What's New for 2008
The 2008 Dodge Durango receives a few updates. An available next-generation 4.7-liter engine debuts. It's more powerful and reportedly more fuel-efficient than the previous V8. A single-speed transfer case can now be specified on select 4WD models -- basically, that means you can get a Durango with all-wheel drive. Limited models are dressed up with bright exterior trim, while new radio options, Chrysler's MyGIG infotainment system and a rear backup camera are also now available. Finally, the Durango, like other Chrysler products, now has a limited lifetime powertrain warranty.
If there's one vehicle that domestic automakers have always done well, it's the powerful and roomy workhorse. And while their trucks have traditionally been relatively unsophisticated and a little rough around the edges, there's never been a question about whether or not they could get the job done. The 2008 Dodge Durango SUV is a good example of this philosophy, offering strong V8 performance, seating for up to eight and enough towing capacity to handle just about anything you throw at it.
The Durango also happens to represent the old guard of the SUV market. By this, we mean a body-on-frame design (rather than the increasingly more common unit-body design of crossover SUVs), rugged construction and real off-road ability. It's bigger than most midsize SUVs like the Ford Explorer but smaller than something like a Chevy Tahoe, and that "between" size could be appealing to the right kind of buyer.
For 2008, Dodge has made a few improvements. The 4.7-liter V8, for instance, has been heavily revised. It now makes 303 horsepower -- a 29 percent increase over last year's engine -- and 330 pound-feet of torque. Inside, you'll find new entertainment options such as a CD/MP3 player, DVD-compatible audio and the MyGIG multimedia infotainment system that has a hard drive to store digital music files.
Overall, the 2008 Dodge Durango is a capable and fairly well-rounded option for SUV buyers, though its competition has gotten stronger this year. The new Toyota Sequoia is now larger and more powerful, the Nissan Armada has been freshened inside and out and the Chevrolet Tahoe offers a better-furnished cabin with an efficient new two-mode hybrid powertrain option. (A similar Durango Hybrid will be available next year.) GM's large crossovers, such as the GMC Acadia, are also excellent vehicles. All said, the Durango may be worth considering if you need a strong tow vehicle that can carry a family and their gear, but keep shopping if you're looking for a refined SUV with leading-edge design.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Dodge Durango SUV is offered in four trim levels -- SXT, SLT, Adventurer and Limited -- in rear-wheel drive or one of two different four-wheel-drive systems. The base SXT comes standard with 17-inch wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel with integrated cruise controls and a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. Key options include a folding third-row bench seat, rear air-conditioning, 18-inch alloy wheels, a six-CD changer, satellite radio, remote starting, and front and rear laminated glass.
The midlevel SLT is better-equipped, more upgradeable and the preferred choice for many buyers. It includes many of the SXT's options while adding foglamps, a power driver seat and wood grain accents. SLT optional features include 20-inch chrome wheels, a power liftgate, power-adjustable pedals, heated cloth or leather front seats and second-row bucket seats. The MyGIG multimedia system is also available. The Durango Adventurer trim is very similar to the SLT; it differs mainly via cosmetic changes and functional upgrades like a cargo management system and slush-containing floor mats.
Step up to the fully equipped Limited and you'll receive many of the aforementioned premiums plus 18-inch chrome wheels, heated leather bucket seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, driver memory system, auto-dimming mirrors, rear parking assist and a CD/DVD player with premium sound. Other major Durango options include a navigation system, power sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity, heated rear seats and rear-seat DVD entertainment.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine for 2WD Durango SXT and SLT models is a 3.7-liter V6 with 210 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque. Standard on Adventurer, Limited and all 4WD models is a reworked 4.7-liter V8 that generates 303 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. For maximum towing and hauling performance, an optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is also available that cranks out 330 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. All three engines are backed by automatic transmissions; the V6 is mated to a four-speed gearbox while the V8s use five-speed automatics with a tow-haul mode. Four-wheel-drive Durangos are equipped with a standard single-speed transfer case providing full-time 4WD. For more serious off-roaders, an available two-speed transfer case features shift-on-the-fly capability between locked high-range or low-range modes.
Since there isn't much difference in fuel economy among the different configurations, we recommended one of the two V8s for the additional hauling power you'll receive. EPA-estimated mileage is rated at 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway on 2WD Durangos with the 3.7-liter V6, and 13/18 mpg on 4WD trucks with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The new-generation 4.7-liter V8 is expected to have fuel economy similar to the Hemi.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control and side-impact head curtain airbags are standard on all Dodge Durangos. Power-adjustable pedals are standard on the Limited and optional on the SLT and Adventurer. In government frontal crash testing, the 2008 Dodge Durango earned a perfect five-star rating for the protection of front occupants.
Interior Design and Special Features
Modern and functional, the Dodge Durango's cabin was designed with family-style versatility in mind. Depending on third-row seat style, it can carry up to seven or eight passengers. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, but adults will likely find second-row legroom and storage areas to be lacking. Third-row seating is suitable for kids only. Most buyers will find cargo capacity to be more than adequate, with more than 68 cubic feet available when the third seat is folded into the floor, and as much as 102 cubic feet total.
In spite of its large size, the 2008 Dodge Durango delivers a satisfying balance between a smooth, composed ride and crisp handling through corners. Four-wheel-drive versions are also quite capable off-road, offering plenty of wheel travel and responsive manners. The base V6 barely gets out of its own way, however, so we recommend one of the optional V8s for most buyers. When equipped with the powerful Hemi V8, the 2008 Durango is one of the quickest SUVs available for the money.