Road Test - 2004 Dodge Durango 4WD Limited

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jan 23, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    The reeducation of the Durango results in a truck that is less crude in its truckiness.

    [​IMG]

    BY DANIEL PUND
    February 2004

    Sixty-three percent of the sport-utility vehicles for sale in 1998 had rigid rear axles, and 35 percent of those used old-school leaf springs—including the 800-pound gorilla of SUV sales, the Ford Explorer. So it is only in retrospect that the original Dodge Durango, introduced that same year, seems especially crude. Didn't seem as though many customers much cared at the time that Dodge's entry was based on a pickup's ladder frame, with a rigid rear axle using leaf springs, recirculating-ball steering, and a line of outdated engines more adept at shotgunning gallons of gas than making horsepower.

    So powerful was the appeal of sport-utes, and so new and aggressive was the Durango's look, that people wanted to like it. While we were behind the wheel, folks at gas stations would run up to us and blurt, “Oh, that's cool. How do you like it?” When we'd reply, “Well, it's a bit crude,” they'd ignore us and say, “Man, it's cool.” They liked it enough to buy more than 150,000 of them that year.

    By 1998, we were just starting to get a glimpse of the sophisticated new independently suspended unibody crossovers that were on the horizon. By 2004, only 45 percent of SUVs used rigid axles, and a mere 12 percent of those used leaf springs. See the writing on that wall? Dodge did.

    Within two years of its introduction, the company started refining the Durango. A new, more powerful V-8 pinched from Jeep arrived for 2000. Over the years Dodge added rack-and-pinion steering for all Durangos, seemingly continuous interior improvements, and, eventually, rear disc brakes. Still, Durango sales were down by 30 percent in 2002 compared with 1998.

    Even at first glance, the 2004 Durango is obviously something altogether new. Although it has grown between two and seven inches in all the four basic dimensions, this new vehicle is more precise-looking—dare we say svelte? Its fuselage is barrel-shaped in contrast to the brawny box of old. The steeply raked windshield adds a curiously minivanlike touch. Very out of step with the basic truck feel of the first Durango.

    The more sophisticated look disguises the bulk of the new Durango—now nearly the size of a Chevy Tahoe or Ford Expedition. It can't be considered the in-betweener that the original truck was. It is jumbo.

    When using the Durango for the purpose it was apparently intended—carrying mass quantities of humanity—this extra space comes in handy. Our tester came with the optional split-folding third-row seat ($150), so we packed it to capacity for a three-mile drive to the Lebanese restaurant up the street.

    We were all quite happy, even the two passengers in the plenty-roomy third row. Our experience was marred only by the Brit in seat 2A who asked each passenger entering through the wide-opening rear door, “Tickets, please.” Oh, hardy-har-har. Well it’s not our fault he chose to grow up on an island driving Morris Minors and describing cups of tea as “lovely.” He can make whatever public-transportation jokes he’d like, but in Durango, Colorado, men are men and only a ninny would take a bus (or any form of public transport). No, real Durangoans drive their own trucks to the wild and lawless art shops and latte houses downtown.

    With seven of us aboard, the Durango was carrying about 1060 pounds—still 460 pounds less than its maximum rating.

    If you choose to carry only one passenger, you can cram 102 cubic feet of cargo into a Durango with the seats folded down. That’s 12 more cubes than in the Honda Pilot, about 20 more than in the Ford Explorer or Chevy TrailBlazer, and within spittin’ distance of the Expedition and Tahoe.

    Most SUV buyers these days expect their truck interiors to be the equal of a car’s, and this one looks nice. No more clumsy curves and bargain plastics. There’s a tasteful, rectilinear look, with swank satin-finish trim in our Limited tester. The front seats are well bolstered and comfy. The automatic climate control works perfectly. And the Durango is quieter under all circumstances than before. Our only cabin complaint is that the seats are mounted so high that six-footers are tight on headroom.

