Part of the Durango's overall appearance comes from the designer's attempt to incorporate the look and feel of modern dive watches, combining a muscular definition and taut lines. The short overhangs, powerful wheel arches, and dramatically sloping windshield contribute to its unique silhouette. The exterior benefits from an evolution of the classic postwar Dodge Power Wagon, updated with satin silver accents, a billet grille with satin silver finish, and single headlamp covers that conceal dual headlights surrounding its trademark cross-hair grille.

Boldly flared wheel arches and drop shoulder fenders dominate the side profile. The wheelwells are filled by a combination of 21-inch wheels and massive 265/50 21 Goodyear HP tires, adding a sense of strength to the design. Continuity is provided by the lower side fascia and sills that blend the power from the front-wheel arches into the rear-wheel housings. (When the '04 Durango appears in the fall, expect it to be equipped with a less-aggressive 18- or 20-inch wheel/tire combination. After all, 20-inch wheels are the biggest factory fitment on the full-size Ram.)

At the rear, you'll encounter many custom sport-truck elements, ruled by integrated rear optics. This is combined with the Frenched "afterburner" taillamps that recall the '99 Dodge Power Wagon pickup concept vehicle. The distinctive rear-fascia design features dual rear exhausts tipped in satin- finish aluminum.

The next Durango is fully expected to follow the lead of the concept, and when it comes to power, the SUV category will get a new sheriff powered by a 345-horsepower version of the 5.7-liter HEMI Magnum V-8 with 375 lb-ft of torque, borrowed from the recently introduced heavy-duty Rams. The combination of this much power, installed in a smaller-than-full-size SUV, promises exceptional performance within the category.

As in the full-size Ram, the 5.7-liter HEMI offers improved fuel efficiency over the vintage, outgoing 5.9-liter V-8, while providing a healthy bump in horsepower over even the high-output version of the 4.7-liter SOHC V-8 available in the Jeep Grand Cherokee (the high-output version of the 4.7-liter V-8 wasn't offered in the current Durango). This engine is mated to a new heavy-duty five-speed automatic transmission. The full-time four-wheel-drive Durango Concept also features a standard electronic transfer case with low range.

Transmitting all this power to the ground requires an uprated suspension. "All that HEMI power needs a suspension to match, and we set out to create one of the best-handling SUVs ever made," says Frank Klegon, vice president of the Dodge Truck Product Team. "We developed an all-new 100-percent hydroformed frame that provides increased torsional stiffness and improved ride quality, but not at the expense of the towing, hauling, and off-road capability Durango is known for."