2004 Dodge Durango
Photo: DaimlerChrysler. Click image to enlarge

Story and photos by Russell Purcell

In a world of ‘Super-sized’ meals and ‘Super Big Gulps’, it comes as no surprise that automobiles in general, are increasing in size. This is especially true when it comes to the sport utility market.

For 2004, Dodge has swelled the Durango to proportions that move it closer to full-size competitors like the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe, besting the former in wheelbase and the latter in weight, and both in cargo room. The Durango offers greater towing capacity than these large stalwarts, if you choose to equip it with the Hemi.

The actual dimensional increases are smaller than you might expect as its tapered nose and enormous oxen-yoke grille make it look much larger. The truck is 17-centimetres longer, 7-centimetres taller, and 5-centimetres wider than the previous model.

Under the hood

2004 Dodge Durango 4.7 litre V8
4.7 litre V8. Photo: Click image to enlarge

For 2004, consumers can choose either a 4.7-litre V8 that produces a healthy 230-horsepower and 335 lb.-ft. of torque, or, for the performance junkies, the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 (345-hp and 375 lb.-ft of torque). The latter has helped both the Dodge and Chrysler (with the 300C) brands rekindle their muscle car images. The latter unit pumps out a tire-smoking 330-hp and will no doubt attract those buyers looking to put their Durangos to work, and surprisingly just a little thirstier than the standard 4.7-litre unit.

Unlike our neighbours to the South, Canuck buyers cannot get the V6, two-wheel drive Durango, which is probably a blessing rather than a cause for complaint. Who needs a tall, under-powered station wagon (which in effect, is what this neutered ST model really is)?

My test vehicle was a jet black SLT model with the 4.7-litre V8 engine and cloth interior. Sure it wasn’t the Hemi, but it did offer sufficient grunt to motivate this 2,119 kilogram chariot to 100 km/h in a mere 10 seconds. This next-generation engine is smooth and quiet and perfectly matched to the five-speed automatic.

On the Road

2004 Dodge Durango SLT
Click image to enlarge

The independent front suspension is a carry over, but the tired rear leaf spring setup has been jettisoned and replaced with a coil spring-Watt linkage system which retains the solid rear axle. Why did they choose this route over an independent setup in the back? Well, cost would be one factor, but more importantly, the solid axle system allows for a greater towing capacity (ranging from 2,608 – 3,946 kgs. maximum trailer weight) which is a duty Durango owners want their trucks to perform.

To accommodate the extra weight that comes with towing a heavy trailer, Dodge has fitted the Durango with the four-wheel ABS brake system found in the RAM 1500 line of pickups.


I for one loved the aggressive look of the previous Durango model, with its wide stance and large front fender flares, but the new model’s fresh face has its own appeal.

2004 Dodge Durango SLT

2004 Dodge Durango SLT
Click image to enlarge

Sure it eschews the roll-top fenders for narrower units with a more rounded physique, but at least a large grille is still part of the package. The tapered nose features a short hood that leads to a huge oxen-yoke grille and larger headlamps that together bring the Durango a step closer to the Ram look made popular in the company’s pick-up lineup. Surprisingly, the hood lacks struts, making it a test of arm strength to lift the hood high enough to install the prop.

The rear features a body-coloured bumper shroud, capped with a no-slip material that will also protect the paint from scuffs and dings that often arise from loading heavy items and resting them on the bumper, or dog nails. The wide hatch is bordered by stacked taillights that resemble those found on the Jeep Liberty.

It is important to also note that the new design performs better in the event of a crash, protecting both its own occupants as well as those in smaller vehicles it may come into contact with. Next-generation multi-stage airbags cushion the blow while the vehicle’s body and frame dissipate impact forces in a controlled manner, directed away from the passenger compartment as much as possible. The height of the front bumper is now within the safety zone for most automobiles (whereas most trucks and sport utility vehicles wear their bumpers too high), greatly increasing the chances for occupant injury when impacts occur with a smaller automobile, as the bumper misses the door bracing and penetrates the window frame. The designers at Dodge deserve a pat on the back for making this a primary element of their new design.


