2000 Durango New Car Test Drive
Dodge Durango features big-rig looks to back up its off-road capability. The Durango is bigger than the Ford Explorer and other so-called compact sport-utilities, but smaller than Ford Expedition or Chevy Tahoe. It offers more room than the Explorer and can seat six people. Yet it's more maneuverable than the Expedition.
The Durango is a good choice for large families. Its theater-style seating arrangement gives rear passengers a view of the road ahead. The Durango is also a good choice for people who tow boats or other light to medium-sized trailer loads. There's lots of power available from the big 5.9-liter V8, while a new 4.7-liter V8 and automatic transmission combination promise greater refinement. Dodge revised the front suspension and steering system on 4WD Durango models for 2000 in an effort to improve ride quality and responsiveness. And, did we mention styling?.
Two trim levels are available, while a host of packages consolidate popular options. A new value-priced Sport model joins the Durango line for 2000. Distinguished by special badging, it comes standard with a short list of popular options. SLT trim includes a long list of luxury amenities, starting with leather upholstery.
Now in its third model year, the Durango line has been expanded to include three V8 engines: a 5.9-liter V8, a 5.2-liter V8 and, new for 2000, a 4.7-liter V8. Last year's 3.9-liter V6 has been dropped from the lineup.
Dodge created its new 4.7-liter Magnum V8 from a clean sheet of paper. It's far more sophisticated than the other two available engines with a pair of single overhead camshafts (sohc) in place of the more traditional overhead-valve (ohv) design and produces its power more efficiently for its size. Rated at 235 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque, the 4.7-liter engine meets California's low emissions vehicle standards. It was designed and engineered in tandem with an innovative new four-speed automatic transmission that features two second-gear ratios. Engine and transmission talk to each other and choose the optimum ratio based on driver input and load conditions; in other words, it gives you quicker acceleration when you stomp on the throttle, better efficiency when you're taking it easy. This 4.7-liter engine is EPA-rated at 15/19 mpg on 2WD models.
A popular choice is the highly competent 5.2-liter V8, rated at 230 horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque. The 5.2-liter offers more power than the Explorer's optional 5.0-liter V8 or the Expedition's standard 4.6-liter V8, both of which generate 215 horsepower and about 290 foot-pounds of torque.
The big Dodge 5.9-liter Magnum V8 generates 245 horsepower and 335 foot-pounds of torque. That's a bit more robust than the Expedition's optional 5.4-liter V8 (230 horsepower, 325 pound-feet of torque) and compares favorably to the Tahoe's 5.7-liter V8 (255 horsepower, and 330 pound-feet of torque). The Durango should make a better tow vehicle than an Explorer. With the 5.9-liter engine and 3.92 differential, it's capable of pulling a trailer of up to 7,200 pounds. Chevy's Tahoe is rated to pull 7,000 pounds and Ford's Expedition is rated for 8,000 pounds. Fuel economy for the 5.9-liter Dodge V8 is rated at 12/17-mpg city/highway verses 14/19 for the 5.2-liter Dodge V8, and adds $595 to the price.
Two-wheel-drive versions were added for 1999. Four-wheel-drive versions offer a choice of two different transfer cases, a traditional part-time system for serious outdoors people and a full-time system that's better for road use in changing weather conditions. Both transfer cases use a manually operated shift-on-the-fly lever mounted on the floor.