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Dodge Durango Launches In Anger

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On: Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 3:39PM | By: John Welch

Dodge Durango Launches In Anger

Chrysler has always had trouble unloading SUVs that don't carry "Jeep" badges. Remember the Ram Charger? Chevy sold five C/K Blazers for every Ram Charger. Ford sold seven Broncos for each Ram Charger. Yikes, not good! The numbers get worse for the Durango. The Ford Explorer absolutely trounced the Durango in every calculable sales statistic during the nineties and early 2000s.

Dodge is rebooting and revamping its mid-size contender for 2011, and just like its Jeep cousin, the Grand Cherokee, the Durango is completely new. In many ways, this Dodge represents the first in a string of new products designed to shed the Ram brand's poor reputation for out-dated styling and technology. You can't glean too much from pictures and descriptions, but on paper this well balanced ute might be a winner. It looks pretty good as well.

Slab sided, proportional body panels converge on muscular headlights and a complicated chrome grille. This grille, I'm sure, can be ordered in flat-black. It marks the first time I have been taken aback by a Chrysler design that wasn't packing ten cylinders. The Durango is attractive in the way Gina Gershon is attractive; rough around the edges but still a solid knock-out. Some of that appeal may come from Gina's ability to knock you out, and that trait may also extend to the Durango. This is an impressive machine, on the outside. Like any good Corvette, the worst part about Chrysler products is their cheapo, Little Tykes interiors . . . how does the Durango look from the driver’s seat?

Uhm, well . . . we know the steering wheel is nice . . .? There isn't exactly a wealth of Durango interior shots available just yet; spy photos indicate a much improved but somewhat unfinished cabin. Materials look richer, door and dash shapes are more organic. All Dodge is willing to give away is a boring close up of the steering wheel.

The jury is still out on that one. If the initial exterior improvement reflects on the inside, the Durango should be worth mid-size SUV dough, something it hasn't always been. Dodge gets all warm and gooey in their description of the Durango’s people-hole:

"The Durango’s all-new interior is a surprise owners always deserved but never expected. Created by the same interior design studio that designed the much-lauded interior in the Ram trucks and the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango’s luxurious interior materials and thoughtful touches will make owners and their crews want to jump in, hunker down and thoroughly enjoy even the longest drive. Everywhere they touch, Durango passengers will feel materials that are refined and soft to the touch. Not only is it a pleasure to behold, it is extremely functional and gives owners a first-class experience, regardless of the trim level. Durango’s interior is also extremely comfortable for all three rows of passengers, and there’s a surprising amount of interior flexibility. With 22 different seating configurations, there’s plenty of room to store and move plenty of people and their gear." - Chrysler Media.

Well, they sure like it, and I dig the mini-van type cargo and seating flexibility, but I'm getting bored. Nothing cures boredom like horsepower. Unfortunately, Dodge doesn't want to divulge that information either. Just so ya know, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes equipped with the 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar motor, producing 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The Grand Cherokee can also be ordered with a 5.7-liter Hemitized V8, making a meaty 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. My guess is the Durango will get the same engines, albeit with a little less grunt. Possibly the reason Chrysler Execs are so tight lipped about the Dodge's spec sheet. The V8 Jeep turns in a dismal 14 mpg city, an unacceptable number for its more pedestrian sister, the Durango.

The Durango's mystery-cabin is crammed with an array of systems to keep you and your family safe while traversing the wilds of American roadways. There are 45 safety and security features in every Durango. In an accident there are air bags being barfed at passengers in all three rows, standard, as well as front seat-mounted side air bags, also standard. Newly designed active head restraints and stability control come with every Durango, while Forward Collision Warning, Rear Cross Path detection, Keyless Enter-n’ Go, Blind-spot Monitoring, and Adaptive Cruise Control are all available options. Thats impressive for a company that has just gone from hedge-fund ownership to Italian car maker ownership! . . . I jest, I jest. Rounding out the Durango's known virtues, this burley SUV is capable of 500 miles on one tank. A really big tank, I'm sure, but who worries about fuel efficiency when those kiddies are sleeping so soundly. For the first time since Cincinnati. You don't wanna rock that boat, mister . . .

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