2004 Durango New Car Test Drive
The Durango has been around for a mere five years, but it seems so long. The SUV world has moved so fast. In those short five years the Durango has gone from innovative to dated by its competition. But it has established enduring strengths and character; it's truly rugged and sporty, with distinctive styling that reflects those values.
Now comes the 2004 Dodge Durango, a total rewrite of the Durango book. It's seven inches longer, and the wheelbase, width and height have all grown by three inches, bringing it to a size between the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition. Its skin has been completely restyled, and there are two new engines: a 3.7-liter V6 and a 5.7-liter Hemi V8, in addition to the popular 4.7-liter V8.
The new Durango offers excellent ride and handling, without that unrefined, rough round the edges feel that characterized the previous-generation model. Both the 4.7-liter and 5.7-liter V8s are superb, smooth and powerful. They come with a five-speed automatic that's smooth, refined, smart and responsive. Inside, it's quiet, roomy, comfortable and technologically sophisticated. These descriptions would not have fit last year's model.
The all-new Durango is both more and less of a truck than it was before. More because it's stronger; and less because it simply feels less like a truck than the former Durango, despite its size.
There are three models of Durango: ST, SLT or Limited. All models come with either 2WD or 4WD.
The base ST lists for $26,565 with 2WD and $29,350 with 4WD including destination, a great value considering the content. It's thousands lower than the MSRP of the '03 Durango, which was heavily rebated. For the first time, a V6 is available. The new single-overhead-cam engine displaces 3.7 liters, makes 210 horsepower with 235 pound-feet of torque, and gets 16/21 mpg. The V6 uses a four-speed automatic transmission and can pull a 3700-pound trailer. Standard features on the ST include four-wheel disc brakes with electronic brake distribution, 17-inch steel wheels with on/off-road tires, a single-disc CD player, cloth interior with a 40/20/40 split rear seat, remote keyless entry and a 27-gallon fuel tank. Options include the SOHC 4.7-liter V8 engine that makes 230/290 horsepower and torque, a bigger alternator and battery, traction control, halogen headlamps, heavy-duty shocks and springs, a two-speed transfer case (low and high gears for 4WD), side curtain airbags and a sunroof.
The SLT is distinguished by the third-row seat, a 50/50 fold-flat bench. The SLT can be had with the V6 and 2WD, but the standard engine is the 4.7-liter V8. Optional is the 335-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8 for $895. The engine is new for Durango but has one year under its crank in 2003 Dodge Ram trucks. Both V8 engines use an extremely smooth five-speed automatic transmission.
A 4x4 SLT, the best-selling Durango model, runs $31,590 including destination, a highly competitive price considering all the new engineering (which we'll get to). Standard equipment includes body-colored moldings and fascia, power driver's seat, interior wood trim, rear AC, foglamps and roof rails. Options include leather, heated seats, satellite radio, a hands-free phone system and a DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones.
At $34,900, the Limited throws in the luxury: leather seats, a 384-watt, eight-speaker MP3 sound system with six-disc CD, aluminum wheels, folding power heated mirrors, and a memory system for just about everything you can think of to set, including adjustable pedals. The only thing the driver needs to remember is how to work the memory system.
Unfortunately, neither electronic stability control nor side door airbags are available.