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What a Wagon

There’s simply no sexy way to rock a mini-van, even if you need three rows of seats for your posse. You could go for a full-size SUV, but that’s wasteful. Or, there’s a long list of crossovers that lack swagger.  Kid-toting moms and dads should warm up to the Dodge Durango R/T Blacktop.

The Durango Blacktop trades chrome for a black grille, emblems and 20-inch alloys. What isn’t black is body colour for that custom style. Our red tester looked like a molten devil. And you can light up the night very easily with LED running lamps, LED tail lamps and fog lamps.

Black leather feels sexy, especially with red stitching, while the interior is high-tech and comfortable. Heated seats, heated steering wheel, rear climate control and a booming audio system are delightful. I really like the reconfigurable instrument cluster, which dis­plays an analogue or digital speedometer and infotainment system with touch-screen con­trol, redundant controls below or voice control. Video players connect to twin seat-mounted screens.

Dodge packed in utility with this one, too. Cargo feeds through a powered hatch, folding third-row seat and sliding middle-row seats. Front and rear passengers can power up with USB ports and household-style plugs in their consoles. Actual adults can ride in the rearmost seat.

Conjuring the fear of HEMI is a 5.7-litre V8 engine that delivers 268kW/360 horse­power to the all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic trans­mission. Drive with a light foot to see 17.3/11.5 litres/100km city/hwy.

If you fear the next gas crisis, try Durango’s available 3.6-litre Pentastar V6.

Durango shares architecture with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Mercedes-Benz M-Class/GL-Class—which was developed while Daimler and Chrysler were married.

The sport suspension and firm steering balance comfort and handling. It’s a vehicle you’ll enjoy putting through curves or stomping down the left lane on the freeway.

Still, it takes on rough pavement sans drama. The turning radius is super tight.

This vehicle started as a three-row SUV based on the Dakota pickup, but by sharing architecture with Mercedes, Dodge offers a roomy wagon that is a pleasure to drive. While Durango starts at $41,395, our lavishly optioned Blacktop edition came to $58,440.

2015 Dodge Durango R/T Blacktop

Six-passenger, AWD Crossover
Powertrain 268kW/360hp 5.7-litre V8, 8-spd auto trans
Suspension F/R Ind/Ind
Wheels 20”/20” alloy f/r
Brakes disc/disc fr/rr
Must-have features Style, performance
Fuel economy 17.3/11.5 litres/100km city/hwy
Assembly Detroit
Base price/as-tested $41,395/58,440

Casey Williams is a contributing writer for Gaywheels.com, and a frequent business traveller to Montreal. He contributes to the  New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to wfyi.org, the area’s PBS/NPR station.