2007 Dodge Durango

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2004 Dodge Durango

This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Popular sport-utility vehicle becomes bigger and better in most respects.
Pros:
  • Nicely redesigned
  • Roomier
  • More powerful
Cons:
  • Marginal base engine
  • High step-in
  • Larger size hinders maneuvering in tight spots

DaimlerChrysler's struggling Chrysler group hopes its redesigned 2004 Dodge Durango sport-utility vehicle is an immediate hit because it sorely needs higher sales until its other new vehicles arrive.

The first-generation Durango remained basically unchanged from its 1998 introduction through the 2003 model year. Meanwhile, more modern domestic and foreign sport-utes have lured buyers away from it.

The old Durango was based on the Dodge Dakota pickup truck and was conveniently sized between midsize and full-size sport utes. It offered a third-row seat, which helped attract many young families with children. Some 52 percent of Durango buyers have been women.

With all the new and improved competition, it's difficult to predict the success of the 2004 Durango, says Dave Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan.

A Lot Going for It
However, the new Durango has a lot going for it. The truck resembles its predecessor, but has a more muscular look with bulging curves and no longer is based on the Dakota. It's larger, roomier and more comfortable—thanks partly to stiffer construction with a fully hydro-formed frame and chassis unique to the Durango, which also has a better suspension.

The Durango remains generally sized between midsize and full-size sport utes, although its wheelbase is up 3 inches to 119.2 inches, while overall length has been increased 7.3 inches to 200.8 inches and width is up nearly 5 inches. The new Durango also is slightly higher. All of this allows this truck to be roomier, although its larger size makes it harder to maneuver in tight spots.

Iconic Engine
The Durango offers a modern version of Chrysler's most iconic engine—the potent HEMI V8, which gets its nickname from its power-producing hemispherical combustion chambers.

There's also a new 3.7-liter 210-horsepower V6, but it's generally offered to keep the Durango's base price down and is best suited to in-town use.

Despite improvements, list prices are down several hundred dollars and range from $25,920 to $34,255. Trim levels start with the base ST, then go to the midrange SLT and top-line Limited.

The other engines are a 4.7-liter V8 with 230 horsepower and lots more torque than the V6. The 5.7-liter HEMI kicks out 335 horsepower and enough torque to almost let the Durango climb a wall. This sport utility is rated to tow 8,900 pounds with the HEMI.

Two Drive Systems
All versions of the Durango come with rear-wheel drive or a 4-wheel-drive system that allows rugged off-road driving.

Potential buyers must pay close attention because of the three engines and two drive setups. Here's how it goes: The V6 is standard in the ST and SLT, with the 4.7 V8 a $590 option for both those trim levels. The 4.7 V8 is standard in the Limited or in any Durango with 4-wheel drive because such versions are heavier. Finally, the rip-roaring (and gas-guzzling) HEMI V8 is a $895 option for the SLT and Limited.

The V6 engine comes with a 4-speed automatic transmission, while V8 versions have a superior 5-speed automatic that is more responsive with that extra gear.

Mile-per-gallon figures aren't a strong point of any of the engines because the Durango is heavy, starting at 4,671 pounds. Figure on the mid-teens in the city and high teens on the highway with the V6 and 4.7 V8—and in the low teens in the city and high teens on the highway with the Hemi V8.

Good Roadability
The Durango resembles a large, heavy, conventional sedan when it comes to roadability. Steering is nicely geared and handling is good for a big sport-ute. The ride is comfortable on decent roads, but there's still no question that you're in a truck when roads get a little rough—especially when the Durango is empty. Braking is good, with decent pedal feel.

Traction control is newly optional for $200 for the SLT and Limited, while a rear-seat DVD entertainment system costs $1,150. Adjustable pedals are standard on the Limited and cost $120 for the SLT.

Innovative Third Row Seat
An innovative split-folding third-row seat is standard of the SLT and Limited versions, but isn't offered for the ST trim level. Two adults can fit in that seat, although leg room is tight if they're tall and the seat doesn't provide sufficient thigh support.

In contrast, the first two rows of seats provide plenty of space for tall adults. Outside door handles are large, but a high floor calls for extra effort to get in and out of the quiet, straightforward interior.

Friendly Interior
The new white-faced gauge cluster looks sporty and is easy to read. Controls are within convenient reach, and sound system and climate controls are large enough to easily operate while driving. However, thick windshield pillars occasionally obstruct visibility, especially around corners. Thankfully, outside mirrors are large for good rear visibility.

Back door windows roll all the way down, and there are sturdy twin front cupholders. Second-row cupholders are set too low.

Large Cargo Area
The cargo area is roomy, especially with second- and third-row seatbacks folded forward. There isn't much cargo space when the third-row seat is in its normal position, and the load floor is rather high.

The new Durango should do well despite being in one of the toughest vehicle markets partly because the first-generation model was around a long time and had a good reputation.

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BB03 - 8/21/2014 5:05:29 AM