Review: 2005 Dodge Durango

The Manufacturer

Boasting an exceptionally crashworthy structure, the Durango earned five stars for both the driver and the front-seat passenger in NHTSA frontal crash testing. The government rollover test awarded the 2WD model three stars and the 4WD model four stars. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard on all Durango models, and side-curtain airbags for all three rows are optional on all models. Electronic stability control is unavailable.

Shared with the much smaller Jeep Liberty, a 3.7-liter SOHC V-6 is standard on rear-wheel-drive ST and SLT models. Matched to a four-speed automatic transmission, the six-cylinder engine produces 210 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque--not much, considering the 4,800 pounds it's asked to set in motion. Optional on rear-drive Durangos and standard on all four-wheel-drive models is a 4.7-liter SOHC V-8 that also sees duty in the Dodge Ram and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Delivering 230 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, the 4.7L is better equipped for the challenge of motivating the Durango, though it's still unlikely to set hearts aflutter. For that, opt for the much-lauded 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Available on rear- or four-wheel-drive Durangos, the Hemi thumps out 335 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque, giving the Durango enough grunt to tow up to 8,950 pounds. Both V-8s are matched to an excellent five-speed automatic transmission that features an alternate "kick-down" second-gear ratio for passing traffic, particularly tough trailering situations, and steep-grade ascents. The basic four-wheel-drive setup features a single-speed transfer case, perfectly suitable for inclement weather and most rough roads. Those with serious off-road ambitions, however, would be better served by the optional full-time, shift-on-the-fly 4WD setup, which features selectable low range and a locking center differential.

Like the big Ram, the Durango does its best to mask its yachtlike enormity with reasonably precise, convincingly carlike rack-and-pinion steering. Any urgent braking, accelerating, or changing of direction, however, provokes pronounced dive, pitch, and/or roll--no surprise, considering the Durango's high center of gravity and prodigious mass, but it's generally no worse than other body-on-frame sport-utilities in this class. On the open road, an independent front suspension and a solid-axle rear-end with Watts linkage nicely split the difference between truck-style brutishness and sedan-style civility. Venture off-road, and these suspension attributes provide a reasonably compliant ride, though a modest 7.9-inch ground clearance falls short of some competitors'.

The V-6-powered Durango is best avoided; its marginally better fuel efficiency is quickly outweighed by its general underhood inadequacy. The 4.7-liter V-8 is a worthwhile upgrade--a good deal more Durango-ready and just right for drivers who intend to use their SUV for commuting/shopping/people-moving as well as some light-duty towing and hauling. Serious users, however, should keep moving: The Hemi-powered Durango is the one for hard-core haulers. It's decidedly quicker off the line and far more willing to transport everything plus the kitchen sink than its lesser brethren.

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles