Dodge takes the working man's SUV uptown with Durango Citadel

Dodge takes the working man's SUV uptown with Durango Citadel

Dodge Durango 2011 featured

I used to picture the Dodge Durango as the working man’s large SUV.

That was before I drove the 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel AWD, the top-level Durango. There’s no denying its nose and dual headlight styling up front has given it a more sophisticated look. But in the Citadel trim, this Durango also takes on a sophisticated price tag.

Citadel is more in line now with Chevrolet’s Suburban, starting at $43,795, and the test truck hit $47,330.

There remain Durango models the rest of us can afford. An entry-level Express with rear-drive starts at $29,195 while the AWD model starts at $31,195.

[![Dodge Durango Citadel snapshot]( "Dodge Durango Citadel snapshot")]( to enlarge.
The Citadel, which also is available as a rear-drive, is pressing the luxury SUV market.

What do you get for nearly $50,000? The Citadel comes with a blind-spot warning system and heated steering wheel. There also is a rearview camera and warning system, remote start and adaptive cruise control.

The front and second row seats have two-speed heating, while the front seats are ventilated, so they’ll cool quickly on a scorching summer day. Both the first and second row are roomy, but foot and knee room becomes a bit tight in the third row.

Durango remains a solid large SUV, checking in at 5,097 pounds and nearly 200 inches long. It rides on a 119.8-inch wheelbase and has 8.1 inches of ground clearance.

The new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 seems gutsy. It has variable valve timing to increase power and fuel mileage and churns out 290 horsepower. Dodge says it’ll tow a minimum of 5,000 pounds, but with additional towing equipment can pull 7,200 pounds. The test truck added a $600 Class IV tow package.

[![Dodge durango 2011 exterior]( "Dodge durango 2011 exterior")]( remains a solid large SUV, checking in at 5,097 pounds and nearly 200 inches long.
The five-speed automatic transmission turns growly and noisy almost from the get-go. And it hesitates between 30 and 45 mph, sometimes downshifting to give the truck more power.

I believe all the noise and effort is due to the gearing, because in theory 290 horsepower should be plenty for the Durango. You can get an R/T version, which is Dodge’s racy model that packs a 360-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8. It starts at $36,315 or $38,715 for the AWD model.

Ride is somewhat bouncy and trucklike. Certainly it behaves well on the highway, but on rough streets you get a little more bounce and jostle. Handling is good for a large SUV, with only mild play in the wheel. Durango corners well and while it feels heavy, there is not much lean in tight corners.

Braking from four wheel discs is good. There are big 20-inch tires underneath and traction is good with the AWD system.

Gas mileage is decent. I got 18.3 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving. The EPA rates this at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

The test truck was an attractive blackberry pearl, which was a dark metallic blue that looked black most of the time. That costs $295 extra.

[![Dodge Durango 2011 interior]( "Dodge Durango 2011 interior")]( Citadel is pressing the luxury SUV market.
Inside, the truck had black leather seats with white stitching, a black textured dash and chrome door handles along with chrome on the console and air vents. There also was some gray wood-look trim on the dash and the leather steering wheel had a pewter-look hub.

Under normal driving conditions, the interior was fairly quiet. But when you accelerate, the transmission and engine start roaring.

Dash controls are well laid out and simple. There’s a power tilt-telescope steering wheel with trip computer controls on the hub, accessed through a series of arrows. Cruise and radio controls are there, with radio volume and station selection buttons on the back of the wheel.

There’s a touch-screen radio and navigation system mid-dash.

The test Durango had a sunroof and its visors slide to block side sun. An optional package ($1,695) included a rear DVD entertainment system, plus BackSeat TV.

Fold down the back two rows of seats and the Durango offers a sizable 85 cubic feet of cargo room, making this a good stuff hauler, when you need it. That’s the utility part of sport-utility vehicles.

I enjoyed driving the Citadel version, but for my money, the bargain is in the lower-cost Durango models. They feature the same engine and other mechanicals.

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