Dodge's new-for-2004 Durango Limited is 7" longer and 3" taller than previous editions, and so delivers a more comfortable third row, a better view from the front bucket seats, and more than 100 cubic feet of cargo room when the rear seats are folded. Plus its 5.7-liter hemi Magnum V-8 engine cranks out 330 hp.
We tested the new Durango with a 2,500-pound runabout-and-trailer rig attached. The significantly stiffer frame and new coil-spring rear axle deliver a vastly improved ride. This 5,180-pound bruiser has excellent directional stability, and the 37.5' turning radius is great for coaxing long trailers into tight confines. Accelerating to cruising speeds takes 15.8 seconds with the boat and trailer and a grab-your-hat 7.8 seconds bareback. There's plenty of braking capacity thanks to rotors and calipers borrowed from Dodge's full-size Ram pickup ("Hardly Sheepish," May 2003). ABS is standard equipment, so halting the 7,680-pound rig from 60 mph is accomplished in 209'.
Although the Durango rides on a standard four-by-two chassis, there's ample traction at the ramp to haul a boat. But opt for the $200 traction control system; it maintains footing by automatically tapping the rear brakes when the SUV is on the verge of losing grip. You could spend an extra $2,290 for a four-by-four setup, but it's not necessary.
Complaints? Even though there's more cargo room, the rear doesn't have optimal space efficiency because Dodge kept the old-fashioned rigid rear axle instead of adopting the more sophisticated-and more costly-independent rear suspension. The small side windows and thick roof pillars cast shadows over the otherwise delightful interior.
The rear doors open wide for easy access to middle and rear seats. The seating arrangement is flexible: The three-person middle row folds forward with a single-lever release and the split rear row can be folded in sections. If you want to remove the benches entirely, you'll need a wrench because these seats are bolted to the floor.
|Model: Dodge Durango Limited|
|Engine||4.7-liter DOHC V-85.7-liter OHV V-8|
|Net torque (ft-lb/rpm)||370/4200|
|Suspension - Front||control arms, torsion bars|
|Suspension - Rear||beam axle, leaf springsbeam axle, coil springs|
|Brakes (front/rear)||disc/disc, standard ABS|
|Tires||Goodyear Wrangler SR-A, 265/65SR-17|
|Curb weight (lbs.)||5,180|
|Towing capacity (lbs., max.)||8,900|
|Cargo capacity (max. cu. ft.)||101|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||27|
|0-60 mph acceleration (w/o, w/2,500-lb. towed load, sec.)||7.8/15.8|
|60-0 mph stopping distance (w/o, w/2,500-lb.towed load, ft.)||144/209|
|Observed towing fuel economy (avg. mpg)||11|
|Price (as tested)||$32,610|
Last Word. The Dodge Durango Limited's broad shoulders and HEMI hp will woo new followers.