The Metrosexual wave seems to be sweeping the world these days. Macho no longer means what it used to. Gone is the era of hairy chests, beards and hiking boots, slowly being replaced by the dapper man who clean shaven, swaggering in his Gucci loafers. It’s no longer a strange sight to see a man enter a waxing salon, clear his chest of his once proud mane and go to a salon to style his hair and thread his brows.
Even SUV’s, the once proud symbol of masculinity, have become tamer over the years, foregoing tough-riding truck chasses for more comfortable and agile unibody construction — what we now call the crossover platform.
As such, it's no surprise that even the Dodge Durango has gone for a make-over. Many might remember it as the American SUV with the fascia of a semi-trailor tractor head and the smooth yet firm lines of traditional SUV's. It was known for its ability to carry eight passengers and tow heavy loads like camper trailers and speedboats.
Like the many other SUVs that have taken the metrosexual plunge, for the 2012 model year, the Durango has changed as well. It has adopted a crossover platform, smoothened out most of the rough edges and is far more manageable on road.
It’s new grille has been rounded out and slanted like a cliff-face, not unlike its retro-revived siblings, the Charger and Challenger. The muscle car image continues with its pairs of headlights that sit on either side of the grille. The bumper and lower intake are integrated into one and creep closer to the ground for a more urban bias.
Yet it hasn’t forgotten civility and subtlety as towards the sides, its once prominent wheel arches now blend more smoothly into the body. A waist forms on the sides as eyebrows over the wheel arches continue toward the center to form the shoulder line. Towards the back, the cabin slopes down gently like a station wagon. Tail lights stretch across the tailgate, while on the bottom, rocker panels creep up the bumper.
Inside, the interior has been greatly civilized. No more cliff face dashboards or play-dough rounded edges. Here, surfaces seem sculpted out of a single piece with instrumentation inlayed like jewels.
The vehicle will start with just a push of a button as the smart key is kept in the pocket. The steering adjusts for tilt and reach while seats are power adjusted with 2-slot memory function. Instruments on the driver’s side include the tach and speedo that are set deep with temp and fuel gauges at the bottom of each. In between them sits a multi-info display that reveals vital trip info like tire pressure, fuel consumption and range. The info displayed is controlled by buttons on the steering wheel with voice recognition functions already built-in. No right stalk sticking out beneath the steering wheel here. Just a single left stalk that integrates wiper and turn signal functions. Lights have been moved, American style, to the left of the wheel.
Over in the center stack is the in-car entertainment which features a large touch-screen LCD. Like all the other vehicles in the Chrysler stable, it has an on-board hard drive that can store multi-media while also supporting connectivity with mobile phones and MP3 players. Lower on the stack is the climate control that features dual zones. At the very bottom are more storage spaces, a power outlet and the cupholders.
Passengers in the second row should be able to get comfortable easily. Behind them, seats rise from the flat row to form the third row. Despite being stowable, these seats still come with their own armrests and cupholders.
The cargo area behind features functional extras like a cargo cover that will work with 3rd row seats up or stowed. A built in flash light makes it easy to find items while a jack and even more storage space is cleverly hidden underneath the cargo floor. Finally, over in the roof are crossbars for cargo that are cleverly concealed as roof rails.
Yet don’t think for a moment that this has toned down the Durango’s driving character. Its size is certainly evident whether from the chunky pillars or the sheer mass of the vehicle felt from the wheel and pedals. It picks up speed quickly and certain doesn’t argue when you want to turn. The 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 with a 5-speed auto delivers power to the rear wheels smoothly. The ride is coddlingly soft and the quiet of the cabin could put a baby to sleep. In spite of the comfort, the Durango feels as stable as a mountain goat no matter the road surface. Its fuel consumption has also improved, returning some 7 km/L in the city and 10km/L on the highway. Finally, parking is hardly a chore with the rear mounted camera displaying the view behind on the center LCD.
Taking it all in, it seems the metrosexual treatment has done the Durango a lot of good. It’s far easier to drive, has an interior you’d never want to leave and comes with all these clever touches that make urban or rural adventures much more enjoyable. Yet through it all, it’s managed to maintain its machismo with styling that nods to the muscle car era and a driving feel that is still powerful and reassuring.