Dodge completely redesigns its midsize SUV for 2011. So much so, that about the only thing that hasn't changed from the previous model is the name and overall dimensions. The last-generation Durango was a traditional midsize SUV with body-on-frame truck-type construction and a true four-wheel drive system. The new-for-'11 Durango is a crossover SUV that's more midsize wagon than mud-slinging SUV and has an available light-duty all-wheel drive system.
|2011 Dodge Durango Crew|
Base Price: $33,195
At-Tested Price: $41,485
Built in Detroit, Michigan.
Customer Preferred Package
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic
Drive Wheels: Rear-Wheel Drive
The 2011 Durango competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Vera Cruz, Mazda CX-9, Subaru Tribeca and Toyota Highlander for family shoppers looking to find a more fuel-friendly vehicle than a traditional truck-based SUV. All offer seating for at least seven on front bucket seats and second- and third-row bench seats.
The new Durango shares chassis and engine with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and comes in three trim levels: Express, Crew, and line-topping Citadel. Available on the Express are the Heat and R/T packages. Standard on all models with the exception of the R/T is a 290-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine. Standard on the R/T and optional on the Crew and Citadel is a 360-horsepower 5.7-liter V8. Sole transmission offering is a five-speed automatic.
Durango comes with either rear- or light-duty all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models with the V8 engine get a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing that's well suited for heavy-duty off-road use. Maximum towing capacity is 6200 pounds with the V6 and 7400 pounds with the V8.
Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes, stability control, Accident Response system, tire-pressure monitor and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. Crew models add rear-obstacle-detection system. Citadel adds blind-spot alert, cross-traffic alert and forward-collision warning. A rear-view camera is standard on Crew and Citadel and optional on Express.
The rear-drive Express lists for $29,195 and includes front and rear air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate controls, cruise control, tilt-telescope steering wheel with radio controls, cloth upholstery, center console, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with USB port and digital-media player connection, satellite radio, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, variable-intermittent wipers, automatic day/night rearview mirror, cargo cover, rear defogger, rear wiper/washer, floormats, theft-deterrent system, fog lights, rear privacy glass,
265/60R18 on/off-road tires and alloy wheels.
The Crew comes in at $33,195 in rear-drive form and adds power tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, six-way power passenger seat with lumbar adjustment, memory system, heated power mirrors with turn signals and driver-side automatic day/night, keyless access and starting, rain-sensing wipers, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirrors, remote engine start, 115-volt power outlet, power liftgate, automatic and self-dimming headlights and roof rack.
Rear-drive Citadel models lists for $41,795 and add to the Crew navigation system with real-time traffic information, adaptive cruise control, leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, upgraded sound system, music hard drive, sunroof, HID headlights and 265/50R20 tires.
For $1100, the Heat package adds to Express upgraded sound system, load-leveling sport suspension, full-sized spare tire and 265/50R20 tires. For an additional $5170, the R/T adds to the Heat leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, four-way power passenger seat, keyless access and starting, music hard drive, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirrors, remote engine start, 115-volt power outlet, power liftgate and HID headlights.
Options include leather upholstery and a rear-seat DVD-based entertainment system with available satellite TV. Durango is build in Detroit, Michigan, and has a destination charge of $850.
Get Up and Go With a curb weight of nearly 5000 pounds, the new Durango is a heavy vehicle. That said, the 3.6-liter V6 does a decent job of keeping pace with typical suburban traffic. Though there's no official 0-60 mph time, most peg it at about nine seconds. That seems reasonable and is par for the course for a large midsize crossover.
Those wanting more power can opt for the V8. It's got plenty of pop, but that juice comes with a fuel-economy penalty that might make some stick with the V6.
The five-speed automatic shifts smoothly and downshifts promptly for more power. It's down a gear or two when compared to most competitors and that also puts Durango at a fuel-efficiency disadvantage. EPA ratings for the rear-drive V6 model are just 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. Those numbers are down a mpg or two compared to most front-drive competitors.
Though Dodge says both engines will run fine on regular-grade gasoline, it recommends mid-grade (89 octane) with the V8 for best performance and economy.
In routine suburban commuting expect to average about 16 mpg with the V6. That number could grow to as high as 20 mpg if your commute includes lots of highway driving. All-wheel-drive models and V8 will likely see lower fuel economy numbers.
