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L.A. Auto Show: 2011 Dodge Durango is a show stopper

November 18, 2010 |  9:06 pm

2010 was a quiet year for Dodge, a brand that traditionally does not enjoy being quiet. So one shouldn't be surprised to find that Dodge used this year’s L.A. Auto Show to highlight six refreshed or completely redesigned vehicles for 2011.

IMG_5221_2 Although the brand, a division of Chrysler, displayed updated versions of its Avenger sedan, Challenger muscle car, Journey crossover and Grand Caravan, it's the 2011 Charger sedan and 2011 Durango SUV that are its real show stoppers.

The Durango revises the nameplate after a two-year absence. It’s built on the same unibody platform as the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, though the Dodge has a wheelbase that’s 5 inches longer and an overall length that’s 10 inches longer. This allows room for a third row seat, something the Grand Cherokee lacks.

The Durango is powered by either the new Pentastar V-6, good for 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, or the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which puts out 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. The engines are mated to an five-speed automatic speed transmission, though an eight-speed automatic will eventually be available. Towing capacity is rated at 6,200 pounds for the V-6 and 7,400 for the rear-wheel-drive V-8. Gas mileage improves on both from the previous Durango: the V6 is now rated at 16/22, city/highway and the V8 is rated at 13/20, city/highway.

IMG_5223_2 Dodge will offer four flavors of the Durango. The base is the Express, which starts just north of $30,000; followed by the Crew, probably the volume leader for Dodge; the performance-oriented R/T; and, finally, the top-of-the-line Citadel, which flirts dangerously with the $50,000 mark (moat sold separately).

I recently had a chance to drive the new Durango Crew with the V-6 and came away impressed. The ride was smooth, as were the engine and transmission. The interior has been upgraded substantially over -- well, over any Dodge ever (not including other 2011 models).

IMG_5218_2 Unfortunately the Durango weighed in at a rotund 5,000 pounds, which meant the Pentastar engine needed all its power to get the vehicle moving. Additionally, the sticker price on the mid-level Crew model hit a not-insignificant $43,000.

Stay tuned for a complete review in the near future.

MORE L.A. AUTO SHOW:

Jaguar C-X75 supercar is mean and green (VIDEO)

Porsche's Cayman R is for where the sun don't shine (VIDEO)

Subaru reveals its crystal ball

-- David Undercoffler

Photo credits: David Undercoffler / Los Angeles Times

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