The 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel: Upmarket package looking for more muscle

It’s nice to see new products rolling into Chrysler dealerships as the iconic American giant has been on the mat for too long. It is also nice to see the return of one of the company’s most popular offerings, the Dodge Durango CUV.

New Styling

The first thing I noticed as I approached the 2011 Dodge Durango for the first time was how much better it looked than the previous version. The first generation Durango looked rather rugged, and powerful, while the second generation looked bloated, and far too much like a mini-van.  The 2011 edition of the Durango is all-new, and its outward appearance looks decidedly upmarket, but with a just a hint of  aggression.  The wide cross-hair grille, huge headlamps, and swollen hood should help the brand attract those buyers looking to stand out from the crowd of rather vanilla offerings from its many rivals.

2011 Dodge Durango Citadel Review

Interior

The interior treatment on my test unit was very attractive, and the spacious cabin offered room for up to seven occupants. The quality of the leather seating, panel surfaces, dash and trim represents an enormous improvement for the Dodge brand. Mind you my vehicle was a fully loaded Citadel model, so  comfort and convenience amenities and accessories were in abundance.

2011 Dodge Durango Citadel Review seats2011 Dodge Durango Citadel Review dash

The truck-based ladder frame has been discarded in favour of a more modern uni-body platform that the Durango now shares with the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee. This has resulted in a very refined ride and more predictable handling. I found the ride experience to be very civilized and on par with that of many luxury cars, and the cabin seemed well insulated from wind, road and engine noise. In fact, the Durango seemed far too quiet for my liking, so it was time to investigate.

Power: Not Enough

I was horrified at what I discovered. Popping the hood release I was surprised to see that the company’s rumbling Hemi V8 engine was MIA. Instead, the engine bay housed  the company’s award-winning , 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 mated to a five-speed automatic.  Yes, I did say five-speed. Sure the Pentastar still delivers a commendable 290 horsepower and 260lb-ft of torque, but it doesn’t feel like it when you step on the accelerator. Most would agree that those are healthy power ratings on paper, but on the road, the Durango’s motivation was woefully anaemic. So much so that if my regular routine required me to transport a full load of passengers on a regular basis I know that I wouldn’t be happy with the performance delivered by this set-up. I can’t even fathom using this combination to pull a trailer through the mountainous regions through which I tend to travel, even though corporate literature rates it for 2,812 kg (6,200 lb) and touts it as best-in-class for V6 powered vehicles in this category.

2011 Dodge Durango Citadel Review engine

I realize that both the Pentastar V6 and the transmission have been engineered  to maximize fuel-efficiency, but for this application, the combination is really overmatched by the weight and size of the vehicle. Maybe I would be more open to the V6 if I lived in Saskatchewan- free of long climbs and mountain passes, but, in reality, I didn’t even feel confident enough in the power delivery to perform simple passing manoeuvres during my brief time with the vehicle.

2011 Dodge Durango Citadel Review rear cargo

There are four models in the Durango line-up, and all feature active all-wheel-drive. An entry level Durango SXT can be had for $37,995, whereas the Citadel starts at $49,995. The Citadel package brings a lot to the party, including Nappa leather seating, HID headlights, 20-inch chrome alloy wheels, and a media centre which includes a Garmin-engineered navigation system. The winter chill will be defeated by a heated steering wheel, while ventilated seating will keep your core cool during the summer months. Safety goodies include a blind spot monitoring system as well as adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning capabilities.

Also see: Dodge Reviews

Takeaway

In short, there is a lot of value here, but my advice is to pony up the extra $2,000 for the Hemi upgrade, which apart from planting the sweet 5.7-litre V8 under the hood, also gets you a 6-speed transmission. The extra fuel costs won’t break you in the long run, as the HEMI VVT V8 features the company’s advanced FuelSaver Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which alternates between four-cylinder mode when less power is required and full V8 performance when the engine is under load. With 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque on tap I suspect the hills would flatten and towing would be much less of a chore. Even more importantly my ears would tickle to the visceral growl generated by one of the smoothest V8 engines in the marketplace.

Learn more – Dodge Durango Citadel

CONS:

  • V6 is woefully under-powered
  • Chrome wheels look outdated
  • Wimpy exhaust note

Technical Specifications: 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel

Base price (CAD MSRP): $ $49,995 + $1,400 freight and PDI

Type: 4-door, 7-passenger full-size CUV

Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive

Engine: 3.6-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves or optional 5.7-litre V8, OHV, 16 valves

Horsepower: 290 @ 6,400 rpm / 360 @ 5150 rpm (V8)

Torque (lb-ft): 260 @ 4,800 rpm / 390 @ 4250 rpm (V8)

Transmission: 5-speed automatic / 6-speed automatic (V8)

Cargo capacity: 487 L (17.2 cu.ft.) – 2393 L (84.5 cu.ft.)

Towing capacity: V6- 2812 kg (6200 lbs) / V8- 3266 kg (7200 lbs)

Fuel consumption (L/100km): V6- City: 13.0 (22 mpg) / Hwy: 8.9 (32 mpg)

V8- City: 16.6 (17 mpg) / Hwy: 10.1 (28 mpg)

Russell Purcell is an award-winning automotive journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, B.C. His passion for automobiles was sparked at the tender age of six, when a family friend gave the wide-eyed first grader a ride to school in a track prepared Porsche 911 RSR. He continues to fan the flames by building an impressive library of automotive related books as well as a vast collection of interesting automobilia and motoring artefacts. Russell is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and is active on Twitter as RoadTestRuss.

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