2009 Durango Hybrid New Car Test Drive
Dodge Durango looks tough but rides smoothly. Big and bulky, it handles like a truck, but it's quiet, roomy, and comfortable, with a host of available technology. Properly equipped, Durango is rated to tow up to 8,950 pounds.
A new hybrid gas-electric powertrain joins the lineup for 2009, allowing a 40-percent improvement in fuel economy in heavy traffic. The Durango Hybrid model is a durable vehicle with strong towing capacity that gets decent fuel economy in commuter traffic.
This second-generation Durango, which first appeared as a 2004 model, fits between the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition in exterior dimensions. It's larger than midsize SUVs, such as the Ford Explorer, and has the room and feel of a full-size SUV, such as the Expedition and Tahoe.
Durango offers seating for five, seven or eight, depending on the model; for example, optional second-row bucket seats provide seven-passenger capacity on a three-row model. With all seats folded, there's more than 100 cubic feet of cargo space. You can slide full-size sheets of plywood in back.
A V6 is standard, but two V8s are available and both are superb. The 4.7-liter V8 is a Flex Fuel engine that can run on gasoline or up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). It's smooth and powerful, but drivers who want or need more can opt for the celebrated 5.7-liter Hemi, which gains 30 horsepower for 2009. Both V8s come with a five-speed automatic transmission that's smooth, refined, and responsive. This transmission includes a Tow/Haul feature we like that holds lower gears longer when towing to reduce gear searching.
The biggest news for 2009 is the addition of a Hybrid model that utilizes the Hemi V8 and two electric motors. Dodge says the Durango Hybrid gets a 25-percent fuel economy boost in combined city and highway driving, and a 40-percent boost in the city.
New for 2009, the available rear DVD entertainment system gains Sirius Backseat TV. Dodge's MyGIG hard-drive radio is now called UConnect GPS in the Durango and its hard-drive grows from 20 to 30 gigabytes. The base SXT model has also been replaced by an SE model and last year's Adventurer model is gone.
The 2009 Dodge Durango is offered in four models: SE, SLT, Limited, and Hybrid. The Hybrid is offered only with all-wheel drive. The others are available with two-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (abbreviated AWD or 4WD). (All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices and do not include destination charges; MSRPs can change at any time without notice.)
The 210-hp 3.7-liter V6 with four-speed automatic transmission comes standard on Durango SE ($27,630) and SLT ($30,765) models. The 303-hp 4.7-liter V8 and five-speed automatic are optional ($1060) for those two-wheel-drive models but come standard on the four-wheel-drive SE and SLT models and on the Limited model. The 365-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and five-speed automatic are optional for SLT 2WD ($1855), SLT 4WD ($990), and Limited 2WD ($795) and Limited 4WD ($990). A two-speed transfer case for low-range gearing comes standard on 5.7-liter 4WD models.
Standard features for SE models include cloth upholstery; air conditioning; front bucket seats; 40/20/40 folding second-row seat; tilt steering wheel; cruise control; power windows, exterior mirrors, and door locks; remote keyless entry; four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo; roof rails; fog lights; and P245/70R17 on-/off-road tires on steel wheels. The SE Technology Group ($380) includes Sirius satellite radio and remote engine starting. A Popular Equipment Group ($2320) includes a two-passenger, folding third-row bench seat; rear heating and air conditioning; gray running boards; heavy-duty alternator and battery; and P265/60R18 on/off-road tires on 18-inch alloy wheels. Also offered is a Towing Package ($455) with a Class IV trailer hitch, four- and seven-pin wiring harness, and a heavy-duty alternator and battery.
SLT models upgrade with stain-resistant seat fabric; leather-wrapped steering wheel; eight-way power driver's seat; reclining second-row seats; two-passenger third-row folding bench seat; six-disc CD changer; Sirius satellite radio; 115-volt outlet; security alarm; automatic headlights; electronic vehicle information center; and P265/60R18 on-/off-road tires on alloy wheels. SLT Technology Group ($1985) includes rear obstacle detection, rearview camera, UConnect Phone wireless cell phone link, upgraded audio with MYGIG Multimedia System, power liftgate, remote engine starting, and a three-passenger 60/40 split-folding third-row bench seat. A Leather Interior Group ($1880) adds leather first- and second-row seats, heated front seats, laminated front and rear door glass, power adjustable pedals, and running boards. Also offered are a sunroof ($850) and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1765) with Sirius Backseat TV.
Limited models are plush, with leather upholstery; automatic climate control; heated front seats; four-way power passenger seat; power-adjustable pedals; heated power mirrors; memory for the driver's seat, mirrors, radio, climate control and pedals; auto-dimming rearview and driver's side mirrors; three-passenger third-row 60/40 split folding seat; Alpine eight-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; rear park assist; rearview camera; Chrysler's UConnect Phone wireless cell phone link; power liftgate; and P265/50R20 on-/off-road tires on chrome alloy wheels. Options for the Limited in addition to those of the lower models include heated second-row bucket seats ($950) and UConnect GPS hard-drive radio with navigation system ($640).
Limited Hybrid ($44,540) also adds a universal garage door opener and UConnect GPS. The Hybrid uses the 5.7-liter V8 mated to an electrically continuously variable transmission (EVCT) with two electric motors. The Hybrid does not have low-range gearing.
Safety features on all models include dual-stage front airbags and head-protecting side-curtain air bags that cover all three seating rows and have roll-over sensors. Side-impact airbags, however, are not available. ABS and electronic stability control with traction control come standard. A tire-pressure monitor comes standard on all models. Rear obstacle detection and a rearview camera are standard on the Limited and Hybrid and we recommend them for their ability to help the driver spot a child behind the vehicle.