Beyond outhandling its Jeep twin, it fully embarrasses the old Durango. Despite being larger, heavier, and offering the same V-8 engine with a modest power increase, the new Durango hits 60 mph 0.7 second faster than the old model, pulls an additional 0.08 g on the skidpad, and gets slightly better fuel economy. The new V-6 seriously outperforms not only the old six-pot, but even the old 4.7-liter V-8. Its Achilles' heel is the old, slow-shifting five-speed auto with its long gears and refusal to take manual shift commands seriously.

In the real world, the Durango is very easy to drive, thanks especially to its impressively small turning circle. Even with its tighter, sedanlike handling, the ride is still smooth and compliant. Throw it at a turn and the Durango will lean a bit, but even rear-drive variants hold tight to the road in emergency maneuvers, giving up only gradual understeer when pressed hard.

If there's any place the old Durango needed polishing, it was inside the cabin. That's why it's been completely redesigned with higher-quality materials, tighter panel gaps, and fewer seams. The result is impressive, with comfortable seats, good visibility, improved ergonomics, and a vastly improved Garmin-based navigation system. Stretching 10 inches longer than the Jeep, there's plenty of second-row legroom and a third row that can actually seat two average-size adults comfortably. Compared with the old Durango, there's about an inch less headroom in the front and third rows, but 0.5 inch more in the second row. Legroom is down in the front (by 1.1 inches) and rear (by 3.0 inches), and up in the second row.

In the transformation from sport/utility vehicle to crossover, the Durango loses some of its capability. In return, though, the new Dodge has become a serious competitor, with a little help from its Italian friends.