Fuel By Geoffrey Holloway
Versatility, comfort, luxuriousness, and mobility are words that best describe the Dodge Durango SLT Plus. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast seeking the next adventure, or a growing family demanding comfort and convenience, the Durango offers a sleek ride with a myriad of options. This was my first encounter with the Durango and it has left a lasting impression. This begins with the bold exterior styling and continues inside with its unique interior package. Despite being built to handle full-size demands, the Durango does not feel big and bulky to drive and to park in tight applications.
Engine and Transmission
Dodge offers two engine choices for the 2003 Durango: the 4.7L Magnum, SOHC SMPI Magnum V8 and the 5.9L Magnum, OHV SMPI V8. The 4.7L is good for 235 HP @ 4800 rpm and 295lb-ft of torque @ 3200 rpm. This performance envelope is boosted further in the 5.9L with its 245 HP @4000 rpm and a monstrous 335lb-ft of torque @ 3200 rpm.
Both Magnum V8 choices offer a responsive automatic transmission though are greedy when it comes to fuel economy.
Being 6’-2” with a 240lb frame I have yearned for a vehicle with such comfort and generous shoulder, leg, and headroom as the SLT Plus. The SLT Plus has leather seating with power adjustments for both front seats to satisfy the most demanding human mortal. The seats are an engineering marvel and can be maneuvered in multiple planes to enhance comfort levels. The SLT Plus also comes with an Overhead Convenience Group, AM/FM stereo radio with six-disc in-dash CD Player and graphic equalizer, eight Infinity speakers and steering wheel mounted audio controls to pump out those most cherished tunes. These features combined with the GPS Navigation Display makes traveling to unknown destinations relatively trivial and worry-free. No map…no problem! Key in your favorite vacation hideaway and blast off!
Having had the opportunity to be a passenger in many mini-vans in varying temperatures, I am a huge fan of the dual-zone climate control system. This system offers independent temperature controls for the front and back so those rear passengers can personalize their own comfort levels. This feature combined with heated seats really pampers all precious cargo.
Another feature that portrays the Durango’s versatility and mobility is the standard Fold-and-Tumble 40/20/40 split-bench second-row seat that easily allows one to elect for storage or more vehicle occupancy. There is also an available a third-row hide-away seat that comfortably welcomes two more passengers or can fold almost flat to the floor for maximum carrying capacity.
The Durango’s unique, innovative “Ramish” look will no doubt catch the attention of spectators. The Durango’s appeal is somewhat of a dichotomy. While its styling is sleek and visually pleasing to the eye, it also invokes an imposing, almost muscular physique. This uniquely positions the SUV as a sleek family vehicle or it can transform into an intimidating off-road “beast” that can easily tame natures’ wild. The wheel flares and beefy tires really put the finishing touches on an already bold vehicle. In my opinion, the curvatures are not too drastic, yet they adequately equip the SUV with a modern, sexy look.
Braking and Handling
The Durango offers standard four-wheel disc brakes that allow for quick stopping power. Rear ABS is standard, while 4-wheel ABS is optional. The Durango has a rack-and-pinion steering system on both the two and four-wheel drive models, which mechanically allows for a more “responsive” steering and maneuverability. This also provides the Durango with the ability to handle tight turning quarters without any problems.
The Durango has a lightweight, but versatile, independent front suspension that offers a virtually “bump-free” ride with directional stability, while allowing for significant ground clearance during your “off-road” adventures…and trust me, you will want to tackle those tempting challenges.
Safety & Security
From a safety perspective, the Durango is equipped with dual front airbags and 4-wheel disc brakes with rear anti-lock brakes. Side-curtain airbags are available as an option to add extra passenger protection. Parents with young cargo will appreciate the child seat anchorage system (Lower Anchors and upper Tethers for Children – LATCH) which is standard on all models.
Another value-added feature is the Sentry Key Engine Immobilizer. This electronically controlled ignition key incorporates an embedded transponder with a unique pre-programmed security code. This unique feature creates an engine management system that makes staring the vehicle without the key, very difficult.
There were only a few minor criticisms that I will comment on during my exhilarating week of adventures with the Durango.
- A humming noise from the transfer case can be heard at accelerating speeds that leaves one initially believing the existence of humming from the tires.
- The seating, while uniquely comfortable, does not offer a lot of neck support for taller individuals
- Remember, when migrating from a sedan to a luxury SUV you will notice a considerable difference in terms of fuel consumption. The Durango was definitely “stingy” with respect to fuel usage.
As a package, however, driving the Dodge Durango can be compared to watching your favorite hockey game from a sponsored corporate box. You know you will enjoy the game, and you know that you will be pampered and have to indulge. The sporty exterior shell in unison with the sleek interior core makes riding not only comfortable but also a true riding experience.