    [​IMG]

    If all of this leads you to believe that Dodge has sissified the Durango, you’ll (possibly) be pleased to know that it’s still a “real SUV,” according to the company. Take a gander under the rear and the familiar rigid axle will be there, although now it has coil springs and a Watt’s linkage to control lateral motion. You’ll notice there’s a low-range transfer case, too. But instead of an old, truck-style lever control, there’s a rotary knob just to the right of the steering wheel from which you may choose four low, four high, and all-wheel drive. It’s about refinement of the basic SUV concept.

    And Dodge won’t stop talking about how it has really worked on the refinement for the new truck, especially on ride quality. And that work has been largely successful. The ride has none of the harsh clomping that annoyed in the original truck. In its place is a soft and mushy setting. If you’re coming from years of driving a reasonably competent car, you’ll find the big, slow undulating body motions disconcerting. If, however, you come from the world of trucks—and an increasing number of you do—you’ll likely appreciate the Durango’s ability to smother the unpleasant bits of the road.

    Driven back-to-back with the new generation of independently suspended unibody crossover utes, such as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, the Durango feels slow-witted. The steering is decidedly less carlike than in the new-style trucks because of the large inputs it takes to achieve your desired degree of turning. At 18.9:1, the steering ratio is considerably slower than the outgoing four-wheel-drive model’s 16.1:1. Combine the suspension and steering attributes, and you have a vehicle that will motor down the interstate in a happy momentum-mosey and not bother its driver with bump steer, clomping, or much of anything really. The Durango has the time-honored relaxed feel of an old-school big sedan. Nothing wrong with that. It just drives big, that’s all.

    [​IMG]

    Oh, sure, you’ll want to brake and turn—this is now expected of SUVs—and the Durango does both reasonably well. It now sports the four-wheel disc brakes and standard four-wheel ABS that most of its competitors have. And the brakes are quite large—13.2-inch rotors up front and 13.9 rear. Our hefty 5464-pound, Hemi V-8– powered, pimped-out Limited model stopped from 70 mph in 205 feet with light brake fade over four emergency stops. That’s eight fewer feet than the last Durango we tested, the lighter R/T model, which wore wide performance tires. So it’s an improvement, especially since the disc and drum brakes of the 2000 R/T we tested faded heavily over the same number of stops. But 205 feet is between five and 10 feet longer than the stopping performance of most of its mid- and full-size competitors.

    There’s just no way around the fact that the Durango is a large haunch of hog. It’s 538 pounds heavier than that R/T. But at about 100 pounds lighter than a Tahoe and more than 300 pounds lighter than the Expedition, the Durango is within the expected body-mass index for a jumbo ute. The prodigious weight gain and the soft suspension explain why the new Durango is no faster around the skidpad than the old base model. At 0.67 g, it has about the same stick as a Tahoe (0.68), a little less than the Expedition (0.70), but quite a lot less than new-wave utes such as the Honda Pilot (0.74) and Mitsubishi Endeavor (0.79).

    The Durango is honest about its capabilities, though. Enter a corner a little quickly, and it will let you know with a fair amount of body roll that it never encouraged that sort of juvenile behavior. It will not, however, surprise you with any heaving motion, twitchiness, or dynamic histrionics of any sort. Also, you can’t tow 8950 pounds with that bitty Pilot like you can with the two-wheel-drive Hemi-powered Durango. Our all-wheel-drive tester could manage a still-impressive 8700 pounds. In fact, the Durango pulls with the best of them, bettering the Chevy Tahoe and matching the Ford Expedition.

