Since the big full-size SUVs (Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, Ford Expedition) are too big for some, and mid-size SUVs (Chevy TrailBlazer, Ford Explorer) are too small for others, DCX’s Dodge truck strategy is to offer “just right” sizes in-between hoping to appeal to nearly everyone. So the ‘04 Dodge Durango “mid-size” SUV is seven inches longer, two inches wider and more than three inches taller on a three-inch longer wheelbase compared to its predecessor. It looks like a scaled-down Ram pickup-based wagon and offers a choice of base V-6, mid-range V-8 or powerful HEMI V-8 engines.
The new Durango claims best-in-class GVWR (6,600 lb.), cargo capacity (1021.43 cu.ft., up 15 percent from the previous model) and towing capacity (8,950 lbs.). Its three-row seating provides reasonable room for seven with increased leg, shoulder and hip room for second- and third-row occupants. And with the third row down and the middle row up (the way three-row SUVs are usually driven), there’s a flat load floor with a still-impressive 67.3 cu.ft. of cargo room, more than Tahoe, Expedition, Nissan Armada or Toyota Sequoia.
Powertrain and Chassis
The new standard 3.7L V-6 generates a respectable 210 hp and 235 lb.-ft. of torque, the midrange 4.7L V8 gives 230 hp and 290 lb.-ft., and that optional 5.7L HEMI V-8 pumps out 3345 hp and 375 lb.-ft. — 40 percent more power and 12-percent more torque than the previous Durango’s top-of-the-line V-8. All three ’04 engines carry the Dodge “Magnum” family moniker, and all are more fuel efficient than their ’03 counterparts.
The new purpose-designed SUV platform (not shared with any pickup) features a torsionally stiff, hydroformed and fully boxed frame; independent front suspension; coil-spring, solid-axle rear suspension; rack-and-pinion steering and an available self-leveling feature. It delivers a surprisingly smooth and quiet ride along with better than average handling for a large “mid-size” SUV. A Watt linkage system tightly controls rear axle movement, centering the axle and reducing rear-end “skate” over rough surfaces, while an available new traction control system and fulltime four-wheel drive improve its capabilities both on- and off-road.
V-8 Durangos also have a “Tow/Haul” transmission that gives crisper shifts and reduced gear searching by holding the lower gear longer when towing. It also downshifts to a lower gear on downhill runs to take advantage of engine compression braking.
Models, Features and Prices
Three trim levels are offered for ’04 — ST, SLT and a new Limited package. Newly available are a UConnect hands-free communications system that can recognize up to seven different Bluetooth (advanced wireless technology)-equipped cellular phones and responds to voice commands using the audio system’s speakers and a microphone in the rearview mirror. A new nine-speaker, 384-watt Infinity sound system with Ceramic Metal Matrix speakers and a subwoofer is optional, as is SIRIUS Satellite Digital Radio. Prices start at $25,920 plus $645 destination, $1,000 below the 2003 Durango.
What We Think
Like Baby Bear’s bed, the ’04 Durango may be “just right” for those who, like the old nursery rhyme’s Goldilocks, are seeking an inbetween SUV — bigger, more powerful and more capable than “mid-size;” smaller, more maneuverable and more fuel efficient than “full-size.” It feels really BIG at rest, yet smaller underway, and drives as well as any large (OK, large “mid-size”) SUV we’ve encountered, with lively performance (0 to 60 in a tick over 7 sec.), smooth highway ride and responsive braking and handling. Major controls are easy to see, read and operate and have a quality feel, as do the materials and textures inside.
2004 Dodge Durango
|What is it?||A large “mid-size” SUV with class-leading room, power and capability|
|Who is it for?||Those seeking a highly capable SUV larger than mid-size, smaller than full-size|
|Where is it built?||Newark, Delaware|
|Parent Company:||DaimlerChrysler AG|
|Competitors:||Most any mid-size to large non-“luxury” SUV, including Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Suburban, Buick Ranier, Ford Explorer and Expedition, Nissan Pathfinder and Armada, Toyota Sequoia.|
|Engines:||3.7L V6; 4.7L V8; 5.7L HEMI V8|
|Horsepower:||210 @ 5200 rpm; 230 @ 4600 rpm; 3345 @ 5400 rpm|
|Torque:||235 @ 4000 rpm; 290 @ 3600 rpm; 375 @ 4200 rpm|
|Transmission:||4-speed automatic; 5-speed automatic|
|Layout:||Front-engine, rear-wheel drive; optional all-wheel drive|
|Wheelbase:||119.2 in. (3018 mm)|
|Airbag Module (side curtain):||Delphi|
|Airbag Module (driver/passenger):||Takata|
|Door Trim Panel:||Johnson Controls|
|Floor System Headliner:||Lear|
|HVAC System (Rear):||Denso|
|Available self-leveling shocks:||ZF Sachs|