2004 Dodge Durango SLT

2004 Dodge Durango SLT
Click image to enlarge

The new Durango features a more cab-forward design than the outgoing model, and the increase in overall size makes this immediately evident in the side profile. Most of the new space found its way to the rear passenger area, making it a comfortable place for average sized adults to stretch out.

The Durango’s elevated seating position and tall side windows result in excellent visibility all round. The tall bucket seats now offer independent head rests, whereas previous Durangos featured a one-piece design.

My SLT test unit had a power adjustable driver’s seat which, when combined with the available power adjustable pedals, allow the driver to find a perfect position. The extra room that comes with the redesign is immediately evident to those with experience of the outgoing model, especially with regards to headroom, which is generous in all but the third row seating positions. The added headspace made it possible to offer a power sunroof on the Durango for the first time as well.

Fit-and-finish as well as the quality of the materials used to construct the vehicle’s passenger compartment are both markedly improved although I have my concerns about the soft fabric covering the seats, as it seemed very lightweight and thin, and prone to stretch.

2004 Dodge durango
Click image to enlarge

All instruments and switchgear fall readily to both eye and hand, but the highlight of the instrument panel is the enormous, electroluminescent gauges, which have white backgrounds during the daylight hours, and indiglo-like blue lighting at night.

SLT package

The SLT package is the value offering from Dodge, and as such, my test vehicle represented the bread-and-butter choice for consumers.

The Durango comes standard with part-time, ‘shift-on-the-fly’ all-wheel drive, four-wheel ABS brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, single-CD audio system, power windows and mirrors, and remote entry. A power-operated driver’s seat is also standard as are rear controls for heating and air conditioning.

Upgraded SLT Plus and Limited packages allow buyers to outfit their Durango to meet their needs, and popular options include everything from leather seating surfaces to rear DVD entertainment systems, as well as upgraded safety levels with the addition of side-curtain airbags.

Cargo area

The cargo area is very versatile and can be configured to accommodate various loads through the folding of the second and third row split seats. The resulting cargo floor is almost perfectly flat, and you can fit a standard 4X8′ sheet of plywood inside with the hatch closed. I didn’t get a chance to try this, but the Durango’s cargo area did look cavernous with all the seats folded.

2004 Dodge Durango SLT
Click image to enlarge

A covered storage tray is concealed in the floor of the rearmost compartment and various bins and pockets populate the passenger area. The wide rear hatch swings upwards, out of the way, offering a level of protection form wind and rain while loading groceries or gear. Surprisingly designers chose not to offer window access to the rear cargo area – this feature is handy when parked in tight spaces or when stowing small items.


The 2004 Durango offers more room, power, and luxury than almost every other SUV on the market, and at a competitive price. So if you require heaps of room for both passengers and cargo but desire a mid-size package for its city-friendly maneuverability, the Durango may be your best choice. Excellent standard equipment levels and a class leading level of refinement make the Durango a contender, but improved safety ratings make it a winner.

Technical Data: 2004 Dodge Durango SLT

Base price $42,175
Options $1,000 ($535 Interior Convenience Group-overhead console, cargo net, courtesy/reading lamps, illuminated vanity mirrors, garage door opener; $275 Traction control and axle ratio 3.92; $190 Power adjustable pedals)
Destination charge $1,075
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $44,350
Type four-door, seven passenger sport-utility
Layout longitudinal front engine/AWD/part-time four-wheel-drive
Engine 4.7 litre V8, SOHC
Horsepower 230 @ 4,700 rpm
Torque 290 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,700 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic with tow/haul shift mode
Tires P265/65R17 on/off-road
Curb weight 2,119 kg (4,671 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,920 mm (119.2 in.)
Length 5,100 mm (200.8 in.)
Width 1,930 mm (76.0 in.)
Height 1,887 mm (74.3 in.)
Ground clearance Front – 257 mm (10.1 in.), Rear – 221 mm (8.7 in.)
Towing capacity, with package 3,289 kg (7,250 lb.) (with 5.7 V-8: 3,946 kg (8,700 lb.)
Cargo volume All seats up: 569 litres ( 20.1 cu. ft.)
  Second and third row seats folded: 2,900 litres (102.4 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City 17.2 l/100 km (16 mpg)
  Hwy. 12.1 l/100 km (23 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 7 yrs/115,000 km

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