Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2003 Dodge Durango Overview
The Middleman's SUV
The Dodge Durango holds a special place in the long line of SUV offerings. It is not as gargantuan as some full-size models, yet it offers a longer wheelbase, more interior space and a more powerful V8 engine than most midsize SUVs; as such, the Durango remains without rival. The Durango shares its chassis, front end and interior with the proven Dakota pickup. This sturdy and solid platform wrapped in Dodge's distinctive sheet metal translates well into SUV form. The Durango truly stands out from other SUVs in that it shuns the all-to-common box-on-wheels styling in favor of curvaceous lines, rounded roof and prominent grille.
Its people hauling capacity earns the Durango its first advantage. When equipped with the optional front and third-row bench seats, the Durango can carry eight people in relative comfort, although when so configured, little room is left for cargo. With the optional third seat removed, the Durango is transformed into a cavernous, six-passenger hauling machine. Dodge offers the Durango in no less than five trim levels. The Sport and SXT trims are designed for those who probably need cargo room more than they need the additional third row seat, yet don't want to be penalized for their decision by being forced to buy a stripped down model. SXT models come standard with such features as CD player, roof rack and 16-inch alloy wheels. The remaining trim levels, the SLT, SLT Plus and R/T include the fold- flush third-row seat as standard equipment as well as a long list of standard and optional equipment.
The Durango's standard engine is an impressive 4.7-liter V8 borrowed from the Jeep Grand Cherokee. This engine is capable of producing 235-horsepower and is more than adequate to haul the Durango's bulk around town. The performance-oriented R/T gets a larger 5.9-liter V8 rated at 245-horsepower; this engine is also optional in the SLT trims and though it produces only 10 more horses, it really puts out in the torque category. If you plan on doing any serious towing, spend the extra $500 and get the bigger engine. You might guess that with only V8 engines available, the Durango is not going to be easy on the wallet when it comes time to refuel. But thanks to the standard 5-speed automatic transmission and its two overdrive gears, the 2WD Durango with the 4.7-liter engine earns an EPA highway mileage rating of 18-miles per gallon. City rating's are not as rosy and when you toss in 4WD the numbers dip down to near single digits. But this is the case for almost every SUV on the market, so as long as you can swing the $1.50 a gallon for gas, you'll have little to worry about.
On the road, you'll find the Durango's steering is nicely weighted without a lot of slop or play in the steering wheel. The standard 4-wheel disc brakes feel firm and the handling is decent-both get even better with the addition of the Sport R/T package. The Durango's pickup-truck platform, with its solid-rear axle and leaf-spring suspension, delivers a stiff ride. Dodge has done a good job keeping noise and vibration out of the cab, but when you encounter a highway expansion joint or a washed-out back-road, you're going to feel it more so than if you were in a car or minivan. The flip side is that the Durango has no problem tackling tough off-road challenges, with plenty of ground clearance to get over rocks or plow through deep snow. The Durango offers two 4WD options, one is a part-time system with a high/low transfer case that can only be used off road; the other is a full-time system that can be left on during normal driving. The system automatically detects wheel slippage and transfers power to the wheels that need it most. You should note that unlike many of its competitors, the Durango does not offer any type of electronic traction control or stability control.
Inside, you'll find the Durango offers a great set of front bucket seats that provide good lower back and thigh support. The two rear benches are also surprisingly firm with adjustable head rests and three point safety belts at all outboard seating positions. The Durango's third-row seat can actually accommodate two adults in comfort and is easily accessible via the wide rear door opening. The refreshed dashboard is pleasing to the eye with all controls logically laid out and within easy reach. You'll find the view from the driver's seat to be a clear one, with little in the way of obstruction or blind spots. Front side-impact airbags are optional, though there is no side-curtain airbag to protect rear-seat occupants. Base models come standard with automatic dual-zone climate control while SLT and R/T models get a rear air conditioning and heating unit with its own separate controls.
If you really want to trick out your Durango, you should take note of some of the more popular options offered by Dodge. You can now get a DVD-based rear entertainment system with a flip-down screen, a 10-speaker Infinity sound system with 6-disc in-dash CD changer, a limited-slip rear differential and a heavy-duty trailer-towing package.