The new Dodge Durango's exterior styling is one of its strongest points. It is cohesive, interesting, different, and very American, and it helps the Durango stand out from the crowded pack of crossovers. The interior is also nicely designed and pretty well executed, but I don't care for the huge, tall dash and the large A-pillars, which are to me just as big and bothersome as the ones in the Ford Explorer. Outward visibility is only OK due to the high front cowl.
Dynamically, the Durango is surprisingly good for such a big, heavy vehicle. I drove 60 mph on a twisty two-lane road that I often use as a test loop, and the Dodge had good body control, nice brake-pedal feel, and accurate steering. I agree with Phil that the Pentastar V-6 provides good performance, and since it manages to achieve only 22 mpg in the highway EPA cycle, I certainly wouldn't want the V-8 (rated at 20 mpg on the highway) if I could get along without it. Although I suppose that if you are truly concerned about fuel economy but still want to haul around your family of seven, you ought to be looking at a Dodge Grand Caravan minivan rather than the Durango; the Grand Caravan is rated at 25 mpg. That said, if you get a rear-wheel-drive Durango, it's rated at 23 mpg. Our test vehicle was an all-wheel-drive model.
The nice thing about the Durango is that it was part of the joint-development program between Chrysler and its former owner, Daimler, wherein the Durango and the Jeep Grand Cherokee got a big engineering assist from the team at Mercedes-Benz, which was also developing the new Mercedes M-class. We recently met Jack Dolan, the Chrysler engineer who is responsible for the development of the 2011 Dodge Durango, and he explained that, with the Durango, "we were freed from having to make it a serious off-roader, like Jeep did with the Grand Cherokee. We were able to concentrate on optimizing its on-road performance." Dolan went on to explain that, although the Durango is based on the same platform as the Jeep, it is ten inches longer overall. Of that ten inches, five inches went into a longer wheelbase, to make room for the third-row seating. Some of the additional length also allowed the engineers to package a full-size spare tire.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor