First Drive: 2011 Dodge Durango

After a two year absence, the Dodge Durango is back, and while you may recognize the SUV proportions and crosshair grille, this is a very different vehicle than the truck that bowed out of the market in 2009. Most significantly, the Durango is now a unibody vehicle, rather than the body-on-frame truck it was previously. That has serious implications for the ride comfort, but passengers are just as likely to notice the more comfortable cabin that aims to erase memories of the last five years of Chrysler interiors. Since the 2011 Dodge Durango is an all-new vehicle, there's also fresh engineering or new features in every aspect of the car.

Digging up the Durango
The Durango has some commonality with the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it is substantially larger. The wheelbase is five inches longer while the length is stretched ten inches more than the Grand Cherokee. It is also marginally taller and wider.

The new truck's shape looks like a natural evolution of the original Durango, consciously avoiding the blunt and chunky sculpting of the second-generation model that sold from 2004 to 2009. The hood replicates contours from the 1998 Durango and the same clean character lines appear low on the doors and high over the rear wheels, while new lower fascias and bigger wheels lend the Durango a sportier, contemporary stance. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard, but there are three different 20-inch designs for three different trim levels.

Nicer interiors, outdated technology
Building on the Chrysler Group's commitment to improve its interiors to competitive levels, from the dismal quality of the recent past, the Durango's cockpit is marked by tasteful materials, solid construction, and attractive appearance. Exceptionally soft armrests, supportive seats, and good visibility keep driver and passengers comfortable. Unfortunately, the Durango doesn't receive Dodge's new navigation system because the vehicle uses an older electrical architecture. All models, save for the entry-level Express, use the familiar Chrysler 6.5-inch touch screen head unit flanked on either side by a handful of hard buttons. While the interface is functional, it certainly looks and feels older than the better integrated systems offered by the competition.

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Overweight for a unibody, I own the same transmission in my Dodge product & know of the lack of downshifting issues, oooo 16/23 with the V6 so it's what 17-18MPG average, pathetic. Old school Chrysler electronics, doesn't surprize me one bit.

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