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    Two Versions of Sport

    By Philip Ruth–

    Sport can mean a lot of things. This week’s high-roofed duo approach the subject from almost opposite points in the performance spectrum. Do they succeed?

    That depends on your definition of success. Both the Dodge Durango R/T and Ford EcoSport Titanium evoke images of fun times. The tested R/T turned heads with its blackout graphics and sultry exhaust rumble. Its presence conveys seriousness of purpose.

    The Ford has Sport in its name, so it promises some verve. Parked at the curb, the EcoSport appears as a pre-pubescent version of the familiar Ford Escape. The EcoSport is robotic-cute; it eschews the googly-eyes adorability of a Mini Cooper while still looking light enough on its tires to host a youthful spark.

    There’s no search for spark in the Durango R/T: its thumping visual vibe is met with an all-business interior, with grippy seats holding you in a cavern that feels dark as night. If you can’t imagine what it feels like to be a gangster, then a few minutes peering through the squinty windshield over the murmuring hood will start you on your way.

    The EcoSport contrasts with the feel of a glassy pogo stick. You sit high and enjoy big views up front, though the rear has the usual crossover-SUV blind spots. The narrow EcoSport has ample interior width, though I did find my knees and elbows clunking against stiff plastics.

    Over the road, the Durango R/T feels like an old friend. After a decade of driving just about every application of Chrysler’s delicious Hemi 5.7-liter V8, I feel that each one has provided the deep satisfaction that eight-cylinder torque can bring. That means rocket-like takeoffs and effortless passing, along with the confidence that comes from knowing you’re just about the quickest car on the road around you, as long as there aren’t any pesky Teslas arrowing up the side.

    Profligate pleasure usually has a price, and the gas pump stands ready to exact it after a strong run in a Hemi-packing Durango R/T. I’m sure that the cylinder deactivation Chrysler touts as helping the Hemi sip gas works in some conditions, but it rarely has time to shine on San Francisco’s hills. Expect 10 mpg and be happily surprised if you hit 13 mpg.

    Double that mileage at least for the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder EcoSport, and there’s decent initial squirt. But the EcoSport quickly runs out of steam, and the engine sounds labored. When merging the tester onto Portola Avenue toward Market, I had it floored. As the EcoSport gathered speed and crested the hill, the engine’s wail activated the two motorcycle police who had just finished issuing a citation. They gave the EcoSport a hard stare and then relaxed, as if they both said, “Eh, that one is just trying to keep up.”

    The aggressive Durango R/T would likely have provoked a different reaction, one ending with an insurance point or two. In this case, the truck named Sport is not the one that embodies it.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant (www.gaycarguy.com). Check out his automotive staging service at www.carstaging.com