Though all-wheel drive is offered on both models, the V6 makes due with a light-duty system that's best suited for snow-covered roads or gravel trails. Those wanting to venture further off-road may want to consider getting the V8 and two-speed transfer case--or better yet, step up to a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
On the Road The switch from body-on-frame to unibody construction has tamed Durango's bronco-like road manners. The 2011 Durango rides with the comfort and composure of a typical midsize car. The suspension does an excellent job of absorbing impacts and reducing unnecessary bouncing or bobbing.
Though Durango is a large and heavy vehicle, it is surprisingly nimble in around-town driving. The steering is accurate and has a nice heft. Brakes have plenty of stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate. The only time Durango's size gets in the way is in quick lane changes, when excessive body motions remind drivers that this isn't a sports car. Another bonus is a tight turning circle that makes Durango easy to park.
Interior noise levels are quite low. The V6 snarls in hard acceleration, but is a mere whisper when cruising. Wind and road noise only intrude at extra-legal speeds.
Behind the Wheel Dodge designers completely redesigned Durango's interior. The design is functional and flowing with organic shapes taking over from the previous model's straight-cut edges. Soft-touch surfaces abound and materials and assembly seem a cut above the class norm.
Drivers face a couple of easy-to-decipher dials and a digital display in the instrument cluster. The center stack places the radio controls at the top with simple-to-use climate controls slightly below. The centerpiece is the optional 6.5-inch touch-screen display that comes as part of the navigation system. It's sharp and clear and easy to read day or night.
Chrysler Corporation's Uconnect multi-media interface isn't as well integrated as Ford's SYNC system, but runs a close second in the industry. It blends controls for the audio and navigation system and phone into one thoughtful voice-command-controlled interface.
Firm enough for aggressive driving and supportive enough for long-haul comfort, the front seats are a cut above many in the class. Head and leg room are quite generous. Crew and Citadel models have power tilt and telescope steering wheel, which is a plus for driver comfort. Step in is higher than expected, but not an obstacle unless you are vertically challenged. Outward visibility is good forward and to the sides, but blocked to the rear by the small rear window and thick rear pillars. Thankfully there are several electronic parking aids.
Second-row seats are comfortable, if a bit less supportive. The bench doesn't slide fore or aft like in some competitors, but there's still plenty of leg room for large adults--even if the front seats all the way back. The split-folding bench drops in a snap to provide access to the surprisingly roomy third-row seats. Though not quite adult sized, they'll do in a pinch and should be more than adequate for teens.
As with most midsize SUVs and crossovers, there's only minimal space behind the third-row seats. Still, it's a useful space for groceries and the like. Fold down the back seats and there's plenty of room for storing bulky items. The hatch opening is quite large, but the load floor is a little higher than expected, making heavy items harder to stow. Lots of interior storage and cubbies help make the interior family friendly
Bottom Line There's probably no better name for a rough and tumble SUV than Durango. Not only does it sound tough, but the name evokes memories of a time when lawmen jousted with outlaws, bandits and desperados to make the Wild West a safer place. The problem is, Dodge would like you to think of the new-for-2011 Durango as a softer and gentler SUV. One more suited to running errands to the mall than chasing Jesse James or Billy the Kid across the Pecos.
Thankfully, the new Durango backs up its promise to be a family-friendly hauler. The interior is roomy and useful, the cargo area vast, and the driving manners docile. All told, it's one of the best large crossovers in the class, with the only fault being slightly below-average fuel economy ratings. Those looking to replace their aging SUV or minivan would be wise to check out the 2011 Durango, it's got all the right moves to be a great crossover SUV.
|Specifications 2011 Dodge Durango Crew|
|Dimensions||4-door wagon||Engine||DOHC V6|
|Wheelbase, in.||119.8||Size, liters/cu. in.||3.6 / 220|
|Length, in.||199.8||Horsepower @ rpm||290 @ 6400|
|Width, in.||75.8||Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm||260 @ 4800|
|Height, in.||71.6||Transmission||5-Speed Automatic|
|Weight, lbs.||4838||EPA Estimates, mpg||16 city / 23 highway|
|Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.||84.5|| |
|Fuel Capacity, gals.||24.6||Manufacturer's Warranty|
|Seating Capacity||7||Bumper-to-Bumper||3 years / 36,000 miles|
|Front Head Room, in.||39.9||Powertrain||5 years / 100,000 miles|
|Front Leg Room, in.||40.3||Corrosion||5 years / 100,000 miles|
|Second- Row Head Room, in.||39.8||Free Roadside Assistance||3 years / 36,000 miles|
|Second-Row Leg Room, in.||38.6||Free Scheduled Maintenance||None|