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Dodge Durango Through The Years

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In 1998, the Dodge Durango started as a smooth-riding, quick-cornering high-horsepower SUV ‘sports car’ and has now turned into a sports car beater.

In 1998, the mid-sized Dodge Durango generation rolled into the SUV market with a nearly unheard of smooth but excellently cornering suspension. Using the same high-torque, high-horsepower engines as the Dakota, Dodge wanted to put together a very comfortable but sports-oriented utility vehicle with some big shoulders and an attitude.

2020 Dodge Durango - dodge.com

2020 Dodge Durango – dodge.com  |  Shop Dodge Durango on Carsforsale.com

When the Durango was introduced, Dodge called it a ‘Smart-Size’ SUV but classified it as a compact SUV. Since that classification stuck, it had the highest towing and hauling capability, the most powerful engine, and seat up to eight people, making it the only compact in its class to do so. What started as a bit of an SUV sports car has now turned into a sports car beater.

Today, the Daily Driver is looking back at the storied history of the legendary Dodge Durango “sport” utility through the years.

First Generation (1998 – 2003)

1998 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com
1998 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com

The new, powerful Durango is launched to sell in the market gap between the larger Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Explorer.

  • Dodge introduced the Durango in 1998 as a mid-size SUV with the body-on-frame construction found in the Dodge Dakota.
  • Consumer testing led Dodge to build an SUV with the more power, capability, and interior space than any other vehicle in its class.
  • The Dodge Durango launched press kit was a cereal named “Durangos.” On the box was a photo of a Durango bursting through the package. Inside the press kit was a box of Wheaties cereal.
  • The Durango was designed with a strong visual presence, horsepower, and a rumbling exhaust to go with it.
  • Durango’s roof was raised two inches from the second seat to the rear to increase passenger headroom and visibility.
  • The Dodge Durango had an additional hidden storage compartment behind the rear axle.
  • The 1st Dodge Durango generation launched with a 5.2L V8 engine.
  • For 1999, leather seats were standard on SLT Plus.
  • The first Durango towed up to 7,500 lbs and was only available with a 4WD drivetrain.
  • Both 2WD and 4WD were available in 1999.
  • An AWD performance version called the R/T entered the market with a 245 hp and 330 lb·ft of torque 5.9 L Magnum V8.
1999 Dodge Durango - carsforsale.com
1999 Dodge Durango - carsforsale.com
  • In 1999, the 3.9L V6 was made available and then eliminated in 2000.
  • Dodge sold 300 Shelby SP360 Durango’s
  • The Shelby Durango was a $54,000, 360-horsepower rocket with a Kenne Bell supercharger and 142 mph top speed.
  • The Shelby Durango had stripes, unique wheels, and upgrades to the suspension.
  • The top-of-the-line SLT Plus had fog lamps, leather seats, a power driver’s seat, a standard security alarm, an Infinity sound system with eight speakers, and steering wheel audio controls.
2000 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com
2000 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com
  • For the 2000 model year, a new 4.7 L Magnum V8 engine replaced the reliable 5.2 L Magnum V8 as the standard engine for four-wheel-drive models.
  • In 2001, Dodge redesigned the interior to include standard dual climate controls, redesigned seats, and a new electronic vehicle information center.
  • For 2003, four-wheel disc brakes were standard on all models for increased stopping power.

Second Generation (2004 – 2009)

2004 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com
2004 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com

The second Dodge Durango generation grew larger and embraced the auto show concept Dodge Ram Powerbox exterior design cues to great success. The previous generation had a luxury feel on the inside, but the 2nd generation Durango’s plastic interior suffered from cost-cutting to keep the price low.

