The R/T's role? "To be as close as you can get to a BMW X5 M without spending all that money," Gilles says. That's some goal. The X5 M is sub-5.0 second quick to 60 mph, and hot laps like a sport sedan thanks to computer-controlled suspension electrickery that includes active roll control and electronic shock control. But it also starts at $86,575.
Our handsome Charcoal Pearl metallic R/T AWD tester had a base price of $38,715, and even a slew of expensive options like a rear seat entertainment system, adaptive cruise control, sunroof, Garmin sat nav, and a back-up camera only pushed that to $43,400. That's about half the price of an X5 M. But the Durango R/T is more than half the car.
It's not super-quick in a straight line. The 0-60-mph time of 7.3 seconds and 15.5 seconds at 90.8 mph standing quarter mile are line ball with the Hemi-powered Citadel model we tested a month or so back - no surprise given the powertrain is exactly the same. But throw some twisties into the equation, and the R/T comes into its own. The test track numbers tell some of the story: The R/T pulls higher lateral g than the Citadel (0.79 vs. 0.76), is faster around the MT Figure 8 (28.2 seconds at 0.59 g vs. 28.3 seconds at 0.56 g), and stops better (117 ft from 60 mph vs. 125 ft). But what they don't tell you is how sweetly this thing flows down a winding road.
The steering is very good, nicely weighted, and pleasantly linear -- better, in fact, than the steering in our BMW 5GT long-termer. The steering feel and feedback is helped by a steering wheel rim that is much thinner -- and better to grip - than the clumsy, fat-rimmed wheel fitted to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as the sharp response of the low-profile tires. Our tester was fitted with the optional 265/50 R20 Continental CrossContact summer tires instead of the standard Kumho Solus KL21 all-season meats. Unless you live in the land of permafrost, they're the tire to have.
The ride is firm - you feel what's going on where the rubber meets the road -- but impact noise and harshness are comfortably suppressed. The long 119-in wheelbase helps damp any fore/aft pitch, and the stiffer springs and shocks deftly tame the body roll. The Durango R/T feels remarkably composed for a 5483-lb vehicle when hustled through the turns, and has excellent straight-line stability. That shouldn't come as a surprise, because this thing has good bones -- the basic platform architecture, including the four-wheel independent suspension, is from the Mercedes-Benz GL, our favorite Benz SUV.