Once left for dead, the Dodge Durango has made a surprising comeback for 2011 after a two-year absence.
Still, it faces an uncertain future as steadily rising fuel costs could derail its return before it really gets off the ground.
Chrysler has redesigned or reformulated most of its 2011 product lineup and nowhere is that more evident than in the Durango.
The model was considered dead and buried by late 2008, but clearly Dodge had other plans.They included building the big sport ute on a modified Jeep Grand Cherokee platform that’s also being employed in the next-generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class.
The redesign has resulted in the best-looking Durango since the brand’s 1998-model-year arrival.
Certainly there will always be a need for the power and passenger capacity offered by the Dodge Durango. However it remains to be seen if a two-year absence will affect its ability to make friends among the changing New World Order of sport ute fanatics.
All three of the Durango’s trim levels — SXT, Crew Plus and Citadel — arrive with a 290-horsepower 3.6-litre V6.
Available on all but the base model is a 360-horsepower 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8 that deactivates half of its cylinders under cruise, coast and deceleration conditions, helping it achieve fuel-economy ratings of 16.6 l/100 km in city driving and 10.1 on the highway.
Modifications on the 2011 Durango include extending the distance between the front and rear wheels by nearly 13 centimetres and overall length by 25 centimetres to allow space for a third-row seat.
The new Durango is now closely similar to the previous version, but is much easier to enter and exit due to its considerably less truck-like ride height.
Towing capacities will give the Durango’s competitors a run for their money, especially V8 models that can pull up to 3,265 kilograms worth of boat, horse or vacation trailer.
V6 units offer a 2,800-kilogram towing capacity, which is more than the old Durango’s base 3.7-litre V6 or optional 4.7-litre V8.
All-wheel-drive is standard, but exact system depends on engine choice.