    This is due mostly to the 5.7-liter Hemi pushrod V-8, which pumps out more horsepower and torque than any of its main competitors. That’s 335 horsepower at 5400 rpm and 370 pound-feet of torque at 4200 rpm, to be exact. Even as an $895 option on Limited models (and $1485 on the lower-priced SLTs), we wholeheartedly recommend this motor. Pushing its power through the quasi-six-speed automatic transmission (it has two different ratios for second gear, depending on whether you’re calling for an upshift or downshift), our Durango sprinted to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds at 86 mph. That’s quicker than all its major competitors. Hell, the Porsche Cayenne S is only 0.2 second quicker to 60 mph. You could get the smooth 230-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 or the base 210-hp, 3.7-liter V-6. But you know you should get the Hemi, right?

    At a grand total of $40,705, this size and refinement don’t come cheap. But our Limited model was loaded with a rear-seat video system ($1150), a sunroof ($800), the towing package ($455), and other options. With three engines, three drivetrain configurations, and three trim levels, base prices range between $26,565 and $34,900. That’s competitive in the modern world of SUVs, no matter which competitive set you define, large or mid-size. Turns out, prices haven’t changed much since 1998—when a base Durango was $26,335—but mechanical sophistication and drivability sure have.

    -----

    THE VERDICT

    [​IMG]

    Highs: Can tow very heavy things, Hemi power, cushy ride, refined interior. Ain’t no sissy crossover, either.

    Lows: It is a very heavy thing, plus you may need to make six new friends to get your money’s worth. Cushy handling. We kinda like sissy crossovers.

    The Verdict: Big-truck capabilities without some of the big-truck sins.

    -----

    COUNTERPOINT

    FRANK MARKUS I’m no fan of jumbo utes, so I applaud Dodge for packaging jumbo capability in a tidier and more maneuverable package than that of a Suburban or Expedition. I can sit comfortably in each of the Durango’s seven seats or, with the back rows folded flat, carry 102 cubic feet of life’s flotsam inside while towing 8700 pounds of jetsam out back. That’s two-plus tons over the towing limit of the Honda Pilot, my other favorite not-quite-jumbo ute. The ride and handling are a tad truckier than the Pilot’s but way better than the old Durango’s. The striking styling and upscale interior would surely cinch the deal for me if I had anywhere near 8700 pounds of jetsam to lug around.

    TONY SWAN Dodge has finally come out of the mid-size-SUV closet and acknowledged the Durango for what it’s been all along: BIG. It would be pretty hard to pretend otherwise, since the new version is about the same size as a Chevy Tahoe, and at least as substantial at the scales. Some will view the increased size as a plus. There’s more room within, and the appeal of the butch styling doesn’t erode as a result of expansion. But in my view, there is only one redeeming element here. With the 5.7 Hemi V-8 and two-wheel drive, the Durango can tow up to 8950 pounds. That’s a hefty load, and since towing is the only plausible excuse for big SUVs, it gives the Durango a stronger raison d’être than in years past.

    CSABA CSERE With the retention of the separate frame and live rear axle in the new Durango, I wasn’t expecting any quantum leaps forward. Boy, was I wrong. The ’04 Durango is without question the tightest, most-rigid-feeling body-on-frame truck I have ever driven. Such stoutness helps the suspension deliver a supple ride, excellent stability, and as much responsiveness as you can expect from a 5400-plus-pound vehicle. Inside, the Durango’s interior finish displays a combination of style and quality unmatched at its price. And despite the live axle, third-row seating space is quite good. Large-SUV buyers would do well to check out this radically improved machine.

    -----

    C/D TEST RESULTS

    ACCELERATION Seconds
    Zero to 30 mph 2.5
    40 mph 3.7
    50 mph 5.5
    60 mph 7.5
    70 mph 9.7
    80 mph 13.0
    90 mph 17.4
    100 mph 22.4
    110 mph 29.0
    Street start, 5–60 mph 8.1
    Top-gear acceleration, 30–50 mph 4.7
    50–70 mph 5.2
    Standing 1/4-mile 15.8 sec @ 86 mph
    Top speed (governor limited) 112 mph


