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2011 Dodge Durango Review and Road Test

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2011 Dodge Durango Re-launched-Renewed-Real Good And A Patriotic Flex-Fuel American

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

As an urban, in-city Chicago resident, whenever I go someplace I need to re-evaluate my transportation mode. Is it drive, taxi, bus, subway, bicycle or walk? Since my daily routine often just involves going short distances, my responsibility to fully evaluate a test car often requires that I just go out and drive around for a number of hours on city streets and suburban highways in order to get fully acclimated and familiar with any particular vehicle.

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The arrival of the Dodge Durango test vehicle perfectly coincided with a 300 mile round trip I was about to take to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This would give me plenty of seat-time and an opportunity to play with all of the features. My 300 mile drive was mostly highway cruising for significant distances at 65-70mph and also for many stretches at 55mph.

With fuel consumption being the hot topic it is today and drive conditions being perfect for a mpg-run, I was pleasantly surprised with the round-trip overall of 25.3 mpg of gasoline (When you use E-85 this FFV Durango can take you where you want to go and use less gasoline than a Toyota Prius to get you there). My test car was the Crew model, rear-wheel drive and equipped with the 290 HP 3.6-liter V6 that has EPA Fuel Economy Estimates of 16 city mpg and 23 highway mpg. Besting the EPA rating without really trying too hard is noteworthy in my view. With the Durango’s 24.6 gallon fuel tank, I was looking at over 600 miles cruising range. That’s a good, solid all-day road trip.

While were talking fuel economy, the AWD 3.6-liter gets 16 city and 22 highway and the optional 360 HP, 5.7-liter HEMI V8 is rated at 14 city and 20 highway for RWD and 13 city and 20 highway for AWD. The V6 provides plenty of acceleration and responsiveness along with its great fuel economy. So unless your towing a trailer or driving fully loaded, the HEMI V8 may not be necessary for the average user. By the way, one of the nice highway cruising features is the Adaptive Speed Control that monitors distance to a vehicle in you path and automatically slows the Durango to maintain a safe distance.

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The 2011 Durango is all-new and completely changed from the 2009 design…there was no 2010 model. The Durango is no longer a truckish body-on-frame architecture but now is a carlike unibody structure. It has three rows of seats with vastly improved interior design, quality and comfort.

Dodge says the Durango is “Re-engineered from the asphalt up” with an all-new unibody structure that is 25% stiffer than the previous model, all-new short/long arm front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. Aggressive shock and spring rates and large sway bars handle body roll in hard turning maneuvers. Available electro-hydraulic performance steering, along with standard electronic stability control also contribute to maintain tire grip and vehicle stability.

Pentastar V-6 models can tow up to 6,200 pounds. The 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 engine model can tow capability up to 7,400 pounds—more weight than a 24-foot boat and trailer. A drag coefficient of approximately 0.35 enables an aerodynamic contributing to a quiet interior and the remarkable fuel efficiency. I was positively impressed with the overall quietness of the Durango and especially noted the lack of wind noise over the outside mirrors and tires that didn’t “sing”.

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The Durango’s interior is very rich. Materials are very refined and with soft touch-points. On my road trip I found the seats very comfortable and provided good support. Dodge claims the Durango has 28 different seating configurations, with 84.5 cubic feet of cargo of cargo area with second- and third-row seats folded flat. Second row up yields 47.7 cubic feet and if you’re carpooling there’s 17.2 cubic feet behind the third row.

Visibility over the third row is improved when empty via a single motion actuator that drops the headrests with the push of a button to increase visibility.

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The 2011 Dodge Durango offers 45 safety and security features, including standard electronic stability control (ESC) that includes electronic roll mitigation (ERM), Hill-start Assist (HSA) works and Trailer-sway Control (TSC).

Also include are Blind-spot Monitoring (BSM) and Rear Cross Path (RCP) detection, which aid drivers when they’re changing lanes or in parking lot situations. In addition, Durango features standard seat-mounted air bags in the front row. A side curtain air bag extends protection to all three rows. Durango also includes standard front-row active head restraints.

Durango pricing starts at $29,195 for the Express RWD and tops out with the Citadel AWD at $44,020. In addition to these two models, also offered are the Heat, R/T and Crew. It appears Dodge provided a model for every taste and need.

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My test Durango was the Crew model that had a number of features that really help make life easier. I like the Power Lift Gate especially since you can open it as you approach with an arm load of stuff. Memory system for seats, mirrors, radio and the like is great if dad and mom interchange driving. Rear Back up Camera and Rear Park Assist is really helpful…especially in tight city parallel parking.

Dodge launched production of the all-new 2011 Dodge Durango at its Detroit, Michigan Jefferson North Assembly Plant in November 2010. The Durango has 69% U.S./Canadian parts content.

There are a number of large utility vehicles on the market today all of which are pretty good. I’d give the Durango a hard look if you are shopping.

© Larry Nutson


Dodge Durango Specs, Prices and Comparisons - Dodge Buyers Guide