2004 Dodge Durango
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2009.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
The 2004 Dodge Durango sport-utility vehicle isn't quite as large as a full-size Ford Expedition or a Chevrolet Tahoe, but it can tow as much as an Expedition and can haul nearly as much stuff as a Tahoe.
In sort of a Goldilocks story, this much-larger-than-midsize-but-smaller than large-SUV grows even more powerful and larger for the 2004 model year.
It also adds a V6 for the first time, resulting in a new, low starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of just under $26,000. This is some $2,000 less than the base 2003 Durango.
Mated to a standard 4-speed automatic, the 3.7-liter single overhead cam V6 generates 210 horses and 235 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm in the new Durango.
That thing got a HEMI?
The V6 helps provide a lower entry point for shoppers, but Dodge officials expect only about 15 percent of Durango buyers to get the V6.
The real interest lies in the HEMI Magnum 5.7-liter V8 that is expected to go into nearly half of all Durangos sold. Touted in television ads, the HEMI is capable of 335 horsepower and 370 lb-ft at 4200 rpm, giving the Durango real attitude.
Pressing even lightly on the accelerator of the test Durango with the HEMI engine, I heard the deep growl of the engine. Quickly, though not instantaneously, I felt the SUV begin to rush forward. And then, finally, in a noisy, gusty way, the big Durango would zip into the open spot in traffic that I was aimed for. Whew.
Fuel economy is poor. In city driving, I averaged a meager 13.8 miles a gallon, which is close to the 14 mpg that the federal government estimates as the Durango city rating. Highway rating is 19 mpg.
The HEMI is an approximately $1,500 option on upper level models that are priced over $30,000.
The third powerplant offered for the '04 Durango is a 230-horsepower 4.7-liter single overhead cam Magnum V8 with 290 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm.
The old Durango, which debuted in 1998, rode on the same platform as the Dodge Dakota pickup truck. So, the ride was truckish and rather bouncy.
Engineers this time were given the OK to design and construct a platform for an SUV, and they focused on improving the ride. It's evident as the new Durango, with new boxed-rail frame, doesn't shudder and bounce as much as its predecessor, though in the test vehicle, I still felt a good amount of road bumps and there was body sway, even in slow speed curves.
Front suspension uses upper and lower "A" arms. But the rear suspension is where the real updates are as the Durango's rear live axle now is tied to trailing arms and a Watt's linkage for improved control.
Note that despite the updates, the test Durango did not provide as refined a ride as I've found in some SUVs with independent rear suspensions, such as the Expedition. And the Durango still doesn't offer stability control, an electronic device on many other SUVs that's designed to help a driver maintain control.
Dodge officials claim virtually every piece of sheet metal on the new Durango is different from the previous Durango. Yet, consumers readily recognize this new vehicle as a Durango, because, frankly, no other SUV on the road looks like it. In fact, no one bothered to give me a second look when I was in the new Durango.
Still, just that everything in the new model seems to be bigger. For example, the hood on the test Durango Limited, which wore 17-inch tires, was at chest level for someone my size, 5 feet 4 inches. The door handles were at chest height, too. At the rear, the cargo floor was at waist height.
Overall, the new Durango is about 7 inches longer, 3 inches taller and 2 inches wider than the previous Durango. Note, however, that the Durango's 200.8-inch length, bumper to bumper, still is shorter than the Expedition's 205.8 inches.
The Durango's 76-inch width is less than the 78.9 inches of the Tahoe and 78.7 inches of the Expedition. And the Durango's 74.3-inch height is less than the Tahoe's and Expedition's.
Still, it's a big step up to get inside the Durango. Thank goodness there were running boards on the test vehicle. They're an option costing more than $400.
As you'd expect, there are good views out for all riders. There's an immediate feeling of roominess in the front seats, with a good-sized center console between. Silver-colored trim on the dashboard gives a clean appearance.
All of the seven seats in the test Limited model were rather flat, so I slid some on the standard leather seats during aggressive driving.
I like how wide the rear door entryways are. The lever to fold up and flip forward the second-row seats to provide entry to the third row is large and easy to use.
Adults in the rear, two-person seat are forced to sit with knees up, because the seat sits close to the floor. There's also a slope to the floor at the front of the seat, meaning feet can't be comfortably flat unless they're a ways away from the seat.
There's a good 20.1 cubic feet of storage space behind the third row seat vs. 20.6 cubic feet in the Expedition and 16.3 cubic feet in the Tahoe.
With the second and third row seats folded, there's a whole 102.4 cubic feet. This compares with 110.5 cubic feet in the Expedition and 104.6 in the Tahoe.
Towing capacity for the Durango is a maximum 8,950 pounds, which is the maximum for an Expedition, too.
Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating—the total of vehicle, passengers and cargo—is 6,600 pounds, which is less than the Expedition's 7,300 pounds but not far from the 6,800-pound maximum for a Tahoe.
The 2004 model is the first Durango to offer side curtain airbags. Designed to provide passenger protection for all rows of seats during a rollover, they are a nearly $500 option.