  • The 2nd gen Dodge Durango grew two inches wider, three inches taller, and seven inches longer. It was now a full-sized SUV.
  • The newly redesigned Durango added a third-row bench with three seats, giving it an eight-seat capacity.
  • A new coil-spring rear suspension replaced the leaf springs giving a smoother ride and more control.
  • A Watt’s linkage system on the rear axle made space for a wider floor and cargo area.
  • New dual-stage front airbags and an occupant-sensing system for the passenger-side front airbag were included in the 2004 Durango.
  • Engine options were a 3.7L V6, a 4.7L V8, and a 5.7L HEMI V8.
  • The 2004 Dodge Durango was the first DaimlerChrysler SUV to have the 5.7 L Hemi V8.
  • This Dodge Durango generation had more cargo room (67.3 cubic feet behind the second row) than the larger Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, or Toyota Sequoia.
  • Optional quad heated bucket seats were available on the SLT and Limited models.
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2007 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com
2007 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com
  • The updated 2007 Dodge Durango debuted at the Dallas Auto show with a redesigned grille, hood, headlamps, and fenders.
  • For 2007 Dodge increased the Hemi’s fuel mileage by 20% through shutting off four cylinders when not in use.
  • Electronic stability control and rear parking assist were added in 2007.
  • In 2007, the luxury-focused Chrysler Aspen was introduced as a rebadged version of the Durango.
  • A 2-mode hybrid option was available in 2009 with increased power. Gas mileage also increased by about 25% (40% in the city).
  • This Dodge Durango generation was discontinued after the 2009 model year because of a factory shutdown and increasing gas prices. Production stopped on December 19, 2008.

Third Generation (2011 – Present)

The reintroduced Dodge Durango‘s design ditched the boxy look for a more aggressive, aerodynamic, and speedy profile. To be more competitive, it also included a dramatically redesigned and luxury-focused interior.

2011 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com

2011 Dodge Durango – fcanorthamerica.com  |  Shop Dodge Durango on Carsforsale.com

  • The only available engines at the launch were a standard 3.6L V6 and a 360 HP HEMI 5.7L V8. The Hellcat has since been added.
  • Dodge moves to unibody construction based on the Jeep Cherokee for the 3rd Dodge Durango generation.
  • The 3rd generation Dodge Durango shares the assembly line, running gear, powertrains, and chassis parts with the Grand Cherokee.
  • The increased interior size allows owners to carry a 6-foot couch with room for a coffee table when the second and third-row seats are folded flat.
  • The 0.35 drag coefficient was 14% better than the previous Dodge Durango generation.
  • Dodge refreshed the Durango in 2014, adding sportier lines, new LED “Racetrack” taillights, and 8-speed automatic transmission.
  • The Dodge Durango became an even stronger “sport” utility with the new SRT and SRT Hellcat.
  • The SRT has a powerful 475 HP and 470 lb-ft torque engine.
  • The all-powerful Hellcat is powered by an asphalt melting supercharged 710 HP 645 lb-ft torque engine.
2019 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com
2019 Dodge Durango - fcanorthamerica.com
  • Auto start-stop was introduced in 2016.
  • Upgraded features included a Blu-Ray DVD system, 115V outlet, navigation, blind-spot monitors, power tailgate, power sunroof, 8.4-in touchscreen with UConnect, Nappa leather, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, and more.
  • In 2019, the Durango was the 3rd best-selling large SUV.
  • For 2021, a refreshed grille and headlight design gives the Dodge Durango a look that’s similar to the Dodge Charger.
  • A new Tow N Go package allowing Durango R/Ts equipped with the 360-hp 5.7-liter V-8 to tow up to 8,700 pounds.
  • The Dodge Durango’s newly redesigned dash with an available 10.1-inch screen center-mounted touch screen is introduced for 2021.
2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat - fcanorthamerica.com

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat – fcanorthamerica.com  |  Shop new Dodge Durango on Carsforsale.com

The Future of the Durango

There are many thoughts and speculations on where the 4th Dodge Durango generation is headed. The Durango may even be discontinued like it was in 2009. However, Dodge’s gossip suggests that the new Dodge Durango will be built alongside the mechanically similar 2022 Jeep Wagoneer at Fiat-Chryslers Warren Truck Assembly Plant. And there’s even a suggestion that the Durango will get back to its roots with a body-on-frame construction.

Regardless of the new direction, the Dodge Durango, through the years, has shown the ability to quickly navigate obstacles on the road in a way few SUVs can. The Dodge Durango generations will continue to put the word sport into sport-utility.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Steve Mitchell

Steve's first car had pedals, and he's been filled with passion for four wheels ever since. He lives and breathes the car life as a technologist, futurist, and writer while keeping up with the whys, hows, and plans of the automotive industry. His automotive journey began with a fully restored Triumph TR3b that he sadly never appreciated until decades later. Ownerships of X-1/9's, BMW's, an SVT and a Dodge Ram Hemi have given way to the house of Audi Sport. You'll also find him as an endurance athlete on the bike in SoCal, but you'll know he's thinking about cars.

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