By KBB.com Editors
Shortly after gas went to five dollars a gallon and the economy took a nose dive, the full-size SUV's days looked to be numbered. Dealer lots were buried rows deep in vehicles like the Dodge Durango, and no one was biting. One would think after coming through yet another near-death experience, Dodge might kick their old SUV habit to the curb and focus on small, fuel-efficient cars. But that's not what happened. Instead, under the stewardship of Fiat, Dodge has decided to reinvent the Durango, creating a smooth, roomy and efficient full-size SUV from a single unit body shared with the newly developed Jeep Grand Cherokee. A bold move? You bet it is, but one that apparently has the potential to pay off big for Dodge – that is as long as gas stays relatively cheap.You'll Like This Car If...
The new 2011 Dodge Durango is well suited to those who need to carry more than five passengers and tow more than 7,000 pounds, all while riding in car-like comfort. Styling inspired by the Dodge Charger adds a sporty dimension not shared by other vehicles in this class.
If you're looking for a seven-passenger SUV with fuel economy figures in the mid to high twenties, you won't find a Durango to meet your needs. A diesel-powered Audi Q7 or Mercedes Benz GL might be a better fit; so too might the seven-passenger Toyota Highlander Hybrid.What's New for 2011
The 2011 Dodge Durango is all new from the ground up. Riding on a unit body platform (the old model was body-on-frame), the Durango is now a more solid, stable and quiet vehicle. The new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine serves as the standard powerplant, with a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 as an option. In an attempt to please everyone, Dodge offers the Durango in four distinctly different trims: Express, R/T, Crew and Citadel.Driving It Driving Impressions
We spent the better part of our 2011 Dodge Durango test drive behind the wheel of a V6-powered Citadel and the experience overall was quite pleasant. There's no getting away from the fact that this is still a big, heavy SUV, but the 290-horspower Pentastar V6 performs admirably. Although we're certain you'll want the V8 for towing, the V6 has enough power to move a semi-loaded Durango with some urgency. The steering feel at the wheel is heavy, but the turn-in response is excellent and the Durango tracks straight and true on the highway. Wind and tire noise are kept at a minimum, a result of added insulation and heavy gauge steel used throughout the cabin. The Durango handles fairly well for such a heavy vehicle, but the stiff suspension, especially on the R/T trim, can also feel abrupt at times, especially when passing over small bumps and road distortions.Favorite Features
About the closest you'll get to an SRT version of the Durango, the R/T's lowered sport suspension, recalibrated shocks and springs and aggressive 20-inch tires make this one playful full-sized SUV. Oh, did we forget to mention its got a HEMI?
Blind Spot Monitoring
Big SUVs have lots of side glass for good visibility, but that doesn't always help when trying to change lanes with a car full of screaming kids. Thankfully, the Blind Spot Monitoring system will alert when something other than air is occupying the space you're attempting to fill.
Dodge has spared no expense getting the Durango's interior to shine. No matter where any of its seven passengers are sitting, they will be treated to supportive seats, yards of elegant materials and soft-touch surfaces, and about one of the quietest SUV cabins we've tested. Upper end trims feature heated and cooling front seats and an available heated second-row seat. Models not equipped with cooling front seats include a fold-flat front passenger seat for maximum load floor capability.
With 28 possible configurations, the Durango's interior is more than capable of carrying any manner of cargo or crew. Clever features, such as the remote folding rear seat head restraints improve rearward visibility, as does the available rear back-up camera. With 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space, the Durango's interior is about equal in size to the Honda Pilot, but smaller than the 116.9 cubic feet offered in the GMC Acadia.
Where the old Durango was big and bulky, the new Durango is smooth and sleek. Mimicking the same "coke bottle" side profile as the new Dodge Charger, the Durango strikes an almost wagon-like appearance that masks the vehicle's true dimensions. Lower in profile but still capable of venturing off-road if asked, the Durango has a rugged elegance about it that sets it apart from more pedestrian SUVs. From its split cross-hair grille to the sporty R/T trim with its lowered ride height, 20-inch rims and color-keyed ground effects, the Durango looks every bit a member of the Dodge performance family. Taking a cue from the Subaru Outback playbook, Crew and Citadel models now feature a roof rack with cross bars that fold into the side rails when not in use.Notable Standard Equipment
The entry-level Express trim features a 3.6-liter V6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps, heated power side mirrors, remote start, tri-zone automatic air conditioning, 12-volt outlet and removable LED flashlight in the cargo area, tilt/telescopic steering column, and an AM/FM/CD radio with WMA/MP3 support, SIRIUS Satellite Radio and auxiliary input jack. At the opposite end of the Durango spectrum, the Citadel adds 20-inch wheels, a power rear liftgate, HID headlamps, power folding and auto-dimming side mirrors, Nappa leather and suede seats, rain-sensing wipers, keyless Enter-N-Go, eight-way power front seats, a heated second-row seat, and Garmin navigation. Standard safety features on all 2011 Dodge Durangos include electronic traction and stability control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, Hill Start Assist, front seat side-impact airbags, and side curtain airbags covering all three rows.Notable Optional Equipment
Options vary by trim and include a Garmin-equipped navigation radio with 30 GB hard drive and SIRIUS Travel Link, ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, side blind-spot monitor, auto-dimming high beams, UConnect phone (Bluetooth), Adaptive speed control, skid plates, Alpine premium audio, Bluetooth streaming audio, SIRIUS Backseat TV, heated second-row seats, power rear liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, and a heated steering wheel. Option packages include the Trailer Tow Group IV that adds a 220-amp alternator, heavy-duty engine oil cooler, Class IV hitch receiver, four- and seven-pin wiring harness, and rear load-leveling shocks. The CrewLux package adds leather-trimmed seats, heated front and second-row seating, in-dash Garmin navigation radio, 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, rain sensing wipers, auto high-beam dimmer, and bright exterior door handles and mirror caps.Under the Hood
The standard engine on all but the R/T trim is Chrysler's new Pentastar V6. Without question, one of the best V6 engines ever produced by the company, this engine has more than enough power to satisfy most SUV drivers. Equipped with dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, the 3.6-liter Pentastar is capable of achieving maximum performance without sacrificing fuel economy. The Durango's optional 5.7-liter HEMI V8 features fuel-saver mode that deactivates four of the eight cylinders when full power is not required. When power is needed, however, the Durango's HEMI has it in spades, delivering 360 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of tow-ready torque. The AWD V8 model includes a low-speed transfer case with a neutral position setting.
290 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
260 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23 (RWD), 16/22 (AWD)
5.7-liter HEMI V8
360 horsepower @ 5150 rpm
390 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (RWD), 13/20 (AWD)
The 2011 Dodge Durango Express has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $30,000 for the rear-drive model and $32,000 for all-wheel drive. The Crew bumps the price closer to $34,000, while a fully loaded Citadel with the HEMI V8 and all-wheel drive tops out just under $50,000. These prices compare well with a comparably equipped Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot and Ford Flex, none of which offer the option of a V8 engine. To get the best deal on your Durango, be sure to take a look at the Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com to learn what buyers in your area are actually paying. As for resale, we expect the new Durango will do much better than the vehicle is replaces, probably holding its own against the Ford Flex and Chevrolet Traverse, but still far short of the Honda Pilot.