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1998 4x4 of the Year Models: Dodge Durango SLT Plus

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 1998
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Contributors: Tori Tellem
Photographers: 4 Wheel & Off-Road Staff

Sexy, tight, gotta-get-one, cool, hot-all unsolicited comments on the Durango, our most stared-at competitor. The Dakota-esque sport/utility is a long-awaited boon for many buyers who crave the look that's proudly worn by all of today's Dodge trucks. This is not an also-ran sport/ute. It makes a statement, as does the fact that Dodge will sell only 4x4 Durangos in the introduction year. It also shows respectable huevos for Dodge to toss in Mopar's biggest optional V-8 (the 5.9L is not available in 4x4 Dakotas) and 46 RE auto trans, but perhaps our expectations were too high, since the grunt just didn't seem up to snuff. The Durango was clearly outrun by the similarly powered (although lighter weight) Grand Cherokee, and the much heavier Yukon was neck and neck with it at the track. However, the Durango's power still ranked third overall. Once 4x4 of the Year testing was done, we used the Durango to tow and found the performance acceptable.

The better news is from the generously sized interior. The ergonomics and simplicity of function scored well, and the ease of four-wheel-drive engagement of the NV242 (which includes a full-time 4x4 position) was ranked best. Optional leather seating boosted comfort scores, and when we crammed all seven of us into the station wagon, we found the three-row seating option of value. The seats fold down neatly, leaving cargo room aplenty. Even better, the Durango is the only vehicle ever tested to satisfactorily hang onto a 16-ounce Gatorade bottle.

However, the quality of materials wasn't the best; the interior squeaked over bumps like a styrofoam egg carton, and we counted at least three exterior colors depending on the material the paint was sprayed onto (plastic grille, rubber bumper, steel fender). Humongo outside mirrors block vision and cause a whisp of wind whistle. The Durango rides an inch lower than the Dakota, and there are lots of low-hanging trail grabbers despite the clearance boost from the optional 31x10.50 meats on 15x8 wheels. Perhaps the large tires contributed to it being the slowest to stop from 60 mph, but the brake feel and ABS operation were ranked among the best.

The Durango scored middle-of-the-pack performance in the off-road portions of Ride & Drive testing, even though it was near the top in Urban, Highway, and Braking Quality evaluations. On dirt, the soft suspension, low clearance, and lack of tow hooks gave testers the impression that the Durango was best suited to pavement and mild off-road conditions. Dirt hillclimbs were a tough haul and the front bumpstops were employed frequently on fire roads and sand dunes, proving that style, comfort, and utility are the Durango's strong points.

Dodge Durango SLT Plus
•Right-on body style
•Comfy interior
•Big meats

•Low ground clearance
•Less power than expected
•Fit and finish glitches

Manufacturer Dodge
Model Durango SLT Plus
Base Price $28,500 (confirm)
Price as Tested $32,280
Options as Tested Heavy-Duty Service Group
(includes heavy-duty electrical package, maintenance-free 750-amp battery, and maximum engine cooling), Skidplate Group (front suspension-confirm), Trailer Tow Prep Group (includes platform hitch receiver with seven-way pin connector and four-pin adapter), third row seating, NV242 full-time transfer case, 5.9L V-8, 6x9-inch power foldaway black mirrors, air conditioning (rear without heater), Infinity speaker system (eight speakers in six locations), and 31x10.5 tires (includes 15x8 wheels and body-colored wheel flares).

Type OHV V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 5.9/360
Bore & Stroke (inches) 4.00x3.48
Compression Ratio 8.9:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Requirement/Capacity (gallons) 87 Octane
Unleaded regular/25
SAE Peak Horsepower 245 @ 4,000 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 335 @ 3,200 rpm

Type Four-speed electronic automatic overdrive (confirming)
Model 46RE
Ratios First: 2.45:1; Second: 1.45:1; Third: 1.00:1; Fourth: 0.69:1; Reverse: 2.20:1

Transfer Case
Type Two-speed full-time
Model NV242 HD
Low-Range Ratio 2.72:1

Front Type IFS w/Dana 35 centersection
Rear Type Chrysler 8 1/4
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.55:1

Front Upper and lower A-arms/torsion bars
Rear Live axle, four-leaf longitudinal springs

Type Power-recirculating ball
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.15/15.43:1
Turning Radius (feet) 38.9

Size (inches) 15x8
Material Cast-aluminum

Size 31x10.50R15LT
Brand Goodyear Wrangler RT/S

Brake System
Front 11.3-inch discs
Rear 11-inch drums with ABS

Measured Weight (pounds) 4,970
Advertised GVWR (pounds) 6,400

EPA Estimate (city/hwy mpg) 12/17
As Tested (mpg) 11.11

Standing 1/4-mile (seconds @ mph) 17.73 @ 76.37

60-0 mph (feet) 182.45

Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 115.9
Overall Length 193.3
Overall Width 84.0
Overall Height 71.0
Front/Rear Track 63.0/62.5
Front/Rear Overhang 34.25/43.25
Minimum Front Ground Clearance 8.25

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