The name's remained the same, but Dodge's all-new 2011 Dodge Durango has been completely re-imagined from the unibody up, with more standard equipment, an overhauled appearance, updated powertrains, and new underpinnings. The Dodge Boys are hoping the myriad changes will better enable the new Durango to take on the stiff competition in the full-size crossover SUV segment.
The new Durango, which shares numerous elements with the redesigned 2011 Grand Cherokee, looks more refined and luxurious, with a steeply raked windshield and shapelier exterior presence. It's a definite departure from the tough-looking Dodge truck-themed Durangos of the past. The introduction of the new Durango also marks the first widespread appearance of the new Dodge crosshair brand logo, as the Ram's head logo is now affixed to the fledgling Ram brand.
Dodge is touting the Durango's greatly improved interior, although we've yet to see much of it. The automaker claims the gray, hard plastic look of Durangos past has been jettisoned, with upgraded materials and updated interior surfaces throughout. "Thoughtful touches will make owners and their crews want to jump in, hunker down and thoroughly enjoy even the longest drive," according to Dodge PR-speak. Of course, we'll be the judge of that once we actually step into the cockpit, but if the Grand Cherokee's cabin is any indication, we expect good things. Seating configurations are limited to no less than 22 possible arrangements, taking a page from the Grand Caravan's versatility playbook.
Sitting atop the same architecture as the 2011 Grand Cherokee, the Durango's platform has been stretched to accommodate a longer wheelbase and a third row of seating. Unlike the Jeep's five-passenger arrangement, the Durango offers room for seven. (The previous model had the option for either seven or eight passengers.) The previous two Durangos were based upon a truck-derived body-on-frame structure, but the new generation is based on a unibody underpinning that shares roots with the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class. Dodge assures us though that the vehicle has been stiffened so that it "delivers premium driving performance combined with SUV capability and crossover versatility." Apparently you can have your off-road cake and eat it comfortably on-road, too...
Customers have the option between Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and Chrysler's venerable 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. (Interestingly, Dodge press materials continue to use the Hemi name to describe its V-8, while it recently said it would discontinue the use because the Hemi is associated with poor fuel economy). While Dodge is still mum on output, we suspect power figures similar to the Grand Cherokee, with which it shares engines. In the Grand Cherokee, the V-6 delivers 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, with 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque available from the V-8. In an effort to help sooth Hemi fuel-efficiency concerns, Dodge is pushing its Multi-displacement system (MDS), which can shut down four of the Hemi's cylinders in certain situations. The Durango's V-6 will be able to tow 6200 pounds, where the more powerful V-8 can handle 7400 pounds. Rear-wheel drive comes as standard equipment, and the sole transmission choice is a five-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is optional with either engine. Unsurprisingly, there's no mention of a hybrid version, as Dodge's last attempt at a Durango hybrid barely made it to dealers before it was cancelled. But Dodge did say that certain models of the Durango will have a range of some 500 miles to a tank.
Similar to the Grand Cherokee, the Durango will be loaded with the latest safety equipment and technology. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning are all optional safety equipment. Active head restraints and side curtain airbags for all three rows come standard. The vehicle pictured is the Citadel trim level, which is rumored to sit atop the base Express and midlevel Crew trim levels.
Pricing has yet to be announced, but we expect a two-wheel-drive Express to retail just south of $29,000, including destination. A top-of-the-line, all-wheel-drive Citadel, similar to the one shown here, will likely go for around $44,000. By comparison, a base-level, two-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee Laredo starts at $30,995, while the top-end all-wheel Overland retails for $42,690.
The all-new Durango is set to make its first public appearance Labor Day weekend at the Virginia Beach half-marathon as the pace vehicle, accompanied by Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles. Dodge says we can expect to see the new Durango in dealer showrooms sometime in the last quarter of the year, probably close to Thanksgiving.