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2003 Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Dodge Durango
Dodge Durango

Since its introduction, the burly Dodge Durango has offered serious truck styling, and serious truck road manners to match. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, since some people really like to feel that their truck is the baddest one on the block (something that a Honda Pilot, or a Toyota Highlander, for example, could never be).

So to go along with its big-truck styling are a couple big-truck engines, both of them V-8s. One is a 235-hp 4.7-liter, and the other is a 245-hp 5.9-liter. The bigger engine, while not much thirstier than the other, makes boatloads more torque (the better to haul your 7500-lb boat loads with, my dears). And speaking of bigger, the Durango is just plain bigger than the rest in this group. While it's just two inches longer than a Chevrolet Trailblazer (that's it?), it is four inches longer than a Ford Explorer, and a full 12 inches longer than a Jeep Grand Cherokee. That's right, she's a big girl; any bigger and she'd be considered a full-sizer like the Ford Expedition and the Chevy Tahoe. Like the big 'uns, though, the Durango has room for a third-row seat for that occasional passenger overflow.

Inside, the Durango feels as spacious as it looks on the outside, even though the rear seats could use more leg room. And while size never goes out of style, the interior feels somewhat dated from an ergonomic standpoint (not surprising, considering the number of years the Durango has been on the market). On a related note, a replacement for the Durango is right around the corner, slated for an early 2004 launch. That truck, while significantly fresher and more modern, won't have the bad-ass quality that, let's face it, is this truck's #1 competitive advantage. This also means that Dodge dealers will be ready to make sweet deals on this one, which is already priced attractively from the mid-$20Ks for the base Durango to the mid-$30K range for a loaded SLT.