2001 Durango New Car Test Drive
Dodge Durango is a stylish SUV that has achieved strong sales success thanks to its medium size and all-around utility. It combines the Ram's big-rig looks and serious off-road capability.
Based on the Dakota pickup truck, the Durango is sized between compact sport-utilities such as the (pre-2002) Ford Explorer and oversized competitors such as the Ford Expedition and Chevy Tahoe. It offers more room than the Explorer and can seat six people; yet it's more maneuverable than the Expedition.
With a theater-style seating arrangement that gives rear passengers a view of the road ahead and other interior creature comforts, the Durango is a good choice for large families. It's also a good choice for people who tow boats or other light to medium-sized trailer loads. A big 5.9-liter V8 is available that delivers lots of power, while the standard 4.7-liter V8 and automatic transmission offer decent power and an added measure of refinement.
For 2001, the Durango gets an all-new, more comfortable car-like interior. Dodge is also offering for the first time a performance-tuned R/T version.
Durango is available with two-wheel drive, starting at $26,650, and four-wheel drive, starting at $28,770.
As mentioned, two engines are available: a 4.7-liter V8 and a 5.9-liter V8. The sophisticated 4.7-liter engine was a clean-sheet design for 2000. It uses a modern overhead-cam design, as opposed to the 5.9-liter engine's traditional overhead valve design. Rated at 235 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque, the 4.7-liter engine meets California's low emissions vehicle standards. The 4.7-liter engine 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. The 4.7-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 and 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 by the EPA at 12/17 mpg city/highway.
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.
Four trim levels are available, while a host of packages consolidate popular options. The value-priced Sport model comes standard with a short list of popular options and is distinguished by special badges. SLT trim includes a long list of luxury amenities, starting with leather upholstery. SLT Plus trim includes standard running boards, wheel flares and heated seats.
The new R/T performance model combines the 245-horsepower 5.9-liter V8 with a higher numerical rear axle ratio, a limited-slip rear differential and sport-tuned exhaust to yield quicker off-the line acceleration. Seventeen-inch wheels with 275/60R17 tires and a sport-tuned suspension improve handling, while body-colored wheel flares help set the R/T apart.