Pros: Distinct looks, Just-right size, 3rd row bench, substancial feel, power
Cons: poor fuel economy, more truck-like than most
With over 50(!!) SUVs available on the US market, and more coming, the Durango stands apart in its styling. It looks like nothing else. And unlike many of the mid-size and small import SUVs, it has plenty of muscle to back-up its stance. However, it may lack some of the refinement of the imports.
Ours is a 2002 Durango SLT 4x2 with no options. We just bought it with 18k miles on the odometer for $23,000. It sold new for $30,245. According the Edmunds.com, this depreciation is just about right. It should continue to decline to around $10-12,000 after about 5 years.
I like the aggressive stance of the Durango. Its look claims muscle and ruggedness. Both are delivered. The SLT package includes a chrome grill, roof rack, body colored fender flares and bumpers, near black tinted windows in the second and third row, fog lights, and dual-five spoke alloy 16" wheels. It does not include a trailer hitch, but that is optional. Ours came with 255/65-R16 All-weather tires, but the brochure also says 266/17R16 tires are standard. Personally, I think Durangos look best in light colors. Ours is Bright Silver Metallic.
Remote unlock is standard. On a wierd note, there is no means of opening the passenger side doors without the remote opener. No key hole. (I don't carry the remote opener because its too large to fit in my pants pocket without drawing stares.)
Running boards are not included, but can be added for $395 as an option. For what its worth, other than helping small children, they are worthless to adults except providing a means of getting your pants legs dirty.
Overall length is 193.5". By comparison, that's less than 4" longer than our old 1994 Mercury Villiager minivan. Height is a couple inches taller at 70.5" (4x4 is 72.0"). The 4x2 has about 8.5" of ground clearance.
The SLT comes standard with upgraded cloth seats, which are a weave of many colors, but come across as a dark gray. Front bucket seats have a center console with a several openings and thoughtful storage cubbies and 3 cup holders. The front seat is power adjusted with manual tilt and manual lumbar support. The wheel tilts. Standard is a AM/FM/CD player, with CD changer controls. Sound is quite good from 4 6 3/4" speakers in all four doors. Driver and passenger can set separate temperatures. The steering wheel contains well arranged cruise control controls. (The cruise actually maintains set speed up and down hills.) The seats are comfortable, and the door and console height are excellent for resting your arms on interstate drives.
The SLT does not include an alarm system. It is a $225 option. Also, an overhead display is a $415 option, and a required option if you're adding the $1650 DVD/flip-down monitor accessory.
Dual front airbags are standard, and side airbags can be added for $495.
Leather costs and additional $795, or can be added aftermarket for $1200-1500.
Middle seats are pretty comfortable, but don't tilt. They fold-down 40/20/40 and include a flip down arm rest with two cup holders. Top seat belt anchors adjust up and down at all front 4 seats. Three adults can fit across, but it would be tight. The middle row has its own temperature and fan speed controls (both are overridable by the front passengers.) There are two vents above and infront of the seats.
The third row bench sticks out only about 2/3 as far as a normal seat. For children, it's perfect. For adults, it's for short trips only. Access to the rear bench is by folding down one of the middle seats, which is quite easy and not cumbersome if done by someone NOT crawling into the back. Ditto for getting out. There are two vents above and infront of the seats.
There is still about 8 cubic feet of cargo space left when the back seat is up. Both rear seat rows can be folded almost flat very quickly without removing headrests. By eyeball, a sheet of 4x8' plywood should fit. Total storage volume is 88 cu ft with all seats down and 51.3 with only the 3rd row down. There is no cover for items behind the rear seat and they are visible through the back window. There is a small compartment in the rear floor of the vehicle for small items. I store our first aid kit, the umbrella (?), and a small tool kit in there. The full size spare tire mounts under the vehicle and is dropped by turning a bolt in the back floor.
The A/C just keeps up with our Florida heat. It could stand to be colder, but it is adequate. My wife still manages to complain about it being too cold, so maybe it's just me. We haven't evaluated the heater yet.
There are three power outlets (but no cigarette lighter): bottom of the dash, inside the front console, and the very rear compartment behind the 3rd row bench.
Overall, the interior is tastefully done, comfortable, and very functional.
Standard on the SLT is the 4.7L V8 with 235 hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque. Interestingly, its an over head cam arrangement. Fuel tank is 25 gallons. If you've been driving V6's, you'll notice an immediate difference. If you're used to large V8s, this one may be slightly underpowered. I found it very capable on getting the Durango around and up and down hills. With a 0-60 time of only about 8.5 secs, this vehicle will also surprise you in how quick it can be. However, you must use a light foot starting off on wet roads with the two wheel drive.
The transmission is a five speed automatic with overdrive. Standard rear end is a 3.55, but a 3.92 is a $40 option.
The 4.7L 4x2 can tow 5950 lbs. 7550 lbs with the 5.9L in 4x2 trim.
Now for the numbers you've been waiting for: 14.6 mpg around town and 19.0 mpg on the interstate for us. If you're going to have an SUV, at some point you must come to grips with the gas mileage. If you can't, use your BACK button to browse the car section. Notice however, that these numbers are not that different from the V6 SUVs from Honda, Ford, Nissan, and the rest - none of which will touch the above power and performance numbers.
The 5.9L V8 is a $595 option.
Only rear wheel ABS in included - Shame on you, Dodge! Four wheel ABS is a $495 option.
The driving feel of the Durango is of a very sturdy vehicle. By comparison, the V6 imports feel light and unsubstantial. Some may appreciate the lightness, but I like the feel of the Durango. I'm not a truck person (I'm actually most fond of European sports cars and sports sedans.), but I can appreciate the very American feel of the Durango. Whenever I see a Honda or Totota SUV when I'm driving the Durango, I always get that "My SUV can beat up your SUV feeling".
The Durango delivers what its looks promise.
OTHER TRIM LEVELS
The above concentrated on the SLT.
Sport model: plainer wheels, body color grill, no CD, no 3rd row seat, smaller wheels and tires. This is the Government Agency model. Base plus destination: $25,525.
SXT: New for 2002. Graphite colored bumpers, metallic colored accent around wheels, CD player, no rear ventilation, no 3rd row seat. Similar to SLT, but think "20's couple with no kids". Base plus destination: $26,525.
SLT: See description above ad nausem. Entry level family hauler. Base plus destination: $30,245.
SLT Plus: Silver accents around wheel, leather, wood trim. Basically a loaded SLT. Base plus destination: $32,855.
R/T: Body colored grill, 17" wheels and tires, two toned leather, standard 5,9L V8, 4x4 only. The money-no-object version. Base plus destination: $37,545.