"The R/T is the ideal road trip cruiser for the whole family, while providing a spirited driving experience when the road calls for it." –Feature Editor Maxwell Matthewson

Reborn with a completely new design and chassis for the 2011 model year, the 2012 Durango is the best evolution of Dodge's sole fullsize SUV. Checking all of the Dodge performance boxes is the R/T model, complete with monochromatic paint, lowered and beefier suspension, interior trim upgrades, and much like its platform-sharing Grand Cherokee cousin, a Hemi V-8 under the hood. Responding to its drivetrain critics by receiving a new six-speed automatic transmission, the new R/T also features improved fuel mileage, quicker steering, and specific R/T badges to separate it from the more mundane Durango models. All of that sounds fine and dandy, but how does it compare to the no-holds-barred SRT8? The answer may surprise you.

We've condemned the Durango in the past for having a thirsty 5.7L Hemi mated to a sluggish four-speed auto, and even in 2011, the revised Durango could only be had with five cogs. For the new Durango, we welcomed the six-speed auto with manual mode as it boosted fuel mileage by a full mile per gallon. It may not sound like much, but combine that with shorter, crisper shifts, and the trans doesn't eat up the Hemi's power—meaning a quicker Durango, and one that has an extended fuel range. Progress indeed.

Seat time in the R/T was a pleasant surprise as the cheap materials from the previous generation Durango were tossed in the waste bin and replaced with softer, more pleasant textures including perforated red and black R/T-specific seats, red-stitched door panel armrests, and thick leather-wrapped steering wheel. A 40GB media center plays all of the popular media formats, and a 6.5-inch Garmin-based navigation screen makes getting to new destinations a breeze. Other interior accoutrements include a power sunroof, revised gauges, and Uconnect hands-free system. Second row seating is comfortable with plenty of legroom, while the third row doesn't induce claustrophobia from average-size adults. All in all, the R/T's cabin is a good combination of luxury meeting livability.