After driving around Monterey, California, for a week in the Dodge Durango Citadel, I took the obvious next step. I googled the word “citadel.”
Sure, I know, there’s some kind of military college called The Citadel, and there’s even a Citadel in Game of Thrones, where all kinds of nasty stuff happens. But what’s the precise meaning of the word, and how does it relate to the large-scale SUV that I was driving?
According to various dictionary sources, citadel means a fortress or stronghold, an impregnable structure built either to keep the bad guys out or to suppress the inhabitants thereof.
Seems appropriate, considering the size and strength 0f the three-row, Hemi V8-powered Durango that was most certainly my stronghold during the crush of Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula. For Dodge, the Citadel is Durango’s highest level of luxury trim. For me, it was my fortress for enduring endless traffic jams and funky detours.
The Citadel provided solid, secure cruising on the open highway and surprisingly agile handling on back roads. And for the many times that I spent idling in traffic (the local roads were never designed for such a massive influx of classic car folk), I was able to sit back and relax in the very cushy interior, listening to the premium audio system and tinkering with the Uconnect touchscreen.
Based on the same platform as the acclaimed Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango seemed to do everything well. Hustling along a winding road in the Del Monte Forest on the way to a collector car auction at Pebble Beach, I was impressed by how well the Durango negotiated the tight curves, especially considering its size and bulk.
I was also impressed by the braking performance when a couple of small deer decided to dart out right in front of me on a blind curve. Their little lives were spared by the big discs, not to even mention my superior reflexes, at least as I saw it.
The 360-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi also performed well, feeling like a bottomless pit of muscle with a snarling exhaust note whenever I got on the throttle, which was as often as I was able. Maybe not as powerful as the engine in the Durango SRT, but plenty for anything this side of the racetrack.
The Hemi also proved to be a highly tractable V8, always smooth and on the ball with no discernable flat spots or lags, just ready to go whether passing on the highway, climbing steep grades or slowly surging through the aforementioned heavy traffic. The eight-speed automatic performed seamlessly.
Fuel mileage was not awesome, but about as expected with the combination of big-block power and more than 5,000 pounds of vehicle heft. If that’s a problem, there is an available 295-horsepower V6 that gets better mileage, though not all that much.
The Citadel gets some stylistic upgrades with extra bright trim, which on the test SUV was enhanced by the Anodized Platinum Appearance package, a $1,095 option that includes a set of very handsome 20-inch “Satin Carbon Finish” wheels. The latest Durango generally looks pretty good, relative to this class of bulky wagons.
Inside the Citadel (which sounds like the beginning of a spy novel), the interior is splendid with leather and metallic accents, supportive seats and electronic features. The third row looks like it would be tight for anyone except kids, but the cabin is generally spacious.
Along with the extensive standard complement of power features and gadgets with the top-drawer Citadel, such as an assortment of driver-assist electronics, power everything and the 8.5-inch touchscreen loaded with apps, the tester included an array of option packages that turned it into a technology/performance/towing/entertainment stalwart.
Among them, the Hemi V8 package with two-speed transfer case for the all-wheel drive, $3,995; Premium Entertainment Group with rear-seat DVD video, $2,490; Technology Group, with brake assist, adaptive cruise control and other driver assists, $2,295; Trailer Tow with off-road skid-plate package, $1,295; second-row captain chairs with console, $995; and shipping, $1,095.
The Durango Citadel starts at a reasonable $43,995, considering the standard load of features and capability, with the bottom line on the one tested coming to $57,225, which is competitive when compared with similar luxury SUVs from such brands as Cadillac and Range Rover.
The driving experience with the Durango during my busy week in Monterey was overwhelmingly positive, and while I never sampled its people-moving or off-highway capabilities, I found it to be an excellent companion overall.
2017 Dodge Durango Citadel
Vehicle type: Seven-passenger, five-door SUV, all-wheel drive
Base price: $43,995 Price as tested: $57,225
Engine: 5.7-liter Hemi V8, 360 horsepower at 5,150 rpm, 390 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 119.8 inches Overall length/width: 201.2 inches / 75.8 inches
Curb weight: 5,397 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 14 city / 22 highway / 17 combined
Assembled in: Detroit, Michigan