If the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a distant cousin to the Mercedes ML--and a proud one at that--does that make this 2011 Dodge Durango kin to the Benz GL?
And does that make its $30,000 base price even more of a screaming bargain?
Chrysler set the Grand Cherokee free earlier this year, in a first-drive press event all its own, but it pooled the Durango together with a refurbished Dodge lineup. We flew to northern California to drive the Durango and five other new or revised Dodges for the first time, and on a windy hilltop overlooking the Infineon Raceway, we slipped the keys to an R/T in our pockets and rolled through Napa to sample the V-8 and also the V-6 SUV.
The cockpit brings the real visual impact. Like the Grand Cherokee, the new Durango sends outdated, hard-edge plastics to the recycling bin. Snapped into place is a tightly fitted, attractive cabin with big red-needled gauges, simple climate-control knobs, and backpedaled touches of bright and soft metallic trim. Our R/T tester also had leather upholstery with woven red inserts and red stitching, and white trim rings on the dials, all well downplayed.