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.”

Customers have the option between Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and the larger 5.7-liter V-8 to power their Durango. (Interestingly, Dodge press materials continue to use the Hemi name to describe its V-8, while it recently said it would discontinue the use due to the conception of poor fuel economy.) While Dodge is still mum on output, we suspect similar power figures to the Grand Cherokee: 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque from the V-6, and 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque from the V-8. While the V-6 is rumored to be the fuel economy champ, the larger Hemi features software capable of shutting down half the cylinders during light-load applications, allowing for less consumption. The Durango’s V-6 will be able to tow 6200 pounds, where the more powerful V-8 can handle 7400 pounds. Rear-wheel drive comes as standard equipment, and the sole transmission choice is a five-speed automatic; all-wheel drive is optional with either engine. Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of a hybrid version, as Dodge’s last attempt at a Durango hybrid wasn’t a huge success.

Similar to the Grand Cherokee, the Durango will be loaded with the latest safety equipment and technology. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning are all optional safety equipment. Active head restraints and side curtain airbags for all three rows come as standard equipment. The vehicle pictured is in Citadel trim, which is rumored to sit atop the base Express and midlevel Crew trim levels.

Pricing has yet to be announced, but we expect a two-wheel-drive Express to retail just south of $29,000, including destination. A top-of-the-line, all-wheel-drive Citadel, similar to the one shown here, will likely go for around $44,000. By comparison, a base-level, two-wheel drive Grand Cherokee Laredo starts at $30,995, while the top-end all-wheel Overland retails for $42,690.

The all-new Durango is set to make its first public appearance Labor Day weekend at the Virginia Beach half-marathon as the pace vehicle, accompanied by Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles. Dodge says we can expect to see the new Durango in dealer showrooms sometime in the last quarter of the year, sometime around Thanksgiving.

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16 City / 23 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

NA / 84.5 cu. ft.