2011 Dodge Durango More Than Merely ‘Best Yet’

Images courtesy Chrysler

To say the 2011 Dodge Durango is the best yet is an understatement. Previous versions were a bit overweight and somewhat unrefined so improving the SUV would not take much.

For this makeover Dodge engineers went above and beyond.

Choosing to begin with a clean slate, they tapped an architecture already in the pipeline from the days of corporate partnership with Daimler. The new Durango, as with the latest Grand Cherokee from Jeep, rides on the platform designed for the next Mercedes-Benz M-Class crossovers and boy do they benefit from it.

While retaining rear-wheel drive design the new platform sheds a bulky ladder frame opting for a rigid monocoque body structure for strength and stability. While featuring best-in-class towing (up to 7,400 lbs.) serious rock climbing in Moab may be out of the question, but just how many Durango customers were doing that in the first place?

As we have seen with other manufacturers this year (can you say Ford Explorer), the days of the ruggedly underpinned midsize SUV are over. This new design discipline (along with the upcoming strict fuel economy rules) has forced some to abandon larger powerplants. For Dodge (and Jeep) though, you can still get a HEMI.

Our recent test vehicle came with the new corporate V-6 Pentastar engine that is quickly winning accolades in every application. In the Durango the 3.6-liter DOHC unit produces 290 horsepower and 260 lb. ft. of torque with fuel economy rated at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. It is backed by a five-speed automatic transmission.

As with Ford and GM, Dodge’s new breed of six-cylinder engines are finally capable of competing with the imports. Gone are the days of noise, vibration and harshness in the powertrain and (hopefully) here to stay is a slick, powerful, more fuel-friendly engine that does not conjure buyer remorse every time you stomp the gas pedal.

The new Durango is quiet, smooth, roomy, very stylish and includes an interior owners will no longer be ashamed of. You will want to invite your friends over with this one.

Slip behind the wheel and gratification is almost immediate. Onroad manners are quite impressive especially if you’ve driven a previous generation Durango. While ours was a 2WD rig Dodge does offer the Durango in 4WD form.

For 2011, Dodge offers the Durango in four models: Express, Crew, R/T, and Citadel. Despite being a “base” model, our Express tester was quite impressive. Pricing begins at $29,195 with ours arriving to the tune of just a tick over 30 grand. The new Durango from Dodge is impressive and saying it is the best one yet barely scratches at the surface.

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