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2011 Dodge Durango

Base MSRP: $29,195 to $44,020
Reviewed
May 2012
by ConsumerSearch

Pros
  • Spacious third-row seating
  • Optional V8
  • Tow capacity
  • Good-looking
  • Comfortable ride
  • Great steering
Cons
  • Less maximum cargo capacity than some rivals
  • Base V6 less gutsy
  • Clunky infotainment interface
  • Our Analysis

The Dodge Durango is completely redesigned for the 2011 model year. Reviewers say this is a good thing, as the updates were sorely needed. As a result, the Durango is now one of the most competitive midsize SUVs; everything impresses critics, from the exterior looks and interior quality to the driving experience.

Modern looks inside and out

Reviewers like the Durango's new look: Scott Burgess from The Detroit News says that among all of the Durango's improvements "what everyone will notice right away…is how crisp and clean the exterior looks." AutoBlog.com corroborates in testing a R/T trim Durango, calling the "integrated" look "athletic, strong and modern." There is little debate among experts about the exterior's inherent new appeal.

Testers also happily note that the overhaul has taken care of its predecessor's bargain-basement interior quality and design. Cars.com notes that Dodge interiors were recently "rightly criticized for their uninspired design and rudimentary construction," but that the new Durango's interior "is a big improvement over the old model's lackluster one, and it's among the best in the segment." Cars.com goes on to describe the design details of the interior, underscoring the "smooth finishes" and "high-grade materials and good panel fit." Reviewers find this to be the case in both the base trim levels and the more expensive versions of the Durango.

Comfort- and amenity-laden

Not only is build and material quality much better inside, but so are the comfort and convenience options. The cabin is generally comfortable, particularly the front seats, though a few reviewers find that the second-row seats are a bit flat and have slightly less room than some rival SUVs. Even so, nearly all reviewers praise the Durango for its excellent third-row access and room; Edmunds.com editors say that the third row "offers a surprising amount of leg- and headroom (even for 6-footers)."

Even the base Durango, the Express, includes niceties such as three-zone climate controls, fog lights and heated sideview mirrors. Maximum cargo capacity is 84.5 cubic feet, with the second- and third-row seats folded; some rivals, like the 2011 Chevrolet Traverse (Base MSRP: $29,370 to $40,250), offer more cargo space.

Occupants have new entertainment options as well. The Durango can be equipped with Dodge's uConnect system, which bundles navigation and a touch-screen interface, plus a built-in hard drive for onboard media storage. Rear-seat entertainment is available and actually goes beyond the usual DVD player: drivers can opt for live satellite TV.

The uConnect infotainment system's interface leaves many experts wanting a better, more modern experience, though. TheTruthAboutCars.com editors say that uConnect "continues to resemble a Chinese knock-off of SYNC," referring to Ford's popular infotainment system, and Automobile magazine observes that it "has lots of functionality…but the hard buttons and the menu logic could be improved." A newer, more sophisticated infotainment interface is offered in other Chrysler/Dodge vehicles, so hopefully it will trickle down to the Durango at some point.

Powerful engines allow for good towing capability

Two engines are available in the 2011 Durango -- a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and a stout 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that musters 360 horsepower and 390 pounds-feet of torque. Testers say the V6 is an adequate performer with respectable power. Most, however, prefer the brisk acceleration delivered by the available Hemi V8. In most daily driving situations, however, the V6 should prove more than adequate for the majority of drivers, while delivering better fuel economy.

The V6 engine is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, which experts say is one of the Durango's few weak spots. Motor Trend blames the transmission's performance for landing the Durango in second place in a comparison test, saying that "Dodge's old, nearly antiquated five-speed just isn't up to snuff," delivering relatively lazy shifts. The V8 engine also gets the five-speed, though it will be updated to a six-speed unit for the 2012 model year.

Both engines offer excellent towing capability: The base trim V6 can pull 6,200 pounds and the V8 has a 7,400-pound capacity when optioned correctly. This is more than nearly all other midsize SUVs.

Fuel economy, while not terrible for the V6, still trails some segment rivals. The EPA estimates that the two-wheel-drive V6 Dodge Durango will achieve 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway/19 mpg combined, while the more powerful V8 penalizes drivers with 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway/16 mpg combined. Four-wheel-drive models get slightly lower fuel economy (one less mile per gallon in the combined cycle).

Ride quality and handling are excellent

Experts unanimously agree that the Durango's ride quality is now top-notch. Motor Trend describes the highway ride as "smooth and locked down," and Cars.com says that "the highlight of the new Durango's driving experience is, without question, its ride comfort and overall poise." Despite its hefty curb weight, handling is excellent; reviewers say the steering feel is "full of life," and AutoBlog.com says that "when the roads got twisty, the Durango's new fully-independent suspension somehow masked at least a thousand pounds." The Durango performs well in off-road situations, too; Popular Mechanics says it was "unstoppable" during a comparison test it won at the Silver Lake Dunes.

