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First generation Dodge Durango

When it comes to designing and redesigning its vehicles, Dodge over the years has demonstrated a willingness to do two things- to completely reboot its models to fit the changing needs of American drivers, and to consistently improve on models that are already popular. The Dodge Durango, which has evolved from its role as a sibling to the Dakota pickup to a competitor in the mid-size SUV market, is indicative of both trends.

First Generation: 1998-2003

In just about every way except for the bed, the original issue of the Dodge Durango mirrored the Dakota, a relatively small pickup truck in the Dodge lineup. The Durango’s front end was indistinguishable from that of the Dakota, and sitting in the front seat of each vehicle would have been equally indistinguishable. Its 4.7-lliter engine, eventually upgraded to a 5.2-liter one (certain editions boasted engines with even more power), ensured that the Durango, when driven, would feel like a truck as well.

Later year updates would focus on interior features and comforts like heated mirrors that were becoming more and more popular around the turn of the century. All in all, the original Dodge Durango was a capable SUV that felt and drove like a truck but could fit the whole family, and because of that balance sales of the Durango were strong.

Second Generation: 2004-2009

In terms of the way it drove, the second generation Dodge Durango retained the truck-like feel of its predecessor (Dodge would hold off on using the popular unibody frame design, which is lighter but less rugged, on the Durango until its third iteration) while adding features that would bring more drivers to the brand. A hybrid version, for example, was offered in 2009.

The most glaring difference, however, was the addition of an extra row of seats. Vehicles like the Subaru Tribeca would attempt to fill this market space around the same time, but ultimately failed as eight-seater SUV’s for a myriad of reasons. The Durango also became larger in its second generation, and handling upgrades were well-appreciated by drivers.

It is worth mentioning for those in the market for a second generation Durango that the 2007 model saw a significant redesign of exterior features like the wheels and front grill, as well as technical upgrades like stability control and parking assistance that made the 2007 model slightly ahead of its time.

Third Generation: 2011

While the second generation Durango, despite the addition of extra seating, represented more of the same, its successor would see major changes, looking closer to the Jeep Grand Cherokee than to the Dodge Dakota on which it was originally based. For one, the most recent Durango shares many of the same frame and body components as the Grand Cherokee despite the extra row of seats and is manufactured in the same plant. In the years since 2011, the third generation Dodge Durango would receive consistent technological upgrades indicative of the period.

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 Second generation Dodge Durango

In that sense, the most recent Durango captures the automaker’s philosophy toward the design of its vehicles. The Durango was rebooted because of a shift toward large SUV’s (the third generation Durango can barely qualify as mid-size), yet once established, the vehicle saw constant tweaking and upgrades that ensured its continued competitiveness. It is likely for that reason that Dodge retains such a loyal following among drivers in the United States.

Categories: History