Dodge launched its first Durango sport-utility vehicle for 1998, built on the platform used for the Dakota pickup truck and measuring a bit over midsize dimensions. Redesigning for 2004 made it bigger and heavier yet.
After skipping the 2010 model year, Dodge is back with a redesigned Durango, billed as "all new." Dubbed a "three-row SUV with a soul," the 2011 Durango is billed as combining "crossover versatility [with] SUV capability and performance."
Four models are offered: Express, Crew, R/T, and top-of-the-line Citadel. Durango's unibody structure is said to be 25 percent stiffer than the previous body-on-frame design.
Two engines are available: V-6 and Hemi V-8. The new double-overhead-cam Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 produces 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque - an increase of 38 and 11 percent, respectively, over the predecessor engine. Estimated fuel economy is 16-mpg city/23-mpg highway with rear-wheel drive, or 16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Equipped with fuel-saver mode, the available 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 generates 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, making that Durango capable of towing 7,400 pounds. Fuel economy, according to EPA estimates, is 14/20 mg with rear-drive or 13/20 mpg with all-wheel drive. Dodge also offers two automatic transmissions and two available full-time all-wheel-drive systems, depending on engine choice. The Hemi-powered all-wheel-drive Durango includes a low-range transfer case.
Dodge promotes the Durango's three-row seating capability, which has a unique feature for improve driver visibility. When the third row is unoccupied, pushing a button can lower those back headrests.
Electronic stability control is standard, including electronic rol mitigation. Hill-start Assist is available, and a trailer-sway control system is standard. Available safety features include blind-spot monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection.
In its post-bailout mode, Chrysler has been pushing hard to create the impression that its reworked products are dramatically better than ever. In reality, while each of them is improved to an extent, some have moved a lot farther ahead than others.
Durango clearly falls into the latter category, pushing well beyond its predecessor. In fact, the tongue-in-cheek claims made in a recent commercial - that the Durango has been toning up in Europe, gone to school, etc. - almost seem true. Based upon its handling capabilities, ride comfort, and overall quality, the latest Durango has almost moved into a different league.
A 2011 Dodge Durango Express with two-wheel drive can be driven home for a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $30,045 (including destination charge). Topping the line, a Durango Citadel with all-wheel drive raises the outlay to $44,645.
Note: Additional details on the 2011 Durango will be posted shortly.
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