An IIHS Top Safety Pick

The 2011 Dodge Durango has been crash tested by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but not yet by the government. In IIHS testing, the Dodge Durango gets the highest score in front-, side- and rear-impact tests, as well as rollover strength tests, earning it the organization's Top Safety Pick designation. Standard equipment includes antilock brakes, side-curtain airbags for front and rear occupants, electronic stability control, traction control and trailer sway control.

Reliability is predicted to be better than average, according to one respected independent survey.

Bottom Line:

Reviewers generally love the new Durango and find little to quibble about, aside from the transmission (which is set to be replaced in coming years). Popular Mechanics echoes other reviews when it concludes that "as an overall package, nothing does a better job of reconciling genuine ruggedness with daily usability."

Our Sources

1. Edmunds.com

The editors of Edmunds.com provide insightful overviews of all new models. Their reviews cover how each model stacks up against the competition, and highlight on-road performance, trim-level options and more.

Review: 2011 Dodge Durango, Editors of Edmunds.com

2. ConsumerReports.org

ConsumerReports.org is an excellent, unbiased source of information, and reviews most new vehicles. In addition to road tests, they offer survey-based information that indicates predicted reliability, depreciation and owner satisfaction. You must have a subscription to access content on ConsumerReports.org.

Review: 2011 Dodge Durango, Editors of ConsumerReports.org

3. FuelEconomy.gov

The 2011 Dodge Durango gets an estimated 19 mpg combined with the base V6 engine, and 16 mpg combined with the burly V8. Four-wheel drive Durangos get one mile per gallon lower on combined ratings.

Review: 2011 Dodge Durango, U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency

4. IIHS.org

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2012 Dodge Durango its highest rating of Top Safety Pick 2012, meaning it scored as high as possible in their testing.

Review: Dodge Durango, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

5. Autoblog.com

Chris Paukert from AutoBlog.com reviews the 2011 Durango, taking a road trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Despite its lackluster transmission and relatively low fuel economy compared to competitors, he concludes that "Dodge's refined ride and handling, fuss-free technology and endlessly impressive foul-weather handling made it a first-rate travel companion, full stop."

Review: 2011 Dodge Durango, Chris Paukert, Feb. 2011

6. Autoblog.com

This first-drive review is relatively short, but gives a fairly detailed overview of all of the changes to the 2011 Durango. The reviewer specifically tests the R/T model.

Review: First Drive: 2011 Dodge Durango, Rex Roy, Nov. 2010

7. Motor Week

MotorWeek editors name the 2011 Dodge Durango (along with the related 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee) as the Best Large Utility vehicle, citing its ability to deliver long-distance comfort for seven and highway cruising with aplomb.

Review: 2012 Drivers' Choice Awards, Editors of MotorWeek

8. Motor Trend

This Motor Trend comparison assembles the most popular three-row SUVs, all of which are generally considered excellent vehicles. Motor Trend's Jonny Lieberman heaps praise on the Durango's interior design, comfort and performance, but stops short of naming it the top choice because of its lackluster automatic transmission.

Review: Comparison: Three-Row Crossover SUVs, Jonny Lieberman, March 2011

9. PopularMechanics.com

This Popular Mechanics comparison test takes a different tack than most, focusing on light off-road abilities rather than on-road performance. The Durango is crowned the winner for the best off-road performance with the fewest on-road compromises.

Review: Last Crossover Standing: We Take 7 New Models Off Road, Ezra Dyer

10. Automobile Magazine

This first drive of the 2011 Durango is a short-take review, giving basic information about the new design as well as a few opinions on the interior and available technology.

Review: First Drive: 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel, Joe Lorio, May 2011

11. The Detroit News

Scott Burgess from The Detroit News reviews the 2011 Dodge Durango. Ultimately, he comes away impressed and says it "plays as hard as it works."

Review: Powerful and Spacious 2011 Dodge SUV Reinvents Itself, Scott Burgess, Dec. 2010

12. The Truth About Cars

TheTruthAboutCars.com has opinionated (and often insightful) reviews of many new models. Reviewer Jack Baruth is impressed with the 2011 Durango, saying that it "competes on both tangible and intangible qualities," and that it's "simply a real SUV, priced realistically, that happens to be real(ly) good."

Review: Review: 2011 Dodge Durango R/T, Jack Baruth, Dec. 2010

13. Cars.com

This reviewer, like others, finds that the Durango has an excellent interior and great ride quality. Yet he expresses concern that its fuel economy, which is lower than some competitors', may deter buyers if gas prices continue to increase.

Review: 2011 Dodge Durango, Mike Hanley, March 2011

14. InsideLine.com

InsideLine.com, a property of Edmunds.com, compares the 2011 Dodge Durango and the 2011 Ford Explorer in detail. In the end no winner is chosen, since both models are considered excellent and the right choice will be a subjective rather than objective decision for most consumers.

Review: 2011 Dodge Durango Crew AWD vs. 2011 Ford Explorer XLT 4WD, John Pearley Huffman, Jan. 2011

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