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Dodge Durango
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Overall: Dodge’s popular seven-seat tall wagon now drinks less fuel, drives sportier and gets new wheel styles for 2016.

A 3.6-liter V6, found in most Chrysler-brand vehicles, makes 290 horsepower, which now has gas-saving stop-start technology; a 360-horsepower 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8 is the obvious choice when towing and heavy hauling are called for; eight-speed automatic transmissions for all.

Dodge should be celebrated as it continues to improve its three-rows-of-seats Durango year after year. Its macho exterior still leaves the impression that it dines on Ford Explorers or Chevrolet Traverses anytime it wants, and features Dodge’s LED “racetrack” taillights that successfully debuted on the Dodge Charger and Dart. The highly regarded 290-horsepower V6 — standard in the SXT and Crew models — now gets a system that automatically shuts off the engine when stopped, and then re-fires when you let off the brake pedal. Dodge claims it should create a small improvement in city mileage, but it doesn’t have official figures yet. The optional 360-horsepower V8 installed in the R/T and range-topping Citadel models carries over unchanged. The “Hemi” has a variable-displacement system that reduces fuel consumption by shutting down half of the engine’s cylinders under light-load conditions. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard across the board, which doesn’t seem to affect tow ratings one way or the other; V8 Durangos can still lug up to 7,400 pounds (6,200 pounds for the V6) and can also carry up to seven passengers when using all three rows of seats, although second-row twin high-back bucket seats can also be specified. Dodge also brags that the Durango’s big fuel tank allows you to travel up to 600 miles without making a pit stop . . . for fuel, that is, thanks to the fuel efficiency in V6 models. Since the same designers who penned the GC’s interior also created the Durango’s innards, comfort and roominess are also first rate. Neat touches include a rotary-dial gearshift mounted on the center console, the Uconnect infotainment system with a 8.4-inch touch screen and available steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Along with four-wheel-drive, Durango options include a system that alerts you when another vehicle is about to overtake or is traveling in your blind spot(s). Another system alerts you when cross traffic is approaching from behind as you’re backing up. For 2016, the Durango is available with the unusually named Brass Monkey package. In includes gloss-black detailing outside and burnished bronze 20-inch wheels. Additionally, two Beats audio systems are available for the R/T and Citadel.