Product Reviews
Take Action

Save Net Neutrality

Preserve an open internet where you can access websites without barriers. Make your voice heard by standing up for net neutrality.
Take Action
Why Do We Have Campaigns?
We're fighting to ensure you and your family can get a fair deal in the marketplace, especially on the choices that matter most: health care, privacy, automobiles, food, finances and more. Join our campaigns and together, we'll hold corporations and lawmakers accountable.

Hard-sell Dodge Durango bought for trailer duty and it delivers

Consumer Reports News: June 19, 2012 03:08 PM

Find Ratings

See Dealer Pricing

If you had told me at the end of 2008 that I would own a Dodge Durango, I would have thought you were crazy. Chrysler was teetering on the edge of financial oblivion. The concurrent Durango had just received a softened suspension that made it drive like a Hemi-powered marshmallow with a Fisher-Price interior.

My, how times have changed! Chrysler is now healthy under Fiat ownership. The redesigned Durango is now a sophisticated SUV that shares its platform with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. And now CR's 2011 Durango Crewlux V8 test car lives in my garage. I truly put my money where my mouth (er, keyboard) was.

Sometimes I wonder if Chrysler should have renamed this car, because when it originally came time to sell it from our test fleet, no one wanted it. After a dearth of interest in our internal staff sale process, we tried to trade it in. The Hemi made it a tough sell. Trying to trade it back to a Dodge dealer got a response of, "No thanks. We have plenty of new ones that aren't selling." Resale probably won't be helped either by the announcement that the Durango will likely replaced by a reborn three-row Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

So CR held on to the Durango, putting it to good use for evaluating forward collision-warning systems and towing various trailers, including hauling our Nissan Leaf back from our Washington, D.C., office. It racked up 13,000 flawless miles without even a rattle.

And this is where I come in. My wife and I just bought a 2007 Airstream Safari SE 23-foot trailer to replace our smaller 1977 Airstream Argosy. With the "new" trailer's GVWR of 6,000 pounds, it was time for a tow vehicle upgrade from our 2010 Honda Odyssey. But since our household only owns one car (I drive CR's test cars daily), whatever we picked also had to serve as a refined commuter car for my wife with commensurate levels of passive and dynamic safety. The still-hanging-around-the-track Durango fit the bill nicely.

So far we're really happy with our purchase. The Durango/Airstream combination pulls like a freight train. Airstreams have independent suspensions and a low center of gravity, making them excellent towing trailers. In fact, twisty Vermont roads are actually fun, rather than nerve-wracking. Cabin noise levels for the Durango are a lot lower than those in our old Odyssey, making it a welcome road trip companion. I also really like the active cruise control and blind-spot/cross-traffic alert systems.

Admittedly, it's not perfect. Having driven a Grand Cherokee with the upcoming 3.0-liter diesel, I yearn for that. And the five-speed automatic isn't particularly refined. While the V8 got a six-speed automatic for 2012, I wish I had the ZF-designed eight-speed that will eventually appear in this platform. While the base V6 struggles to tow heavy trailers, the new transmission might make the V6 a decent performing option for my needs.

But to use a cliché, sometimes you go with the bird in hand rather than wait for possible midcycle changes. So far we're averaging around 18 mpg from daily commuting—far from great, but not a horrible drop from the 21 mpg we got out of the Odyssey.

While owning an early build sample of a highly optional-electronics-loaded, clean-sheet design is a gamble, first-year reliability has been good. Same goes for the Durango's Jeep Grand Cherokee platform-mate. We'll hope for the best, but so far, so good.

Tom Mutchler

Find Ratings

SUVs Ratings

View and compare all SUVs ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Cars News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more