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Go icon "Chrysler" cues fit
the Durango well; HEMI-smooth power, rich interior, sway control.
Slow icon Fuel economy for
the very wealthy,
but MDS helps.
Stop icon Look, we have a
ruler, and we're not afraid to use it.
To its credit, DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group has made a profitable practice of creating new vehicle niches, astutely going where the competition isn’t. And where a new Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle’s type isn’t new, its size or architecture often is. Witness the venerable PT Cruiser, the Chrysler 300 bunker-look sedan, the Dodge Magnum gangster wagon, and the more recent Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass mixed-message compacts.
Now come the 2007 Dodge Nitro and Chrysler Aspen, an interesting pair of segment-buster sport-utes tossed bodily into the crowded — and shrinking — SUV market. But while inventing new niches can be savvy business, reinventing segments might be a tad misleading.
Reinventing segments? Chrysler’s marketing minds
march to their own internal segmentation somewhat different from your and
mine — based on price and perception, as well as size — to determine
which competitors their vehicles confront. Thus the likeable new Dodge Nitro,
based on Jeep’s compact
So Chrysler is stretching its
definitions to position these vehicles as larger than they are, a relatively
harmless trick that rental car companies (whose Focuses are “mid-size” and
When Chrysler marketers define their “full-size” SUV segment, they list
a raft of mid-size, mid-priced models that includes Honda’s Pilot and Mercury’s
(Explorer-based) Mountaineer and one actual full-size entry, Chevy’s Tahoe —
then boast “class-leading” power, torque, interior room, and towing
capability. And they tout the
aside, this first Chrysler-brand SUV may be a right-size alternative for buyers
wanting substantial towing and hauling capability from an SUV somewhat smaller
and more garageable than traditional full-sizers. And it may be a viable choice
for luxury truck intenders unable or unwilling to ante up for a Caddy Escalade
or Lincoln Navigator. Either way, it fills a hole in Chrysler’s line and should
prevent some folks from defecting to competitors.
Like its new Sebring mid-size
sedan stablemate, the
Unlike the Dodge Durango, the
The hydroformed frame provides a rock-solid platform for the surprisingly competent independent front and coil-spring, solid-axle rear suspensions, while the rack-and-pinion steering feels well-connected to the road. Maximum tow capacity (with the 5.7-liter HEMI, 2WD and 3.92 axle ratio) is an impressive 8950 pounds vs. 7700 pounds for Tahoe, but 9100 for the Ford Expedition or the Nissan Armada, for example. The crisp-shifting “tow/haul” transmission downshifts for downhills and holds lower gears longer to reduce gear searching, while a standard “first-in-class” Trailer Sway Control system senses and counteracts (with selective braking and engine control) trailer yaw.
Why? Why not?
When Chrysler unveiled its 2007
We’ve written before that
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, rear- or all-wheel drive
Length x width x height:
200.8 x 76.0 x
Wheelbase: 119.2 in
Curb weight: 4866 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 14/19 mpg (4.7-liter, 2WD); 14/19 mpg (5.7-liter, 4WD)
Major standard features: Three-row seating, fog lamps, power-adjustable pedals, front and rear air conditioning, power windows, locks, mirrors, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD audio, tilt steering wheel, Homelink universal transceiver, Sentry Key engine immobilizer
Safety features: Anti-lock brakes, traction and stability/rollover control; Trailer Sway Control; dual front and side curtain airbags
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles