Pros: Seating capacity, towing capacity, styling, available options, crash protection, factory incentives
Cons: Windshield wipers ineffective during heavy rain, gas mileage
Nothing can be more frustrating that constantly dealing with a vehicle that breaks down. The old "nickel and dime" approach to car ownership is very tiresome. With my old Explorer showing its age, and my fun car (see review for 1998 Dodge Viper) not being practical for daily driver use, I figured it was time to trade in.
In the past, I've always bought vehicles used. I figured, why waste the money if the vehicle will depreciate once you drive it off the lot? On a whim, I decided to drive past the Dodge dealership to look at their lot of SUVs. I took a look at the sticker price for a new Durango, and was pleasantly surprised. What surprised me even more was the fact that Dodge was offering a $6,000 overall rebate on their SUV line. Couple that with a $4,000 trade in on my Explorer and I'd be left with a payment that was manageable.
Now, seeing as how I am a pretty bad impulse buyer, I gave in to the fact that I was about to buy a new SUV. I cleaned my Explorer up and got her ready to be traded in. I stopped by the Dodge dealer, pointed out the vehicle I wanted, and away we went. Within 4 hours, I was out the door with a brand new SUV.
I have had this SUV for a little less than a year, and I have very little to complain about. I will start off with the negatives:
Gas mileage: I met my fiance shortly after I bought this truck, and I found out just how painful a gas guzzler can be. I made round trips of 200 miles every other weekend right as the gas prices skyrocketed. In town, I get roughly 14 MPG. The best I've seen on the highway is 22 MPG. Now, this isn't as bad as some of the larger SUVs, but it still hurts the wallet. Note: The fiance was worth every penny!
Windshield wipers: This may sound trivial, but during heavy rain, the fastest setting won't completely clear the rain off the windshield. Seeing as how it rains fairly hard during the summer in NC, this can be a potential hazard. Dodge currently has a recall on the wiper motors, but I haven't had a chance to get it fixed (I am currently deployed to Iraq). Whether it fixes the flaw or not, time till tell.
Overall, the negatives were relatively few. Here are the positive highlights that I have experienced thus far:
Seating capacity: I've seen mid-sized SUVs attempt to market a third row seat before, but in the past they've been best suited to small children rather than adults. With the new Durangos, this problem has been alleviated. The design of the footwell allows 2 full grown adults to sit without bunching their knees. There is a raised section to the roof that allows rear passengers heads to clear easily. Top that off with a large rear trunk area, and you've got comfortable seating for 7 without the loss of storage capacity.
Towing capacity: The Durango I purchased came with a 4.7L V-8 Magnum engine. I opted not to go with the Hemi, but I don't think that it was a mistake. With 230 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, the mid-grade V-8 allows me to tow up to 7,000 lbs. This is more than enough for me to trailer my car to and from the racetrack. Also, the fact that being a Marine causes me to have to move a lot, this will help when it comes time to change residences.
Styling: I've always like the Durango, but I felt it was missing something. With the new design, I feel that styling is no longer an issue. The overall design is in keeping with the rest of the Dodge lineup of trucks. The front end is aggressive looking and even has a spoiler underneath the bumper. The rear end is functional with its large vertical door and chrome accents. The SLT model has painted front and rear bumpers (the base model is unpainted plastic).
Available options: The MOPAR catalog is extensive with just about everything you can think of. The styling additions, such as window air deflectors, hood air deflectors, and rear spoiler, are just some of the things that you can purchase through Dodge. Although they are slightly more expensive than you can find aftermarket, they are covered by the all inclusive 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty if installed at purchase time. Other options include stereo upgrades, satellite radio (I will NEVER go without SIRIUS again!!!!!), DVD entertainment, and performance parts (exhaust, intake, etc.). The only problem is that if you get carried away, your somewhat reasonably priced SUV will cost you an arm and a leg!
Crash protection: The Durango received a 5 star front crash rating during testing. Couple this with dual front and front/back side airbags, and you have a very safe overall vehicle. The 2004 model supposedly had reliability issues with its side airbags, but this was remedied in subsequent models.
Factory incentives: I purchased this vehicle before the GM induced "Employee Pricing". I received 5,000 cash back from Chrysler in addition to another 1,000 off for financing through Chrysler. Had I waited another 2 months, I may have saved another 1,000 or so once Chrysler jumped on the bandwagon, but I don't feel cheated. The use I received on the vehicle coupled with the trouble free maintenance made it worth it.
Overall, I'd have to say that I am pretty happy with the vehicle I purchased. With the relatively minor complaints and the overwhelming positives, you can't go wrong. I'd buy this SUV again in a heartbeat. Too bad they don't make one with a Viper V-10 in it!