Monday, September 24, 2012

Used Car Review - Dodge Durango (2005-2009)

If one says SUV, one thinks of American. And with the month of September coming to an end, it would be unfair not to feature an American SUV on our pages. Myk Belmonte picks out a muscle that America has to offer the local market. If you haven't decided on what SUV is it, this is the last chance.

2005-2009 Dodge Durango

Notice the pattern among some American vehicles, they do have names patterned after several places in North America. There exists the Chevrolet Tahoe which is named after Lake Tahoe in Nevada, and the Chevrolet Malibu whose name was from Malibu, California. Dodge had its Dakota, named after the twin states and the Pontiac Montana, whose name drew inspiration from the state bordering Canada. And lets not go further with our featured car, which is based from a city in the state of Colorado.

The first generation Durango was launched in 1998 and ended production life in 2003. The second gen became available in dealerships in 2004 shortly before the sibling Dakota's. It possessed a habitable third row seat, a new coil-spring rear suspension, and a solid rear axle. A luxurious sibling in the name of Chrysler Aspen was made available via Chrysler sales outlets in North America as well as a hybrid version. With falling sales, Chrysler had to discontinue both the Durango and Aspen in 2009. The former resurfaced as a crossover SUV two years later with mechanical parts and assembly plant identical with the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

CATS Motors - who distributes Mercedes Benz and Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles - introduced the second generation Durango to the Philippine market in 2005, a one year delay compared to the US market. It was positioned to compete with the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition, hence with the availability of V8 engines. It was refreshed in 2007 and dropped from the line-up two years later together with the discontinuation in the US.

Value and Costs
You can acquire a second hand Durango for half the price when it was brand new. Expect to pay between P1,000,000-P1,300,000 for a decently maintained unit. However, it would be better to check for service records since fixing this would be costly (what more with its V8 engine) and an inspection is better. While you're at it, picking up a pre-owned example is a wiser decision.

Finding parts is a little bit difficult than a Ford Everest, no thanks to the low sales and the perils of owning a vehicle with a V8 engine. But servicing it is now easy thanks to the influx of Daimler-Chrysler service centers outside the casa. If you want to have one parked inside your garage, better save some bucks for fuel allowance since it would cost you nearly a month's worth of groceries. Plus, numerous electronic aids such as the electronic stability control, and the tire pressure monitor must be in good shape.

Exterior and Interior
While retaining the mid-size proportions, the Durango has that macho stance even from afar. See the big "eyes" that lead to the fenders and an imposing grille that compliments a budging hood line. You'll say its American due to the fender flares, slabbed sides, and that big grille.

If Dodge vehicles offered in the US are criticized due to cheap feeling plastic materials, the Durango does not have it. There are bits of hard plastic but they are presented well, with first-class materials all over. Leather seating is standard (which should be since you are paying two mil on a brand new SUV), an high end sound system courtesy of Infinity, and for 2008 and later models, a MyGIG media interface. Despite the small exterior dimensions, a family of eight (more than the average) can fit inside in comfort.

Two V8 engine options are available for the Filipino buyer. These engine choices include a 4,698cc Magnum V8 with 230hp at 4,600rpm and 393Nm at 3,600rpm and a 5,654cc HEMI (yes, the one that has been used in Ram Trucks) V8 that carries 335hp at 5,200rpm and 509Nm at 4,200rpm. In North America, a 3.7 V6 is offered but was slammed by reviewers because it is underpowered and inadequate for the weight of the body, and it was a good thing this engine did not see Philippine roads. Honestly, you can never go wrong with any of the two V8 engines, since both of them are very quick and satisfy one's desire for power.

Driving Impressions
Driving the Durango won't necessitate the need for special driving lessons due to the similar dimensions of a Toyota Fortuner. With the suspension tandem of double wishbone and a rigid axle that has Watt's linkage on it, a comfortable ride is in store for the passengers. You don't need trips to the drug store due to motion sickness since the suspension set-up vindicates well, which competitors are guilty of. Handling is fine but don't do your Alonso mimicry.

Saying the word power is easy, but experiencing it all together is one different can of worms (this does not involve singing Snap's 'The Power', joining politics, or entering network marketing). The Durango is one SUV that balances power and daily driving usage, and you can get one since prices have plummeted. It is rare to see Durangos in the classified ads online or every Sunday so wish you all the luck in hunting.

The Good:
  • Practical than main competitors
  • Powerful V8 engines
  • Tons of standard features
The Bad:
  • Buying this SUV would result to befriending the gas station manager
  • No diesel engine available
  • Conducting a used Durango hunt can be difficult due to rarity
The Pick: 4.7 V8 is more than enough

Engines: 4,698cc and 5,654cc V8 gasoline
Power: 230hp @ 4,600rpm (4.7), 335hp @ 5,200rpm (5.7)
Torque: 393Nm @ 3,600rpm (4.7), 509Nm @ 4,200rpm (5.7)
Fuel Consumption: 4-6km/L (city), 7-9km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent double wishbone, rear rigid axle with Watt's linkage

Price (New): P2,550,000-P2,950,000
Price (Now): P1,000,000-P1,300,000
Rivals: Ford Expedition, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Mitsubishi Pajero

CATS Pre-Owned - 723-5808

Photos courtesy of

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