Dodge's full-size sport utility vehicle was substantially redesigned for 2004. Basic Durango styling cues continued, but the current model is 7 inches longer and more than 3 inches taller than its predecessor.
A V-6 and two Magnum V-8 engines are offered, topped by the famed 5.7-liter Hemi. The Hemi V-8 now features a Multi-Displacement System that suspends half the cylinders when they're not needed, which Dodge says improves gas mileage by up to 20 percent.
For 2006, a new Electronic Stability Program and roll-sensing side curtain-type airbags are available. A power rear liftgate is now standard on the Limited. A three-passenger third-row seat can replace the optional two-place bench, and a remote starter is available.
Dodge promotes the Durango's "broad-shouldered presence," starting with a familiar crosshair grille. Single headlight covers conceal dual lights. The SUV's silhouette features short front and rear overhangs, a dramatically sloped windshield and what Dodge calls "powerful" wheel arches. "Satin silver" tubular side steps go on the Adventurer. Standard 17-inch tires (18-inchers on the Limited) are mounted on aluminum or chrome wheels.
Durangos can hold up to eight occupants when equipped with three rows of seats. A five-passenger configuration is also offered. Cargo volume behind the third row is 19 cubic feet; that space grows to 102.4 cubic feet when both rear seats are folded down. Second-row occupants get reclining seats, and an optional DVD entertainment system is available. Reversible slush mats are included in the Adventurer model, which has a rubberized washable cargo liner. A navigation system is available.
Under the Hood
The base engine is a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6. A 4.7-liter V-8 that produces 230 hp and 290 pounds-feet of torque is optional. Durango buyers can also choose a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that cranks out 335 hp and 370 pounds-feet of torque.
A four-speed-automatic transmission teams with the V-6, but V-8 models work with a five-speed automatic. Durangos come with rear-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive, which has Low-range gearing. Dodge promises up to 8,950 pounds of towing capacity when properly equipped.
All-disc antilock brakes include electronic brake-force distribution. Optional roll-sensing side curtain-type airbags protect passengers in all rows of seats.
Steering is lighter than expected, and a comparatively soft suspension translates to an especially comfortable ride. This SUV can get a little woozy through repeated curves.
Handling is less than ideal, even on the expressway, as the Durango is a little too inclined to edge out of its lane. Suspensions differ among the three engine choices, but not dramatically.
Response from the Hemi V-8 is less vigorous than expected. Automatic-transmission reactions are better with the V-6, which is a little noisier when pushed. The 4.7-liter V-8 might be a good compromise, but flooring the gas too often results in delayed, modest acceleration.
Overall, performance stands tallest in offroad situations. Thick A- and B-pillars obscure the view somewhat. Getting in and out demands quite a climb, but running boards and grab handles help.