What it Is
new cars: 2009/Dodge Durango Hybrid Preview – Dodge charges onto the hybrid playing field by outfitting the 2009 Dodge Durango with a two-mode hybrid, the same system utilized in the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe hybrids and jointly developed with General motors, Mercedes-Benz, and The BMW Group. While the Durango is now a hybrid, Mopar fans don’t have to worry about giving up power as the Durango hybrid will still come with the 5.7 L Hemi and all the horsepower that comes with it. Other than some minor streamlining tweaks, the Durango is still the same, so the real preview is the hybrid system.
by Vernon Heywood
Photo Credit: Vernon Heywood, Chrysler
Why it Matters
The projected 25% fuel economy increase is great for any car, but it’s even more significant in a vehicle that only averages 12 mpg. The savings should make a larger difference in the wallet of SUV owners than in the wallets of more ecologically minded hybrid buyers. Better mileage ratings are crucial to Dodge’s well being as stricter mileage standards are enforced by the EPA. A successful hybrid system could mean the difference between remaining viable while other platforms are developed or Cerberus having to scrap America’s third largest automaker before they really get the opportunity to turn it around.
What’s Under the Hood
Yep, that thing’s got a Hemi in it. The 5.7 Liter Hemi V-8 comes standard with Chrysler’s Multi-Displacement System (MDS) allowing the engine to operate on less cylinders when they aren’t needed for greater fuel economy. As a two-mode hybrid, the 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid can run solely on electric power at lower speeds and also use electric assist while operating at higher speeds allowing the Durango Hybrid to benefit from its electric motors at low and high speeds. Speed control is managed through an Electric Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) which uses two electric motors to vary speed.
What it Looks Like
You’ll have to look hard to spot the differences between the non-hybrid Durango and the 2009 Dodge Durango Hemi Hybrid. Slight variations to improve wind and rolling resistance are present according to Dodge, but we had a hard time spotting them. That’s a good thing, because the whole point of the two-mode hybrid is that you don’t have to give up performance and looks for better economy.
What Dodge Says
Dodge’s “advanced, state-of-the-art two-mode full hybrid system—developed in partnership with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and The BMW Group—integrates proven automatic-transmission technology with a patented hybrid-electric drive system to deliver the world’s first two-mode full hybrid.” Dodge also says “the sophisticated fuel-saving system incorporates four fixed-gear ratios for high efficiency and power-handling capabilities.”
What We Think
People are always going to need large vehicles to haul, tow and taxi people and cargo around. To ignore the large SUV segment when discussing improving fuel economy and in turn the environment is an oversight that has been long overlooked. Hybridizing the 2009 Dodge Durango makes sense and we like that this segment is finally being given its due, because like them or not, the large SUV is not going away, and anything we can do to make them more efficient paves the way to a more sustainable future.