FCA Family Feud- 2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD VS. 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4

FCA Family Feud- 2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD VS. 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4

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What have we here?

You’re looking at the latest vintage of SUVs to come off the same Chrysler Jefferson North assembly line in the Dodge Durango SXT and Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. Under the skin, these two customers are pretty much identical. They use the same engines and gearboxes. Their interior bits are pretty much duplicates and their dimensions are within millimeters of one another- even their respective price tags are within spiting distance. And yet, the two have very distinct personalities in the same as the way you would with your sibling- you are both made up of flesh and blood but are so much different below the surface.

Which one is better suited for the grind of suburban life?

Both are adept at schlepping the kids and their associated detritus from here to there, but the nod must go to the Durango with its third row of seating. We tried sitting back there, and while most adults wouldn’t jump at the chance to embark on a coast-to-coast road trip across our glorious country from that vantage point, we can think of others in the class that offer far less accommodation and comfort. In other words, it will be perfect for the little ones. Because the versions we sampled were lower spec trim levels and didn’t come with a fancy Blu-Ray player setup, they were equipped with basic connectivity and charging options for the times when you want to hit the road for a duration longer than running a few errands. It should be noted that if you want something analogous to the Durango (large size SUV with the 3rd row and V8 power) you’re going to be looking at the Mercedes Benz GL or the Lexus LX 570, both of whom command a significant premium over the Durango. At the other end of the spectrum and more price comparable are the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, but they are based on car platforms and not as rugged as the Durango.

Which one do I take if I want to go off the beaten path?

The Grand Cherokee emerges as the better choice if you’re headed off-road than the Durango. The Jeep’s credentials need no verification and are as old as the brand itself- it has always been a class leader when it comes to traversing the rough stuff. Despite the move to a unibody a few years ago the Jeep hasn’t given up anything in ability versus its body-on-frame predecessor. Our tester was endowed with the All-Weather Capability Group which includes stuff like upgraded Qaudra-Trac II four-wheel drive with Hill Descent Control, Jeep’s Selec-Terrain System and tow hooks should you venture a bit too far and need to be yanked out of a mud hole. You’ll want to check that box if regular forays into the bush are your thing. If that isn’t enough, you can outfit your Grand Cherokee with even harder core off-road kit but you’ll need to move up to the upcoming Trailhawk version. The truth is, the Durango uses the same oily bits as the Jeep and they do share a platform, but the Dodge is tuned to offer a sportier on-road driving experience than the Grand Cherokee. It wouldn’t embarrass itself off-road, but its setup is clearly biased towards street use.

Cool! My Durango will be the envy of all the competitors at my local Autocross.

Uh, that’s taking things a bit too far. Even the sportiest Durango, the R/T, is ill-suited to setting fastest time at an Autocross, or any other track type of event. Folks, if you think that a vehicle weighing 2,340 kilos is going to give hopped up Mazda MX-5’s a run for their money you are sadly mistaken. What we mean by the Durango being the sportier offering between its Jeep cousin is that it sits at a lower ride height, has a wheel and tire package better suited to tarmac and its suspension is calibrated with more for taut handling than you might expect. Yes, the steering is a bit numb, and yes, the brake pedal is a bit mushy for our liking but you will find yourself driving it like a much smaller and lighter vehicle. Plus, with the Blacktop Package and Geordi LaForge inspired rear LED lighting, it certainly looks the part. If you must have a Jeep that’ll embarrass some proper sports cars, you will need to step up to the SRT version, or- and this will happen within a year or so- the Trackhawk version, which plops the 707 horsepower supercharged V8 from the Hellcat twins under the hood. Yikes.

Speaking of engines…That thing got a Hemi?

Neither of our SUVs were equipped with the V8, but you know what? It didn’t matter. While we would never complain about the deluge of horsepower that comes with the beefier engine, real word fuel mileage may call the decision to order your Durango or Grand Cherokee so equipped into question. The 3.6 litre Pentastar V6 is a sweetheart, and it makes just under 300 horsepower which is more than enough to motivate these cousins. As a matter of fact, the Grand Cherokee receives an updated version of this engine with increased fuel economy as the endgame. It’s tuned to deliver better driveability below 3,000 rpm, has a revised variable valve lift system and boasts a sports car-like 11:3 compression ratio. Chrysler touts the engine as having class-leading refinement, and after spending some time in these two trucks we see no reason to dispute that claim. While we’re on the subject of refinement it’s a good time to mention the gearbox found on both. They employ the same ZF sourced 8-speed automatic that you’ll find shifting gears in everything from an Audi to a Bentley. Although the transmission is heavily modified by Chrysler with its own proprietary calibration and technology, it performs flawlessly. Shifts melt gently into one another no matter the throttle opening, and the paddle shifts that came on both the Durango and Grand Cherokee were responsive enough. Interestingly, we achieved near identical fuel mileage of 14.6L/100km in both vehicles. It’s not as good as what Chrysler quotes for combined city/highway mileage (really, what car these days actually does achieve its estimated consumption?) but we spent most of our time slogging through city commutes, so that’s not surprising.

Any issues with either one?

You’d think SUVs with such a similar bloodline would suffer the same maladies, but that’s not the case. The only common issue the two have are with respect to the seat comfort, or lack thereof. Cushions are kind of flat with little lateral support, and offer about the same softness as a park bench. Other than that, both interiors are very well executed although the Durango had the smaller 5.0 inch unit as part of the excellent UConnect infotainment system and requires you to concentrate more on menus and related commands much more that you would have to in the Grand Cherokee, which has the much bigger and easier to use 8.4 inch screen. The only other thing we didn’t love about the Durango was its vast blindspots. The Jeep’s miscues were more felt in the hardware department, starting with a steering system that requires too many corrections to keep heading in your intended direction. We wondered why a vehicle that had optional equipment to make it more formidable off-road would come with low-rolling resistance tires that prioritize fuel economy which would likely give up traction on a slick pathway rather quickly compared to something a little more aggressively treaded.

Which one should I put in my driveway?

You really can’t make a bad choice by selecting either of these. The platform the underpins them both is as rigid as granite, offers good isolation from any undue noises and is equally at home be it on or off the pavement. Let’s sum it up this way: if you’re looking for something that emphasizes Sport, you’ll want the Durango. If your preferences skew to the utility side of the equation, go for the Jeep.

2016 Dodge Durango SXT AWD— Specifications

  • Price as tested: $47,280
  • Body Type: 4-door, 7 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Engine:  3.6 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower:  290 @ 6,400 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 260 @ 4,800 rpm
  • Curb weight: 2,340 kg (5,159 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 14.6L/100km (16 mpg)

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4— Specifications

  • Price as tested: $48,480
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Engine:  3.6 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower:  295 @ 6,400 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 260 @ 4,800 rpm
  • Curb weight: 2,262 kg (4,987 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 14.6L/100km (16 mpg)