remarkably quiet vehicle on the highway. Handling is certainly improved by the bigger tires, and around town the Durango feels athletic. Don’t take this to mean you can toss it down a winding country road, though. Dodge programs the stability control system to step in early, which is fine given the type of vehicle and that 3-star rollover resistance rating for the rear-drive version.

The Durango’s brakes proved disappointing when driving in the mountains on a day with temperatures in the low 70s, fading to the point where I almost could not engage the ABS during a panic stop. For a vehicle designed to carry so many people and tow so much weight, this is flatly unacceptable. The V-8 engine option also adds larger front brakes and ventilated rear brakes. I would strongly urge Dodge to just make those standard on all Durangos.

Traditional hydraulic steering is also a part of the V-8 engine upgrade, and I’ll bet it is more satisfying than the electric-assisted steering that comes with the V-6 engine. Lifeless on center, the steering is too quick off-center for this size and type of vehicle.

Dodge definitely has a good thing going with the Durango. A structural upgrade to improve the Durango’s performance in the small overlap frontal-impact crash test performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and additional attention to detail regarding the brakes and steering, would make this appealing and practical family-size SUV super easy to recommend.

Then, Dodge would just need to get the word out, starting with Jeep Grand Cherokee buyers who have no plans to venture far from pavement.

Read more at: http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/autos-suvs/2015-dodge-durango-%E2%80%93-full-review-and-test-drive/ar-AAdfS5h

Old Versus New: The Nissan Murano

We asked the owner of a 2009 Nissan Murano to take a spin in the all-new 2015 version of the dramatically styled crossover SUV. Is newer always better?

While we’d all like to have a McLaren, Porsche, or Lamborghini parked in our garage, that pesky thing called “reality” forces us to buy cars that are reasonably priced, convenient to drive every day, and—if there are kids involved—friendly to the sticky-handed set. One of the most popular models for families around the world since it made its debut in 2003 is the Nissan Murano. Named after the islands in Venice known for producing beautiful blown glass, this mid-size crossover SUV has always stood apart from the pack thanks to its dramatic design, great ergonomics, and car-like handling.

My sister, Lucy, is the happy owner of a 2009 Murano. She likes the modern styling, the comfort, the utility—she has two kids—and the fact that it drives more like a car than a hulking SUV. (Don’t even ask her what she thinks about her husband’s Toyota Sienna minivan.) So when I got to test the latest version, which is totally new for 2015, I knew she was the one who could give the best assessment. The third generation of Nissan’s flagship crossover delivers even bolder styling, a more luxurious interior, and a standard 3.5-liter V6 that ups both power and efficiency. Check out what the folks from Nissan were trying to accomplish with the new Murano, followed by Lucy’s thoughts. (Thanks, sis!)

Exterior

“One of the central constructs for both the exterior and interior of the new Murano was to ‘elevate your experience,’ which is counterintuitive to the heaviness and chunkiness of the traditional sport utility vehicle,” says Shiro Nakamura, Senior Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “This helped inspire the push for leading-edge aerodynamics and three key elements of our designs—the V-Motion front end, signature lighting, and the ‘floating’ roofline.”

Lucy immediately sees the difference: “I really like how it looks. This one is more modern than mine, more streamlined. It has more of an aquatic look, if that makes any sense. I especially like the dark panels on the sides in the back—even though it’s not a window, it looks like window as opposed to car. Very sleek.”

Interior

“Beyond the sense of elegant style and premium features, owners of the first two generations often tell us about the ‘effortlessness of Murano’—the great front view, the low instrument panel, the comfort and ease of operation. These are all things we kept and exaggerated in the new model,” says Nakamura.

“This is like the fancy version!” Lucy exclaims as she gets inside. “Does it have a USB? A charger? Yup! It’s got a familiar feel to it, but it seems more spacious. This sunroof is great; it expands all the way into the back. The kids don’t normally get the light back there. Yeah, this sunroof is awesome, there’s a lot more natural light. Wow, is this a top-down camera? I definitely don’t have one of those.”

“I have no complaints about my seats,” says Lucy as she takes her spot in the driver’s seat, “but this is more comfortable—the headrest and the back support feel a lot better. Mine doesn’t have leather on the dashboard, that I could take or leave. The cup holders look smaller and are in a different place, I think I like mine better…I prefer them horizontal, not vertical. Overall it’s totally familiar, but there are certain little nuances that are improved. Plus, it smells very nice.”

Driving

“With advanced, purposeful technology designed to help keep you safe and connected, along with its refined everyday driving experience, this all-new Murano adds the solid substance to go with its unmatched emotional style,” says Pierre Loing, vice president, Planning, Nissan North America, Inc.

“I love driving my Murano,” says Lucy. “It’s just big enough to feel like you’re not the smallest car on the road, but it doesn’t seem cumbersome. It’s a good size; it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a truck. The gear shift on this one is a little stiffer, and the steering definitely feels stiffer. I like it; it gives it that ‘premium-car’ feeling, very responsive. It’s got great visibility, which is also one of the things I really like about my car. The driving position is very similar…it doesn’t really feel like I’m driving a different car. Actually, it feels like I’m driving my car, but faster. This definitely has enough power to do what you need to do.”

Overall Impression

“I originally bought my Murano because I liked that it was bigger than a sedan but wasn’t as big as a minivan,” says Lucy. “I liked how it drove, I liked the style of it, the amenities, and, for the price, it just seemed like the right car. My kids like it too, because they feel like I’m not too far away from them. I have about 66,000 miles on mine, and I wasn’t thinking of getting a new car, but this new one really is great. It’s everything I like about my car, only better!”

Or, as Loing puts it, “Murano resets the standard in class once again.”

Read more at: http://www.scout.com/story/1554398-old-versus-new-the-nissan-murano