    BRAKING
    70–0 mph @ impending lockup 205 ft

    HANDLING
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad 0.67 g

    FUEL ECONOMY
    EPA city driving 13 mpg
    EPA highway driving 18 mpg
    C/D-observed 14 mpg

    INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
    Idle 44 dBA
    Full-throttle acceleration 75 dBA
    70-mph cruising 68 dBA

    DODGE DURANGO 4WD LIMITED

    Vehicle type: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 5-door wagon

    Price as tested: $40,705

    Price and option breakdown: base Dodge Durango 4WD Limited (includes $645 freight), $34,900; rear-seat video system, $1150; 5.7-liter V-8 engine, $895; power sunroof, $800; driver and passenger side and curtain airbags, $495; Trailer Tow Group (includes hitch, wiring harness, and transmission-oil cooler), $455; running boards, $445; Sirius satellite radio, $325; traction control, $300; heated front seats, $250; electronically shifted two-speed transfer case, $195; skid plates, $170; third-row seat, $150; Goodyear Wrangler tires, $135; 3.92:1 rear-axle ratio, $40

    Major standard accessories: power windows, seats, and locks; remote locking; A/C; cruise control; tilting steering wheel; rear defroster and wiper

    Sound system: Dodge AM/FM/satellite radio/CD changer, 9 speakers

    ENGINE
    Type V-8, iron block and aluminum heads
    Bore x stroke 3.92 x 3.58 in, 99.5 x 90.9mm
    Displacement 345 cu in, 5654cc
    Compression ratio 9.6:1
    Fuel-delivery system port injection
    Valve gear pushrods, 2 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
    Power (SAE net) 335 bhp @ 5400 rpm
    Torque (SAE net) 370 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
    Redline 5800 rpm


    DRIVETRAIN
    Transmission 6-speed automatic
    Final-drive ratio 3.92:1
    4-wheel-drive system full-time, 2-speed with a manually locking center differential and open front and rear differentials with brake-based traction control
    Transfer-gear ratios (low/high) 2.72:1/1.00:1
    Gear Ratio Mph/1000 rpm (L/H) Max test speed (L/H)
    I 3.00 2.7/7.5 16/43 mph (5800/5800 rpm)
    II 1.67* 4.9/13.4 29/78 mph (5800/5800 rpm)
    III 1.50* 5.5/14.9 32/87 mph (5800/5800 rpm)
    IV 1.00 8.2/22.4 48/112 mph (5800/5000 rpm)
    V 0.75 11.0/29.8 64/112 mph (5800/3750 rpm)
    VI 0.67 12.3/33.4 71/112 mph (5800/3350 rpm)
    *The 1.67:1 ratio is used for upshifts, and the 1.50:1 for kickdowns.

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase 119.2 in
    Track, front/rear 64.4/64.5 in
    Length/width/height 200.8/76.0/74.3 in
    Ground clearance 7.9 in
    Drag area, Cd (0.39) x frontal area (35.0 sq ft, est) 13.7 sq ft
    Curb weight 5464 lb
    Weight distribution, F/R 54.0/46.0%

    Curb weight per horsepower 16.3 lb
    Fuel capacity 27.0 gal

    CHASSIS/BODY
    Type full-length frame
    Body material welded steel stampings

    INTERIOR
    SAE volume, front seat 58 cu ft
    middle seat 51 cu ft
    rear seat 44 cu ft
    cargo, seats up/down 20/102 cu ft
    Practical cargo room, length of pipe 122.5 in
    largest sheet of plywood 48.0 x 78.0 in
    no. of 10 x 10 x 16-in boxes,
    seats up/down 8/46
    Front-seat adjustments fore-and-aft, seatback angle, front height, rear height, lumbar support
    Restraint systems, front manual 3-point belts; driver and passenger front, side, and curtain airbags
    rear manual 3-point belts,
    curtain airbags

