Have just traveled almost 1500 miles in our Four Seasons Jeep Grand Cherokee, I felt very comfortable and familiar with the new Dodge Durango. Even though the two cars share much of the same switchgear and underpinnings, they look a lot different, which is a very important element of successful badge engineering. I really like the styling of the new Durango, which reminds me of how slick the original Durango looked when it hit the market in 1998. Chrysler officials aren't saying much about the next Dakota pickup, but I'd love to see it closely follow the styling of this new Durango. It's more likely, though, that the next Dakota will be smaller and less heavy-duty than both the current Dakota and the 2011 Durango, perhaps more along the lines of the Dodge Rampage concept from 2006.
The 2011 Durango drives remarkably well for a vehicle of its size and heft, but I didn't find it to be quite the sports crossover that Dodge would have you think it is. It's quite comfortable, too, although I noticed an excessive amount of wind noise on my country-road, never-more-than-65-mph commute. Space in the third row is ample for me, and access back there is pretty easy and convenient, too. The existence of the third row is the major mechanical difference between the Durango and the Grand Cherokee (as Joe pointed out, the Dodge has a five-inch-longer wheelbase and ten more inches of total length). The V-6 is good, but I was left wanting for some Hemi power, given my heavy foot and the Durango's extra 200-plus pounds when compared with the Grand Cherokee.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor