When auto manufacturers try to make a vehicle that can be all things to all people, they usually wind up with a vehicle that a lot of people like a little.
The 2011 Dodge Durango ambitiously tries be a lot of things, but for the most part gets away with it. A lot of people will find a lot to like about Dodge’s redesigned three-row SUV.
If engineers could just manage to squeeze a little more mileage out of the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, this Durango would be one of the finest SUV choices available.
Like many Chrysler and Dodge products for 2011, the Durango is new from the rubber up. It has a smoother, sleeker profile built on the same platform as the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Durango’s cabin was remade by the same design studio that transformed the interior of the Grand Cherokee into an extraordinarily refined environment.
Durango comes in five models: Express, Heat, Crew, R/T and the top-of-the-line Citadel.
The Citadel model we tested had the optional 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI engine that spits out 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque. The standard V-6 produces a very respectable 290 horses and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Mileage ratings, however, are 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway for the V-6. The V-8 manages 14 mpg in the city and 20 on the road.
The Durango is outfitted with a 5-speed automatic transmission, and perhaps a 6-speed would help improve those mileage figures. The Durango is rear-wheel drive, and AWD is available. I averaged just under 16 mpg during my week of mainly city driving in the RWD test Citadel.
However, if I had wanted to tow my 6,000-lb. John Deere 820 behind the Durango, I would have had no trouble; the V-8 Durango delivers 7,400 lbs. of towing capability.
Inside the cabin, gone are most of the cheap hard plastic parts and pieces, replaced by more soft-touch materials in the right places. The roomy interior features a third row of seating. Dodge says that with the second and third rows folded flat, a 6-foot sofa and a coffee table will fit inside. Officially, it’s about 85 cubic feet of cargo and storage space.
Visibility is sufficient, made even more so by a blind-spot warning system that features visible and audible notification that your blind spot is occupied. A button on the dash also allows the driver to fold the third-row headrests down, further enhancing visibility.
A backup camera is integrated into the navigation system. Soft ambient light fills the cabin at night.
Standard comfort and convenience features on the Citadel model include a backup camera with sensor assist, blind spot and rear cross path detection, adaptive cruise control that keeps a set distance behind the car in front, remote start, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row seats, automatic wipers and headlights, dual zone air conditioning with rear controls, a heated steering wheel with controls, Sirius Satellite Radio, the UConnect voice command system with Bluetooth, a 9-speaker sound system, a power sunroof and a power lift gate. It’s an impressive list of features for a base price of $41,795.
A trailer tow package, a rear DVD system and the optional HEMI V-8 boosted the sticker price to $46,825, including destination charges.
With a double wall of soundproofing behind the engine compartment, the Durango is quiet on the road. Durango also feels planted on the road, without excessive body roll found in vehicles of this heft.
The Durango has not yet been safety rated by the government nor the insurance industry, but has a full complement of airbags (including side curtains), as well as stability and traction control systems.