1998 Dodge Durango

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2002 Dodge Durango

This 2002 review is representative of model years 1998 to 2003.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Handy size is a high point with this roomy, comfortable, handsome sport-ute.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Convenient size
  • Good handling
Cons:
  • Low fuel economy
  • No standard front/rear anti-lock brake system
  • Moderate cargo space with third-row seat in normal position

The ruggedly handsome Dodge Durango sport-utility vehicle remains the only sport-ute sized between mid-and full-size sport utes for almost the maneuverability of a full-size car and such things as easier garaging.

Roominess is a major feature of sport-utes and the Durango has plenty of passenger and cargo space. Most Durango trims offer a third-row seat to permit eight-occupant capacity. The Durango debuted in 1998 with that third seat, when then was a unique feature for anything but a few full-size sport-utility vehicles.

The Durango's rear roof is raised nearly two inches for additional third-row headroom, although the third seat has a short bottom cushion that isn't comfortable for anything but short trips.

Derived From Pickup Truck
Derived from the rugged Dodge Dakota pickup, the Durango shares that model's "big rig" styling. But the Durango is not just a Dakota with a sport-ute rear end slapped on it. Rather, it has such things as a widened Dakota frame to allow more passenger room, space for a full-size spare tire under the floor, large 25-gallon gasoline tank and recess for the third-row seat when it's folded flat.

The Durango has been continually updated to let it keep pace with rivals in the increasingly competitive sport-ute market. For instance, the 2000 model got a modern new 4.7-liter V8, and the 2001 model received a slick new interior.

The 2002 Durango has a new 5-speed automatic transmission with the 4.7-liter, 235-horsepower V8 that is standard in most Durangos. It replaces a 4-speed automatic and allows better fuel economy and quieter engine operation.

New Entertainment System
Other new features are optional side curtain airbags for first- and second-row occupants and a dealer-installed $1,650 DVD entertainment system.

There also is a new $1,000 SXT option for the Sport trim that has graphite front/rear fascias, fender flares, CD player, bucket seats and larger 16-inch (vs. 15-inch) wheels.

Base prices for the Durango range from $25,400 to $36,920. There is a base Sport trim, higher-line SLT and SLT Plus trims and a hot rod R/T.

The R/T almost seems as if it is for car buffs, with a 5.9-liter 245-horsepower V8, stiffer suspension, performance axle ratio with a limited-slip rear differential, big 17-inch wheels and even a sport-tuned exhaust.

All Durangos have front bucket seats and a split-folding second-row bench seat, although the Sport can be had with a $150 front bench seat for an eight-passenger capacity.

Two Drive Systems
All trims are available with rear- or 4-wheel drive. One of the systems must be disengaged on dry roads to prevent damage, while the other can be left engaged on dry pavement.

The 4-wheel-drive trims have low-range gearing for rugged off-road driving, which the Durango is tough enough to handle easily. The full time 4-wheel-drive system is standard on the R/T and optional on the SLT and SLT Plus. All drive systems now are controlled by a dashboard switch, not a less convenient floor lever.

Carlike
It is generally easy to climb in the Durango, although it is fairly high. It feels more carlike than trucklike. While it's no sports truck like the BMW X5 sport-ute, the Durango has precise steering, good handling and a supple ride that shrugs off most road imperfections. While heavy, it doesn't feel ponderous.

Acceleration is strong and the brake pedal feel is good. However, the $495 front and rear anti-lock brake system really is needed for short stops. Only rear anti-lock brakes are standard.

Nicely Designed Cockpit
Occupants sit high in the quiet interior, which has mostly good materials. The front bucket seats are supportive, gauges can be quickly read and the large controls are easily reached. Cupholders can handle big beverage containers.

The third-row seat is not offered for the Sport, but is standard in the SLT, SLT Plus and RT.

The second-row split bench seat flips forward to allow good access to the third-row bench seat. The cargo area is only moderately large with the third seat in its normal position, but second- and third-row seats fold level with the rear load floor for good cargo space.

Rather High Cargo Floor
The cargo opening is wide and low enough to help you avoid strained muscles, although the cargo floor is rather high.

The 5.9 V8 has an old-fashioned pushrod design and works with the 4-speed automatic. Still, compared to the 4.7 overhead-camshaft V8, it has added power and more torque for a higher towing capacity.

While smaller, the 4.7-liter V8 is smoother and loafs at 2200 rpm at 75 mph. But the 5.9-liter V8 is a reasonably priced $595 option for the SLT and SLT Plus if a buyer wants maximum punch.

Fuel Thirsty
Both engines have a healthy appetite for gasoline. The 4.7-liter V8 delivers an estimated 13-14 mpg in the city and 17-19 on the highway. The 5.9 V8 achieves 12 in the city and 16-17 on highways. Rear-drive trims get the slightly higher mileage.

The Durango provides plenty of style, room and power in a conveniently sized package. Hybrid car-based sport-utes are becoming more fashionable, but can't match its ruggedness or off-road prowess.

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BB02 - 8/29/2014 3:18:45 PM