2005 Dodge Durango Adventurer
The name badge said “Adventurer,” so we took the new Durango adventuring. We drove to the northern Michigan wilderness on a rescue mission, and we prowled urban Detroit, and Dodge’s “tween-”sized SUV showed equal ability at both tasks.
Redesigned in 2004, the rough, tough, do-it-all Durango adds the Adventurer model for this year. Aimed at active customers who take their SUVs camping and traveling, the Durango Adventurer (the name once graced Dodge pickup trucks) features additional cargo carrying gear and off-road protection. Add heated cloth seats and a HEMI V8 engine to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a nice adventure indeed.
The first thing we did with it was to drag Aunt Hattie Mae’s old forgotten Mercury out of the woods. Towing a two-ton Eighties relic is no small task but the Durango Adventurer’s 5.7 liter HEMI V8 and 8950 pounds of towing capacity made this project a piece of cake, even the parts where we had to navigate narrow dirt roads. The HEMI puts out 335 horsepower, and driveability is improved this year by an electronically modulated clutch. On the road, it’s assertive and confident, whether there’s a two-ton car on a trailer out back or not. The five-speed automatic transmission has a towing mode, and shifts smoothly otherwise. Of course, filling the 27-gallon tank wasn’t much fun, considering the HEMI’s 19-mpg freeway thirst. Dodge also offers smaller engine choices, in the form of a 230-horse 4.7 liter V8 or 210-horse 3.7 V6.
The Durango’s long wheelbase also helped keep it stable when towing, and made for a smooth freeway ride when unladen. The Durango may be classified as a mid-size SUV, but the only thing it gives up to the full-size Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia is a bit of shoulder room. The Durango can carry more cargo than either of them. Three-row seating is comfortable enough for seven adults. The rearmost seat is cramped, but usable. The Durango has an upright dash with woodgrain trim and gauges that are softly backlit in green. We thought the additional trim improved the look compared to the similar but more plasticky Dakota pickup. Thanks to a high seating position, Explorers and lesser mid-size SUVs seem dwarfed from the driver’s seat. The tall seat adds an element of comfort for long trips and the heated seats that are available on all Durangos add warmth to cold mornings. Handy for road trips is a “fast-food bin” at the base of the console. The Durango Adventurer also features a built-in cargo organizer and mud-proof rubber floormats, which came in handy for the winch and other towing equipment we had to carry.
Outside, the Durango Adventurer is distinguished by special badges, satin silver nerf bars that double as side steps, and a standard Thule roof rack. The front and rear fascias are painted gray, and special 17″ wheels complete the package. The Durango’s a good looking truck, with a stubby nose and a steeply raked windshield. The front fenders have a touch of retro-styling that’s backed up by the rounded headlamps. It’s not mimicking any classic truck in particular, but it looks like it’s got history. At the rear, the taillights are rounded as well, breaking up the squared-off rear aspect.
Because the Durango Adventurer seemed to be much happier being treated like a truck than a car, we pitted it against the most rutted, frost-damaged roads we could find in downtown Detroit as well, including a few alleys we wouldn’t have walked down. The independent front suspension and coil-sprung solid-axle rear handled it without a care–and without waking up the sleeping infant in the back seat, either. The Durango rides firm without undue harshness. Rack-and-pinion steering translates to good maneuverability and great feedback. Traction control is available for all Durangos; four-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard.
Speaking of safety, an innovative impact-absorbing front frame horn contributes to the Durango’s five-star NHTSA frontal impact rating while reducing repair costs. Side-curtain airbags for all three rows of seats are also available.
Our test Durango Adventurer was well-equipped, out of the box, with dual-zone climate control and a six-disc CD changer in the dash. The Durango starts at $29,755; the Adventurer model adds $1080. With a leather interior, trailer towing package and upgraded sound system, our test truck came to $35,795. Want to equip your Durango to the nines? A navigation system, UConnect hands-free phone system with Bluetooth compatibility, a DVD entertainment system, Sirius satellite radio and sunroof are available.
All specs are for the 2005 Dodge Durango Adventurer, which we tested.
Length: 200.8 in.
Width: 76.0 in.
Height: 74.3 in.
Wheelbase: 119.2 in.
Curb weight: 5007 lb.
Cargo space: 68.4 cu.ft (third row folded); 102.4 cu.ft. (all seats folded)
Towing capacity: 8950 lb.
Base price: $29,755
Price as tested: $35,795
Engine: 5.7 liter V8
Drivetrain: five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Horsepower: 335 @ 5200
Torque: 370 @ 4200
Fuel capacity: 27 gal.
Est. mileage: 14/19