Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are a fun class of vehicle: not only are they great for carpools and moving around friends and family, but you can also get them off-road and just get dirty and have fun with them. These two are technically crossover SUVs, but they look and handle more like a full-size SUV.
The Toyota Highlander and the Dodge Durango are two of the better offerings in this class, with the Highlander offering roomy three-row family seating that is safe, comfortable and full-featured if a little bland. The Durango acts like a civilized family wagon, but it can get down and dirty like an SUV.
The city fuel economy is only 16 mpg for the Durango and 20 for the Highlander, neither of which is what could be considered excellent. The jump is only slight for highway miles per gallon: 25 for the Highlander and 23 mpg for the Durango. The Durango does offer an incredibly generous 24.6 gallon fuel tank versus the 19.2 gallon Highlander tank.
The Highlander shines again when you consider interior options, as nearly every option is standard such as auxiliary visors, cargo nets, compass, cruise control, and more; although the driver information center is only standard in the Durango. Map lights and additional interior lights abound in both options. The third-row seat is small and hard to access in the Highlander, and third-row access isn’t easy in the Durango, either although the interior feels sophisticated and refined.
Driving and Exterior
The soft suspension on the Highlander makes it drive “bigger” than the vehicle actually is and the steering is pretty light when the wheel is on center, but the road-oriented all wheel drive (AWD) makes it feel great when you’re hitting some loose gravel. The Durango’s HEMI makes for a strong performance and the steering feel is excellent for a utility vehicle. However, the power of the HEMI makes the internal ride a bit of a head-tosser and causes gas mileage to lag within the class.
Both vehicles lose a star in overall safety ratings and all front crash ratings; the Durango loses two in the passenger front barrier crash rating and again loses two in the rollover rating where the Highlander only loses one star for rollover.
When you’re looking for a crossover SUV with a bit of refinement, these vehicles both offer viable options.