New Car Review

1998 DODGE DURANGO 4X4 SLT

by Matt/Bob Hagin

dodge

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,810
Price As Tested                                    $ 31,715
Engine Type                             5.9 Liter V8 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 360 cid/5895 cc
Horsepower                                   245 @ 4000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               335 @ 3200 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  115.9"/71.5"/193.3"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4715 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    25 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     31/10.5R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                 90 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            12/17/13
0-60 MPH                                       11.5 seconds
Payload capacity                                1700 pounds
Towing capacity                                 7200 pounds
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(For the past four years, Dodge dealers have been lamenting the fact that they've had no sport/utility vehicle to sell. Matt Hagin comments that it's about time the new Dodge Durango arrived, while his father Bob says that a truck is a truck, no matter how fancy it's dressed.)

MATT - The Dodge salesmen that I know are breathing a sigh of relief Dad, now that they finally have a sport/utility vehicle to sell. They've been out of the loop since '94 when the company put the then-aging Ramcharger out to pasture. This new Dodge rough-neck, the Durango, is big and assertive-looking and should be able to muscle its way into the already crowded full-sized SUV field. It's capable of being optioned out to carry between five and eight people in comfort, depending on how many seats the thing contains. The second row seats can be flipped forward and the third row bench seat folded into the floor to provide 88 cubic feet of space behind the driver.

BOB - There's no mistaking the Durango for anything but a truck, Matt. From the windshield forward it's pure Dodge Dakota pickup, and the running gear rides on a boxed-in truck ladder frame. It's available with a base 3.9 liter V6 engine that puts out 175 horses, but there's a couple of V8s available, too. One is the venerable Chrysler 318 unit with 230 horses and the second is the stump-pulling 245-horse, 360 cubic-inch V8. They're all fairly low tech, all-iron pushrod engines, but they've proven their reliability over the years. Unlike its Dakota pickup sibling, the Durango is only available with an automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive. There's a couple of systems available and our test unit came with full-time four-wheel-drive that utilized a center-located differential to split the torque between the front and rear differentials. There's a couple of other systems available, so a buyer can pretty much tailor his or her driveline to fit the type of driving that will be done.

MATT - Anti-lock brakes are standard on the rear wheels of all Durangos, but all-wheel ABS is optional. Depending on how the drive line is optioned, the towing capacity of the Durango is between 3700 and 7200 pounds. The SLT version that we had packed the 360 cubic-inch engine and full-time all-wheel drive, as well as a limited slip rear differential, so it would be a perfect ski boat tow vehicle. It would make short work of pulling a boat trailer out of the water and up a slippery launch ramp.

BOB - It also had the optional 31X10.5R15 all-weather tires mounted on 15x8-inch aluminum wheels. Like the Dakota pickup, the Durango has torsion bar independent front suspension, but the solid rear axle with drum brakes is carried on conventional leaf springs. While most of the suspension pieces are the same as on the pickup, the Durango frame is a bit wider between the rear wheels to accommodate the extra seat back there. It also rides about an inch lower than the truck. The frame itself is considerably more beefy than the frame of the Dakota and I guess that this is a necessity. The Durango is no lightweight at 4700 pounds and that's almost 800 more that the similarly outfitted Dakota. And being that it's a mighty big rig with a mighty big engine, it stands to reason that it would be pretty thirsty when it came to gulping fuel. Around town, the MPG is listed at 12, and the highway mileage is seventeen. Our average was around thirteen.

MATT - Although it isn't available yet, the Dodge folks told me that they were planning for a 2WD version of the Durango by the end of this year, but nothing was said about a two-door version. Four doors on an SUV is pretty much the accepted norm now, and even most of the lightweight SUVs come with four doors. I was amused to find that some of the RV magazines refer to this Durango as a "compact" or "mid-sized" SUV. I suppose if Dodge builds another, larger version based on the Ram pickup, then those magazines will have nothing to complain about.

BOB - Times change, Matt. There was a time not long ago when the only "sport/utility vehicle" had a canvas top, metal-framed canvas doors, a windshield that folded flat and a khaki paint job.

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