First Drive

2011 Dodge Durango revival

New Dodge SUV is based on the Mercedes-Benz M-Class utility-vehicle platform

Pentastar V-6 replaces six others
Chrysler has replaced the six different V-6 engine applications used for the 2010 model year with a single engine. The Pentastar V-6 is new from crankcase to valve covers and offers more power – a lot more power – while using less fuel and boasting vastly improved exhaust emissions.

The clean sheet design allowed engineers to eliminate nearly 70% of the engine components, reducing complexity from 189 individual parts to just 23. Uniquely-tuned for each application, it produces 283-305 horsepower and 260-268 lb. ft. of torque depending on application and resultant exhaust system.

SONOMA, CA – "In June 2009 we had a 6.6% share of the market, now it is 13% and Chrysler production to date in 2010 is up 92%," Bigland said. He added that such a recovery is more difficult than it would have been at other times in the history of the industry with 20 manufacturers currently putting more than 250 vehicles in the market.

Despite bankruptcy and a dearth of new product over the past 18 months Chrysler is still number three in sales in Canada, ahead of Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. It is bringing 16 new or heavily redesigned vehicles to market in the next year, eight of them before the end of 2010.

These first eight all boast more value, improved fuel efficiency, all-new interiors, redesigned exteriors and improvements in, ride, handling and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness).

We start here with one of the two that have undergone the most dramatic change – the totally new Dodge Durango.

DODGE DURANGO

While the marriage between Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz has been annulled, Chrysler came away with a nice parting gift – the next-generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class utility-vehicle platform.

The new Jeep Grand Cherokee was the first vehicle spun off this chassis and it is now joined by the Dodge Durango, a nameplate that has been absent from Dodge stores for a couple years. Those dealers have been pressuring the company to revive the Durango, to give them something for customers who want a big, capable SUV tow their toys.

The 2011 Durango is 250 mm longer than the Grand Cherokee and rides on a wheelbase that is 127 mm longer. It is 63 mm shorter than the old Durango but has 125 mm more legroom in the third row of seats.

That seven-passenger configuration is standard as is a new 290-horsepower Pentastar V-6 mated to a five-speed transmission, promising as much as 8.9 litres/100 km (32 mpg). The 360 horsepower HEMI V8 is also available as are things like supple Napa leather, heated steering wheel and vented seats.

The 2011 Durango has a totally-new exterior and interior. It is a unibody design that is more than 25% stiffer than its predecessor.

Best of all is the $37,995 price tag, including full-time AWD.

Dodge proudly compared the new Durango to everything from the Cadillac Escalade to the Chevy Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander touting its advantages in cargo capacity, third row legroom, fold-in-floor third row seat and four-wheel independent suspension. The 2011 Durango will tow 2,800 kg (6,200 lb) with the new V-6 and 3.360 kg (7,400 lb) with the HEMI.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but I am extremely proud of how we’ve rebounded since the summer of 2009," `Bigland said. "We’re in no position to pop champagne corks, but based on results of the last year and the number of new product coming, we’re in good shape and coming back," he said.

It doesn’t matter if you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up." Chrysler Canada President and CEO Reid Bigland used this Vince Lombardi quote to describe the situation at the new Chrysler.

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