There comes a time when we all have to grow up, or at least that’s what people tell me. A time when adulthood kicks in, children arrive and a few sacrifices need to be made to accommodate a more homely lifestyle.
Sadly, this often involves selling one’s beloved sports car to transition to a people-mover or SUV, and this can take a while to adjust to.
Fortunately, there are brands such as Dodge that fill the transitional niche, offering family-sized packages with hints of the stuff you loved in your selfish two-door, while ticking the boxes of cargo space, seating capacity and affordable insurance.
This GT version of the Dodge Durango may not have a big V8 (for that you can order the 6.4-litre, SRT or the insane 290kph, 700bhp, supercharged Hellcat), but if you need to show the parents on the school run roster that you’ve mellowed enough to be responsible for their children, yet not quite at the stage of minivan submission, then the Durango GT seems a pretty convincing compromise.
The Durango is unique in that it provides an alternative to the full spectrum of US, Asian and European manufacturers. It can be compared equally to the Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer as it can to the seven-seat options from Asia such as the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade or even Germany’s Volkswagen Teramont.
The difference to the non-US brands is the Dodge’s engine range, which starts with the V6 in our test car and goes up to the brawny V8s, whereas the others start with four-cylinders and top out with a V6.
Compared to the base SXT model, the GT adds seating for seven-plus 20-inch alloy wheels and rear parking sensors. Visually, it stands out with a new grille, headlamps, a revised rear spoiler to bookend a tweaked front bumper and hood scoops that give it a bit of muscle.
While it has the base V6, it does enjoy a nicer note thanks to a dual exhaust system. This frees up an extra 2bhp, to give it 295bhp and 353Nm of torque, and runs through the rear wheels via an eight-speed auto transmission.
On the road, it’s instantly recognisable as a V6 with nice, linear torque and a raspy growl. However, it’s also here where it starts to feel a bit dated against the newest hybrid alternatives that offer arguably more torque, but with the smoothness of an electric motor for the first few kilometres.
This will depend on where you sit with the drivetrain choices in this segment as there’s also torquey, turbo four-cylinder options such as Ford’s Ecotec engines in the mix, but the Durango is a satisfying drive in an old-school manner thanks to the connection it gives via the feel through the engine and pedals. And, of course, you can spec up to the V8 as well.
The Dodge's suspension walks a fine line between sport and comfort as the steering feel and brakes remind you that you're driving a largish SUV, so while it's not overtly sporty, its rear-wheel-drive bias does give a slightly athletic feel.
This feeling carries over inside with a more driver-orientated dash that has an 8.4-inch, touchscreen infotainment display and lower controls angled slightly to the driver. A set of gauges featuring red and white on a black background also face the driver, and the leather steering wheel has a meaty feel to it with metal-look trim.
The front seats are eight-way power adjustable, and there are added memory functions for the driver’s seat. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and our test car includes an optional wireless smartphone charging pad. There’s also an optional rear-seat entertainment system available with dual screens accompanied by HDMI and RCA ports for additional devices.
Great news for the third-row passengers is tri-zone climate air and three 12-volt outlets, perfect for camping and picnics.
While a lot of manufacturers are pushing the three-row versatility, it’s worth paying close attention as many technically offer seating for six or seven, but the back row is purely for children or pets – and forget about carrying cargo as they are sometimes barely inches off the back window.
No such fears with the Durango, as the third row is made for adults, while accessing that space is helped by a huge back door that opens nearly 90 degrees and a second-row seat that flips and folds away.
Cargo space starts at 487 litres with all three rows up and expands to 1,226 litres with the third row folded flat, but then stretches to a gargantuan 2,410 litres with both the second and third rows folded down.
The seven-seat, midsized SUV market is becoming one of the most competitive for new car buyers and it’s easy to sometimes skip the American makes, thinking they concentrate only on the full-sized variants such as the Chev Tahoe and Ford Expedition. But the Durango is a worthy exception to this assumption as it delivers a comfortable ride with loads of space along with more of a muscle-car persona in its looks and driving feel.
It’s definitely not a replacement for the sports car you had, but you’ll probably still be classed as the cool parent the next time you do the school run.