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First look: Dodge eyes new Durango for Oz

Family grand: Redesigned Durango is based on next year’s all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee and could also come Down Under.

All-new Durango seven-seat SUV emerges as next big opportunity for Chrysler Oz

3 Sep 2010

CHRYSLER’S historic Dodge brand has revealed a daring new Durango in Detroit and, just when it looked like Dodge’s product pipeline had dried up Down Under, there’s a good chance the big new seven-seat SUV could be sold here for the first time.

As we’ve reported, Dodge’s slow-selling Avenger sedan was discontinued in Australia last month following the rationalisation of both its entry-level Caliber hatch and mid-size Nitro SUV model ranges in July.

The move appeared to leave the born-again ram brand with the prospect of offering just three slender model lines in Australia for the foreseeable future, but now the brash new Durango – the current generation of which has been on and off the local radar for years – could represent the bold new future for the bullish US brand here.

41 center imageWhile the redesigned 2011 Grand Cherokee will be the next all-new Jeep model to be available here - early next year - and the second-generation 300C large sedan is likely to be the next fresh product to emerge under Chrysler’s own brand banner here in 2012, the lack of right-hand drive versions will continue to prevent the Dodge Charger sedan and Challenger coupe from coming Down Under.

Now, however, Chrysler Australia has revealed it is working on a plan to make the all-new Grand Cherokee-based 2011 Durango the next big thing for Dodge in Australia, where the full-sized seven-seat crossover wagon could represent the biggest sales opportunity since the brand was launched here in 2006.

“It (the new Durango) is a model that we'd very much like to see as part of the line-up in Australia,” Chrysler Australia’s senior manager of marketing and corporate communications Dean Bonthorne told GoAuto.

“Whilst there are no current plans for the new Durango outside of North America, we are actively pursuing the possibility of right-hand drive production for our market.

“Naturally if we have any update on this we'll be keen to share it with the Australian public, but at this stage our focus is the sensational new Jeep Grand Cherokee due in the first quarter of 2011,” he said.

Dodge says the redesigned Durango - dubbed “the performance SUV with a soul” – marks the start of the brand’s new model onslaught for 2011.

It makes much of the modern, spacious (but yet-to-be-revealed) three-row interior and fuel-efficient powertrain line-up that resides underneath its imposing new skin, which is based on a “stiffened” unibody structure for the first time.

Dodge claims the new Durango is engineered with the driving enthusiast in mind. “The end result is a vehicle that delivers premium driving performance combined with SUV capability and crossover versatility,” it says.

In the US, where sales commence in the final quarter of this year, its all-petrol engine range will initially include the 5.7-litrte HEMI V8 with the same fuel-saving, Multi-displacement system (MDS) four-cylinder mode as seen in the Grand Cherokee, plus Chrysler’s new 3.6-litre Pentastar V6.

Both Vee engines are fitted with variable valve timing (VVT) and will be available with the option of all-wheel drive, and Dodge claims a touring range of more than 500 miles (800km), presumably for the V6.

Fitted as standard with trailer sway control, both engines are claimed to offer impressive towing capacity – with the V6 said to be able to handle a class-leading 2800kg and the V8 coming with towing capability of up to 3350kg, or more weight than a 24-foot boat and trailer, says Dodge.

Developed by the same interior design studio that styled the interior in the Ram trucks and the new Grand Cherokee, the Durango’s cabin is claimed to feature luxurious materials and thoughtful touches.

“Everywhere they touch, Durango passengers will feel materials that are refined and soft to the touch,” says Dodge. “Not only is it a pleasure to behold, it is extremely functional and gives owners a first-class experience, regardless of the trim level.”

A total of 22 different seating configurations are said to be augmented by 45 safety and security features, including standard front seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags, electronic stability control and new active head restraints.

Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection, Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control and Keyless Enter-n’ Go will also be available.

The 2011 Durango is now in production at Chrysler’s Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan.

Here’s hoping Chrysler Australia can establish a business case for the most capable, flexible and refined Durango ever, to arrest a sales slide that sees the brand down 40 per cent to August this year, following 79 and 51.5 per cent sales slides for the Nitro and Caliber this year respectively.

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