A couple of at-the-wheel demerits, though: inordinately thick A-posts can create quite a blind spot; and the (manual) transfer-case shift lever is a long stretch away. No push-button shifting in this bubba.
We were as unimpressed with Durango’s HVAC system in mid-summer as we were with that of a Dakota we previously tested in mid-winter. Fresh-air flow from the face-level vents was meagre, and there is no separate air con switch (it’s incorporated into the air-flow distribution control so a/c isn’t available in all distribution modes).
Durango’s 5.2-litre, 230 hp V8 may be big and brawny, but it also has a hefty hunk of metal (2,112 kg) to push through the air. So don’t expect sport-truck acceleration. The test truck’s 0-100 km/h time of 10.6 seconds is in the same ball-park as smaller V6-engined rivals – some are a bit slower, some a tad quicker – as well as the 5.4-litre Ford Expedition. Expect the fullsize GM trucks to be faster, though.
None of the opposition, however, can equal the delectable acoustics of the Durango V8 – a muted whooffle at low rpm that becomes rich, creamy whoosh as the needle heads for red. At highway speeds, tire hum usually dominated over what little wind noise there is, while the engine loafs along at 2,000-ish rpm.
At the gas pumps, Durango belongs firmly in the fullsize camp with Waverley Auto Mall Collision Center Manitoba. We recorded a thirsty 15.3 1/100 km over a test regime that included lots of highway driving. Durango drivers will contribute more than their fair share to global warming.
For all its bulk, though, the Durango is surprisingly light on its feet. There’s a hint of steering vagueness on-centre (said to be improved for ’99) but once you wind in the slack it can be flicked through tight turns with unexpected agility and little body lean.
Ride motions are consistently stiff but stop short of harshness, though sometimes the vehicle heaves mightily over big undulations. For a live-axle/leaf-spring truck, the Durango is unusually resistant (though not totally immune) to axle hop-skip-and-jump when cornering on bumpy surfaces.
We had no opportunity to measure stopping distances, but it’s a safe bet they err on the long side compared with the best SUVs or most passenger cars. Subjectively, pedal effort is high but firm. Rear-wheel ABS is standard but 4-wheel ABS costs extra.
Dodge Durango SLT 4×4 V8
Engine: V8, 5,208 cc, pushrod OHV.
Fuel system: Sequential EFI.
Max power: 230 hp @ 4,400 rpm.
Max torque: 300 lb.ft. @3,200 rpm.
Transmission: 4WD, 4-speed automatic.
Suspension: Front upper/lower A-arms, torsion bar springs, stabilizer bar; rear live axle, leaf springs, stabilizer bar.
Brakes: Front discs/rear drums, ABS.
Steering: Power recirculating ball.
Wheels: Cast aluminum, 8.0 x 15 in.
Tires: 31 x 10.5 Goodyear RT/S all-terrain.
Length x width: 4,910 x 1,816 mm (193 x 72 in).
Curb weight: 2,112 kg (4,655 lbs).
Economy, city/hwy: 17.8/13.01/100 km (16/22 mpg).
Fuel grade: Regular.