In this crossover-crazy world, makers of old-school SUVs are feeling the pinch to get with the 21st century and class 'em up. Ditch the truck frames, polish up the interior, and make it ride nicer. Give it a shave and a haircut, and perhaps even some "man-scaping."
Even a bad boy can clean up occasionally, and Dodge has taken this middle-ground approach with the new 2011 Dodge Durango. Yes, the ladder frame is gone in favor of a unibody borrowed from the Jeep Grand Cherokee that's been stretched out a bit. Sure, the suspension is now fully independent, and the four-wheel drive is actually all wheel-drive, but there's still plenty of traditional SUV DNA under the new makeup.
For example, in this strange new world where the Ford Explorer has morphed into a front wheel-drive-based crossover with a turbo-four for a premium engine, the Durango remains unabashedly rear drive and still comes with optional V-8 power. The big, 360 horse 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 puts 390 lb-ft through a five-speed automatic transmission (an eight-speed auto is coming), then either straight to the rear wheels or to a dual-range transfer case offering full-time all-wheel-drive with a low-range gear for serious pulling power. Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, meanwhile, delivers 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft to the same automatic transmission and either the rear wheels only or full-time all-wheel drive (sans low-range).
Spend a few moments with your right foot buried in the Pentastar's throttle and you begin to question why they even offer a V-8 variant. This V-6 is not only more engine than most seven-passenger SUV buyers will ever need, but will obviously be the volume motor. Towing is one reason why you might opt for the V-8, as the bigger engine can tow 7,400 pounds. Though Dodge was quick to point out that the V-6 is capable of lugging 6,200 pounds around -- not bad at all.