First Look: 2011 Dodge Durango

The Durango has been a staple in Dodge's lineup since it debuted nearly twelve years ago, but realizing a shift in the market, Dodge has seen fit to completely overhaul its full-size SUV for 2011. After a year's absence from the lineup, the SUV has undergone an array of changes including a complete overhaul in looks, and is now based on a unibody frame that it shares with Jeep's new 2011 Grand Cherokee.

Sharing corporate styling cues with the Charger sedan, as well as the redesigned 2011 Grand Cherokee, the Durango has a more refined appearance than in the past; with a steeply raked windshield and shapelier body, the new model conveys a much more luxurious presence than the outgoing Durango. The introduction of the new Durango marks the first widespread appearance of the new logo, as Dodge's ram's-head logo was allocated to the Ram brand.

Dodge touts a much-improved interior, with better materials offering an overall enhanced experience. Where previous models featured hard plastics, Dodge claims all interior surfaces have been updated, and that thoughtful touches will make owners and their crews want to jump in, hunker down and thoroughly enjoy even the longest drive." We'll be the judge of that once we see one in the sheet metal. Seating configurations are limited to no less than 22 possible arrangements, taking a page from the Grand Caravan's versatility playbook.

Sitting atop the same architecture as the 2011 Grand Cherokee, the Durango's platform has been stretched to accommodate a longer wheelbase and a third row of seating. Unlike the Jeep's five-passenger seating arrangement, the Durango offers room for seven; the previous model had the option for either seven or eight passengers. The previous two Durangos have been based upon a truck-derived body-on-frame structure, but the new generation is based on a car-like unibody that shares roots with the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class. Dodge assures us though that the vehicle has been stiffened so that it "delivers premium driving performance combined with SUV capability and crossover versatility."

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Interesting that Dodge moved the Durango to a unibody platform but retained rear-wheel drive, towing capacity, and a V8, while Ford turned the Explorer into a car with a high ground clearance, weak towing capacity, and no V8. The Durango also looks like a real SUV (and much better than either of its previous versions). Looks like Ford has made a huge mistake.
Very, very good looking vehicle. If it lives up to its potential, Dodge will have a winner on its hands and hopefully so. I eagerly await an opportunity to test drive both v6 and v8.

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