SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 27,975 Price As Tested $ 30,255 Engine Type SOHC 16-valve 4.7 Liter V8 w/SMFI* Engine Size 287 cid/4701 cc Horsepower 230 @ 4800 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 295 @ 3200 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 116.0"/71.5"/193.3" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 4823 pounds Fuel Capacity 25.0 gallons Tires (F/R) 235/75R15 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/four-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Six-passenger/five-door Domestic Content 86 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.45 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 14/18/16 0-60 MPH 8.5 seconds Maximum payload capacity 1752 pounds Maximum towing capacity 6050 pounds * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
(The Dodge Durango SUV is a Dakota pickup in fancy dress, according to Bob Hagin. Matt Hagin says that as a sport/utility vehicle, it's in a class of its own.)
MATT - Dodge has classified its Durango as a truck-based compact SUV that's bigger and more heavy-duty than the sedan-based, front-drive SUVs that are flooding the market, but not as big as the leviathans that are as hard to park as a full-sized cruise ship. It's no dwarf - it weighs in at around 4700 pounds. At first glance, it looks like a Dodge Dakota with a rear enclosure grafted on, which is true, at least from the front doors forward. But the chassis side rails are wider from the driver's compartment back in order to fit a full-sized spare and a 25-gallon gas tank underneath the rear section. Although it's really a very civilized family-type vehicle, the Durango has the trademark Dodge rough-neck "big-rig" look up front.
BOB - It has lots more Dodge truck attributes than just the grille and hood, Matt. Our test unit had four-wheel-drive with all the underneath accouterments for the rough stuff. The front-drive system is independently sprung on torsion bars and the system can be engaged on-the-fly by twisting a knob on the dash. Unlike its pickup stablemate, the only transmission available on the Durango is an automatic with an overdrive. It has a neat feature in that second gear is dual-range. In upshifts from a stop, second gear has a lower ratio so it can pick up speed easily, but if the driver nails the throttle on the highway to pass another vehicle, the transmission drops down into a "higher" second gear that avoids an instant run-up of the engine revs.
MATT - Dodge hasn't gone strictly high-tech with a twin-cam engine with variable valve timing like some of the opposition, but the 4.7-liter V8 under its hood does have a single cam on each aluminum head and some other neat innovations that deliver a strong 230 horses and an even more impressive 295 pound-feet of torque. It pulls very well but if someone needs enough additional torque to tow a really big boat or a huge travel-trailer, there's an optional high-torque 5.7-liter V8 available that puts out a bit more horsepower and 40 more pound-feet of torque. Both engines can be fed regular gas, but the mileage isn't all that great on either one. Our SLT could only come up with 12 miles per gallon around town and 17 on the highway.
BOB - The Durango can also had as an R/T version, which is a hot-rod model with the big engine and a modified suspension system that hangs on well in the turns. It has the same suspension system as the standard version, including leaf springs in back, and I was surprised to find that the back brakes are drums and that anti-skid brakes are only found in the rear - even on the top Durango models. This may have something to with their relatively long stopping distances. But the 4x4 models are true off-roaders with almost enough ground clearance to require a stepladder to get inside and approach and departure angles that are around 27 degrees. There's a couple of different all wheel-drive systems and the one in our SLT can be engaged on-the-fly by a knob on the dash.
MATT - The interior is pretty slick in that it can be configured almost 20 different ways to accommodate up to nine people or over 80 cubic feet of cargo. Climbing into the rear seat is pretty tough, though, and it's best assigned to the smaller members of the family. The rear portion of the roof line is raised, so headroom back there isn't a problem. The premium sound system has the usual AM/FM cassette/CD player, but no multi-disc system is available. The Durango first hit the market in 1998. It's sales have been picking up momentum every year and its now nipping at the heels of the heavy hitters.
BOB - The Durango looks like a truck, drives like a truck, handles like a truck and still buyers gobble it up. I guess it shows that whether it's got an eight-foot bed or a pair of enclosed rear seats, Americans still have an ongoing love affair with the pickup.