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2012 Dodge DurangoRedesigned for 2011, the seven-seat Dodge Durango SUV gets minor updates for 2012
Introduced for 1998, Dodge's first Durango sport-utility vehicle was built on the same platform used for Dakota pickup trucks. Durango was no compact, reaching a bit beyond midsize dimensions. Redesigning for 2004 made the second-generation Durango even larger and heavier. After skipping the 2010 model year, Dodge returned for 2011 with a redesigned "all-new" model, which continues with only a few changes as the 2012 Dodge Durango.
Dodge Durango: What's New for 2012
Described early on as a "three-row SUV with a soul," the third-generation Dodge Durango was said to combine "crossover versatility [with] SUV capability and performance." Most notably, new unibody construction promised 25 percent greater stiffness than the previous separate-body/frame structure.
For 2012, the automatic transmission for V-8 models has been modified, allowing drivers to choose from six speeds when shifting into manual mode. All-wheel-drive V-6 Dodge Durango models get slightly better gas mileage for 2012: a 1 mpg improvement in highway driving. Second-row captain's chairs are now optional. Dodge has revised the available trim levels, to SXT, Crew, R/T, and top-of-the-line Citadel.
Dodge Durango Powertrains and MPG
Dodge Durango models may have either a V-6 or Hemi V-8 engine. The Pentastar double-overhead-cam 3.6-liter V-6 makes 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Estimated fuel economy, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is 16-mpg city/23-mpg highway, with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Towing capacity with V-6 power is 6,200 pounds.
Incorporating a fuel-saver mode, the available 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 produces 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. A Hemi-equipped Dodge Durango can two tow up to 7,400 pounds. Fuel economy, as estimated by the EPA, is 14-mpg city/20-mpg highway with rear-drive, or 13/20 mpg with all-wheel drive. Both towing capacities are claimed to be "class-leading."
Depending on engine choice, either of two automatic transmissions and full-time all-wheel-drive systems may be installed. Hemi-powered AWD Durangos contain a low-range transfer case.
Dodge Durango Interior and Safety
Dodge touts the Durango SUV's three-row seating capability, with its unique feature to improve driver visibility. When the third row is unoccupied, pushing a button can lower the rear headrests. Dodge also boasts that Durangos contain more than 30 storage areas, and a choice of 28 seating configurations. With nearly 85 cubic feet of rear cargo volume, a Dodge Durango can hold a six-footcouch along with a coffee table. Or, with the front passenger seat folded flat, a 10-foot ladder will fit inside.
White-on-black instruments are sensible and easy to read, and no visibility issues are evident. Occupants in front and second rows get plenty of space, though the center seat suffers from the typical hard seatback-a drawback that few contemporary vehicles seem able to escape. The two-passenger third-row seat appears roomy enough, but not exactly inviting for the less-agile.
Electronic stability control is standard, including electronic roll mitigation that can apply brakes if necessary during extreme situations. Side-curtain airbags provide protection for all three seating rows. Trailer-sway control is standard, and Hill-start Assist is an option. Available safety features also include Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, to assist drivers when changing lanes on the highway or maneuvering in a parking lot. The Dodge Durango options list includes a number of high-tech features, such as Uconnect Web operation and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
Dodge Durango Driving Impressions
Since recovering from bankruptcy and the federal bailout, Chrysler LLC has pushed hard to convey the impression that its reworked products are dramatically better than ever. While each of the vehicles has improved to a point, some have moved a lot farther ahead than others. Dodge Durango falls smartly into the latter category.
An early commercial for the latest-generation Dodge Durango suggested that the SUV had been "toning up" in Europe and had gone to school during its 2010 respite. Judging by its handling capabilities, ride comfort, and overall quality, that facetious claim almost sounds accurate. The current Durango has almost moved into a different league from its predecessors.
Chrysler's 3.6-liter V-6 is the eminently suitable engine for this vastly improved SUV. Dodge Durango acceleration varies considerably depending on road speed, and whether a downshift occurs when pushing down on the gas pedal. Performance can be rather spirited, or quite lackluster. Either way, it fits the vehicle. In addition, the driver can turn to manual transmission operation by simply moving the shift lever on the side, if response is deemed unsatisfactory.
In its latest form, Durango excels in ride quality, seldom likely to encounter a troubling spot on the pavement. Handling is confident and pointed, with satisfying steering feel and feedback. Sizable? Despite its ample dimensions, the 2012 Dodge Durango drives like a more modern SUV than its predecessors.
A 2012 Dodge Durango SXT with two-wheel drive can be driven home for a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $29,945 (including destination charge). Topping the Durango line, an all-wheel-drive Citadel lists for $43,945. That's a lot to pay for a mainstream-brand SUV, but Durango comes closer to being worth its price than some midsize and larger competitors. www.dodge.com