After spending an hour or so at the autocross course, we reluctantly headed back to the main tent to decide what to drive next.
Because there were 75 more vehicles to drive and not enough time to get into them all (we had to share, remember), we wanted to cover the gamut of choices, ranging from the Chrysler Town & Country Limited minivan to the Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 to the Dodge Durango R/T and Citadel, then Chrysler 300 Luxury Series, Jeep Compass, Dodge Charger R/T Road & Track and the Dodge Journey R/T AWD. We drove these vehicle
s on both the evaluation and handling tracks, experiencing rough roads, highway speeds and even a short track with higher-speed turns and straights than at the autocross.
While we saw improvements in just about everything we drove, of that group, we came away most impressed with the Dodge Durango and 1500 Ram Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4.
Dodge Durango R/T
The Durango has come a long way since it was first introduced in 1998. The earlier Durango was probably the best example of what went wrong at Chrysler, and the 2013 Durango shows how Chrysler did everything right to fix it. The interiors are upscale and high quality, the R/T version with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque is fun to drive and the 7-passenger SUV has best-in-class tow capacity and top safety ratings. The Durango is on the list of vehicles to recommend when someone asks for an affordable (starts at $31,000) vehicle that can carry plenty of people and cargo in style.
Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4
The Ram Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab is a cattle rancher’s dream. It’s big and bad on the outside, but loaded with luxury and comfort on the inside. We drove the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI engine with variable valve timing and multi-displacement, which helps this big truck get 19 mpg on the highway. The price for our Crew Cab 4×4 model started at $46,270 and finished at $52,455, with the additions of a power sunroof, Ram Box cargo management system, trailer brake control and even rear-seat video. Inside, the Laramie Longhorn was “all duded up,” as they say on the range, with the light pebble beige and bark brown filigree seats. Longhorn was branded on everything, making it appealing to those who need a hard-working truck but also like to clean it up and take it into town on Saturday night. We didn’t drive it around the track, but on the evaluation roads and at highway speeds, the ride was controlled, quiet and comfortable. Towing isn’t a problem with the Ram 1500, with a rating of 8,900 lbs. We wish it had been hooked up to a trailer just to see how it handled the load.
While we would have loved to have had another day or two to drive everything, we felt we experienced a good mix of cars, trucks, brands and trim levels. We will be sure to get into some of the 2013 models we didn’t drive and bring you full reviews right here at CarBuzzard.com.