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2002 Dodge Durango 4x4 SLT

By Michael Cohn

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So how did the Durango fare off-road? We took it out to our test area to have a go at the dirt and rocks. We had recently had quite a bit of rain so we were careful not to get into more than we thought the truck could handle. The entrance to the test area has a gully that must first be traversed. We immediately learned the limits of the 25.1 degree departure angle, as we dragged the hitch over the edge of the road. After realigning ourselves, we entered the trailhead and stuck the truck in 2 Lo. With our 265/70R16 All Terrains on 16x8" wheels, we headed for the muddy hill ahead. It didn't take long before we had met our match. With no limited slip in this truck, we were not going to get far in this Alabama muck. Having nobody else with us to help out, we felt it wise to turn back and head for our second test area.

The goal of this area was simply see if the Durango could climb a long and steep hill. The Durango comes standard with 3.55 gears with a 3.92 optional ratio. With the 3.55 gears, and the 2.72 low range, even without a limited slip, our confidence was high that the Durango was built to handle real trails after looking underneath the truck and seeing the massive corporate 9.25" rear axle, which is standard in the V8 4x4 models.

2002 Dodge Durango
2002 Dodge Durango

Though the previous trail was completely slathered in mud, this hill was much drier. My hopes high, I headed for the hill up to what is affectionately called "The Rock." The Durango did, in fact, climb the hill, however, once we reached a step near the top, the independent front end's lack of flex and lack of a locking rear once again showed us the limits of this truck, so we called it a day.

It never ceases to amaze us that the car manufacturers can build 4x4 trucks with heavy duty components for off-road use and not include the $251 limited slip in the package. When spending $33,000 for a Durango, the extra couple of bucks a month can make the difference between a truck that can hit some dirt trails around the ranch or to the fishing hole and a truck that can really go wherever you want to go. In addition, in snowy areas of the country, the limited slip can mean either staying home or heading out for groceries. If you plan on buying a Durango don't leave this option off your list.

2002 Dodge Durango
2002 Dodge Durango

The interior of the Durango is all Dodge. Even without seeing a logo, you can tell a Dodge when you're in it. The dash trim and knobs come close to being nice without ever quite getting there. This is one area where we wish the Durango wasn't so trucky and wish Dodge would spend a little more time and attention. However, 6-way power seats were fully adjustable and the leather was of good quality look and feel. In addition, the 4 speaker stereo system did a great job of providing the soundtrack while in the urban jungle (an available 8 speaker Infiniti system is available).

As for creature comforts, Durangos come with dual-zone heating and air standard. Though this is a nice feature, we have yet to drive a vehicle where both front passengers were ever really happy. The rear passengers also get their own HVAC controls. But once you get the temperature right, you have plenty of places to store those very important beverages. The front passengers get 3 cup holders, two of which are adjustable, while the third is a fixed-size, gigantic one. The rear passengers also have their share of holder, which include two additional spots in the fold-down center arm rest, while the third row also got their own sets.

2002 Dodge Durango
2002 Dodge Durango

What sets this eight-seater apart from much of its competition is the utility part of Sport Utility Vehicle. While some SUVs try to make themselves out to be great people and cargo haulers, the Durango truly fits the bill. The seats fold down in a unique manner that requires little effort once you figure out how to do it. The back seats and stadium-style third row seats fold down almost entirely flat, revealing perhaps the most cavernous cargo area we've seen to date, providing 88 cubic feet of storage area. In fact, there is even a rear hideaway storage compartment in the rear to stow even more of your extra goodies.

2002 Dodge Durango
2002 Dodge Durango

Dodge has worked hard over the last decade or so to establish themselves as a the most genuine truck brand. When the new-style Rams appeared on the scene, they caused a whole new trend in the truck market with their big-rig style crosshair front grills and larger-than-life features. That full-size truck styling then cascaded through the line into the Dakotas and the Durangos.

Not only has Dodge stayed true to themselves by building a genuine SUV in Durango, but they have created a bold, sporty vehicle with real truck underpinnings. Bravo Dodge!

For more information on Dodge trucks, visit www.dodge.com

 

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