Could this be Dodge's saving grace? Not entirely, but it's a good indicator as to where Dodge is heading in terms of both design and quality in its post-bankruptcy life. The first generation Dodge Durango launched in 1998 and was a sales success for Dodge. It grew in size with the second generation's debut in 2004 and was available with a 5.7-liter V8 HEMI. However, due to those pesky increasing gas prices, sales of the Durango dipped considerably.
On top of that, there were considerable fit and finish quality issues that have plagued Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep for some time. Now that Chrysler has had some time to reorganize and get things under control, there's much hope for the new 2011 Durango. Like the previous generations, the new Durango still has 3 rows of seating. That's where some of the similarities end. Unlike the previous body-on-frame Durangos, the all-new model rests on a unibody construction, which, along with the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer, technically classifies it as an CUV, not an SUV.
Order not to lose buyers seeking a true SUV with towing capabilities and engine options, Dodge has maintained the Durango's big-rig, tough guy looks. The new sheetmetal is both sleek and tough looking and should have mass appeal for men and women buyers. Under the hood, there's a choice between a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 or an optional 5.7-liter V8 with 6,200 and 7,800 pounds of towing capacity, respectively. All-wheel drive is optional for both. Dodge is no longer referring to its 5.7-liter V8 with the "HEMI" moniker, hoping to de-emphasize the fact is not fuel efficient.
While Chrysler hasn't revealed any specific fuel economy numbers, expect for them to be similar to the also new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango's corporate cousin. Both rest on the same platform and share the same engine options. As in the previous generation Durango, it's almost a sure bet that Dodge will at some point offer a hybrid version. Until then, the Durango will face off directly against the 2011 Explorer. On paper and in these first pictures, the all-new 2011 Dodge Durango looks promising.
However, knowing Dodge's history of producing a great looking vehicle, but with poor build quality, the verdict is still very much out. This time, Dodge can't afford any mistakes. Time will tell on this one.