    SUSPENSION
    Front ind, unequal-length control arms, torsion bars, anti-roll bar
    Rear rigid axle located by 4 trailing links and a Watt’s linkage, coil springs, anti-roll bar

    STEERING
    Type rack-and-pinion with power assist
    Steering ratio 13.2–18.9:1
    Turns lock-to-lock .3.4
    Turning circle curb-to-curb 37.5 ft

    BRAKES
    Type hydraulic with vacuum power assist and anti-lock control
    Front 13.2 x 1.1-in vented disc
    Rear 13.9 x 0.9-in disc

    WHEELS AND TIRES
    Wheel size/type 8.0 x 17 in/cast aluminum
    Tires Goodyear Wrangler SR-A, P265/65SR-17
    Test inflation pressures, F/R 32/30 psi
    Spare full size on steel wheel

    [​IMG]
     
  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    Another domestic with a nice interior.
     
  3. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    IBNissanisbetter
     
  5. Wizard of Poz

    Wizard of Poz New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2003
    Messages:
    29,361
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    climbin thru yo windoz
    looks like a van truck and suv all mixed into one.



    Pros: hemi

    haha
     
  6. ReMiXTiDuS

    ReMiXTiDuS Guest

    Id Buy It..
     
  7. BitchAss

    BitchAss Let's drop bombs... OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2002
    Messages:
    2,958
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    S. FL
    THAT THANG GOT AH HEMI!?!?!?!? lc

    they're milkin the shit out of that hemi crap
     
  8. Dr_Trac

    Dr_Trac doh!@

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2002
    Messages:
    96,903
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Dallas
    not worth $40K, ugly as sin.
     
  9. iZero

    iZero Guest

    It has considerable price overlap with the Armada. :dunno:
     
  10. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,732
    Likes Received:
    1,593
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    That's very true, and it's just shy of that size class of SUV.
     
  11. GReddy EX

    GReddy EX Guest

    saw em testing the new Dakota round here a few nights ago.... had that same front end treatment... not too big a fan of that, lol

    but I dunno, I'll wait til it gets uncovered
     
  12. Captain Amazing

    Captain Amazing OT Supporter

    Joined:
    May 23, 2003
    Messages:
    17,499
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    lulz
    I like the Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer better because I used to have one. :)
     
  13. Antistatic

    Antistatic New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2002
    Messages:
    1,503
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    San Antonio TX.
    It's an ugly piece of shit, previous model looked a lot better.
    But I never liked the Durango much anyways. :dunno:
     
  14. hondaluva

    hondaluva likes free hugs...

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    76,210
    Likes Received:
    1
    damn, this car makes one wonder to get a Grand Cherokee or not. :hs:

    the interior isn't all that bad, and that Hemi, must be giving good capability for an suv @ this price.

    I'm not an SUV man, but this appears to be a solid SUV. Good job Dodge!
     
  15. YourAdHere

    YourAdHere Guest

    if dodge flashed the mpg that the hemi vehicles the response would be "oh shit, really? i didn't think about that"
     
  16. fallenbox

    fallenbox Guest

    I like the old one SO much better... this new body style is fucking HIT! :hs:
     
  17. ap

    ap New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2003
    Messages:
    2,907
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Click here if your browser does not automatically
    holy shit, station wagons with such bad gas mileage should be illegal.
     
  18. Johnny*MacBlayze

    Johnny*MacBlayze wassup? shut up!

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2002
    Messages:
    719
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    bill gate's neighbor
  19. SycoPhant

    SycoPhant Get out my way

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2001
    Messages:
    17,759
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Erie, PA
    They need to just finally take that out of the size class of the Explorer, Trailblazer and Pilot and deem it a full-size SUV. Dodge has been cheating for years with that and the Dakota by building a larger vehicle than anyone else in the class and trying to pretend that it's not. The Durango is closer in size and power to the Expedition than the Explorer, yet it's still compared to the latter. Of COURSE it has more cargo area - it's huge!
     

Share This Page