I have always been a bit skeptical when it comes to the rather excessive use of the R/T badging on Dodge vehicles. For 2013, every model in the lineup has an R/T trim level from the Dart to the Durango. R/T once signified models made for the road and the track, but I don’t think anyone will be tracking a Grand Caravan any time soon.
When the 2013 Dodge Durango R/T showed up for a week, however, I immediately fell for its big, mean look. The Durango is not a bad-looking SUV to begin with, but the R/T trim really ups the aggressiveness of the overall look and a lot of that is due to the great dark and monochrome look thanks to the removal of just about every piece of chrome that comes on a standard Durango. My tester looked great in all black thanks to the body-colored front fascia, dark smoked headlights, 20-inch wheels and dual exhaust pouring out of the back.
The R/T badge is backed well with styling changes, but the engine under the hood is the same across all Durango lines. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the only engine offered is the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The 360-horsepower, 390 lb-ft torque engine is more than adequate for the 5,331 pound Durango R/T. The R/T is the only Durango that comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy estimates from the EPA are 13 mpg city/ 20 mpg highway and over my week with the R/T I averaged 15.2 mpg. The Durango won’t be winning any awards when it comes to saving the planet but that is the price you pay to drive a giant, heavy, V8 powered SUV. The Hemi V8 is equipped with cylinder deactivation to try and save a little gas but the system often feels clunky when switching between V8 and V4 power. Best bet is to keep a heavy foot on the pedal for the best drive characteristics possible.
The Durango R/T is fitted with a sport suspension, but I couldn’t feel any palpable difference. The most fun you will get out of the R/T is listening to its exhaust. The dual pipes pour out of the rear fascia and look and sound aftermarket. The exhaust note is guttural and unlike anything you have heard from any other family carrier on the market.
Inside the vehicle the R/T’s styling matches the exterior, it’s sportier with a black leather base and red accents throughout. The center-row captain seats limit overall seating capacity to six, but it is a more comfortable seating option for passengers and accessing the third row is much easier. Seating in both the second and third row is spacious and comfortable with plenty of head and leg room. Other goodies inside the cabin include leather-clad door panels, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control and Chrysler’s Uconnect navigation system atop the center stack.
The Durango competently handled everything I threw at it. But it is in a crowded segment of SUVs that can do that as well. That said if you are looking for a sporty looking SUV with all sorts of comforts and luxuries and an exhaust tone reminiscent of two-seater Detroit muscle the Durango R/T should be on your list.