For those of us raised in the 1970s, the Super Friends were an integral part of our Saturday mornings, as was the brother-sister duo of Zan and Jayna’s refrain of “Wonder Twin powers, activate!”. Chrysler Corp’s use of ex-partner Mercedes’ structure means that sibling Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango are other endowed with super powers of their own.
This has benefited the Jeep far more, leading to great sales success. In this respect, the Grand Cherokee is like Jayna, who always got to transform into cool animals and kick butt. The Durango, on the other hand, has faired like Zan, who would merely become a sheet of ice or bucket of water or some other form of H2O. Yet the Dodge is actually the nicer vehicle to drive on road and the more practical, with a third row usable by actual adults.
Both are very nicely built and equipped, and their 2014 freshening means even more luxury and useful tech, a quieter ride, as well as updated front and rear fascias incorporating groovy LED lighting and more chrome. The finish and quality of materials places them ahead of the Asian competition, as do their dynamics. They steer with European precision and their body control and ride quality shame most crossovers; the Durango beats more expensive offerings such as the new Acura MDX (reviewed here) quite soundly. The Jeep’s extra off road ability comes with minor penalties for road use, such as a stiffer ride and less acute helm. Regardless—both are superb.
The area they trailed in, fuel economy, has been addressed with the fitment across the board of a intuitive eight-speed automatic that results in an improvement of two mpg in real world use, and quite stellar highway numbers for the 3.6-liter, 290hp gasoline V6 and “ECOdiesel” versions. The Jeep’s diesel, in particular, is an excellent choice for those of us living at higher altitude, as its turbocharged delivery means little loss of urge on runs through the Rockies. It will also pull up to 7,400 pounds with ease, thanks to its 420lb-ft of torque. Sandwiched between these sixes is a 5.7-liter, 360hp Hemi V8. It still swills like a sailor on leave, rarely bettering 14-16mpg in normal use. But it gives these midsize unibody SUVs towing ability unrivaled in their segment.
While the Grand Cherokee continues to go from strength to strength, the Durango is finally getting some love, thanks to another fictional 70s icon, Anchorman Ronn Burgundy, whose humorous commercials have stimulated interest and resulted in 37 percent higher sales for the Dodge. The Super Friends would be proud.
2014 Dodge Durango V8: 17/24; 19mpg combined
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel: 21/28; 24mpg
Price as tested:
2014 Dodge Durango V8: $45,765
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel: $53,685