Dodge Durango vs. Chevy Suburban: Roadkill’s Cheap 4x4 Challenge
The pandemic is still raging, and Roadkill isn't taking a break. But what are David Freiburger and guest host Steve Dulcich to do when they have to social distance, can't stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, or even drive in the same car? Go camping, of course! Since they have to be in separate vehicles anyway, why not have a shootout to up the fun and adventure quotient while they're at it? Welcome to the Roadkill $2,500 4x4 shootout! Will Freiburger's go-anywhere '94 Suburban triumph over Dulcich's beloved '99 Durango?
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Freiburger and Dulcich trekked out to the Central California region east of Bakersfield near the Mojave Desert to put their cheap 4x4s to the test. They explored Bonanza Gulch, the Burro Schmidt Tunnel, Jawbone Canyon OHV Area, abandoned pumice mines, old mining cabins free for anyone to use, and everything in between. While their vehicles aren't serious off-roaders, there were plenty of sandy washes, whooped-out trails, and dusty hill climbs to pit the cheap 4x4s against each other and determine a victor.
Freiburger's 1994 Chevrolet Surburban 2500 4x4
Freiburger has serious off-road genes; he was the editor for Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road before working for HOT ROD and has been a jeeper just as long as he's been into muscle cars. While he doesn't fully love the independent front suspension in his '94 Suburban 4x4—he's a solid-axle man when it comes to serious off-tarmac adventuring—he does think the Chevy Suburban is the best all-around, do-everything vehicle. Plus, this 2500 model has serious beef: a 454 big-block, 4L80 overdrive transmission, and a 14-bolt rear end. Freiburger says the Suburban is the perfect adventure vehicle because if you need to sleep in it, they're huge and you've got acres of room to get comfortable. Then there's the barn doors on the back, vastly superior to a tail or liftgate, in his opinion. You can close them from inside the cargo area with ease, it's much easier to get the cherry picker into the back to pull the new junkyard engine you've been hauling around, and when it comes time to toast nature with a cold brew, you can stand fully upright on the back of the cargo area and take in all the glory around you! Freiburger will concede that Dulcich might have an edge with the smaller and lighter Durango.
Dulcich's 1999 Dodge Durango 5.9L V8 4WD
Steve Dulcich loves the Dodge Durango. He's had at least one in his personal fleet since 2003 and has put enough miles on all his cumulative Durangos to go to the moon and back (that may be a slight exaggeration, the math works out to over 28,000 miles a year). In Dulcich's opinion, the Dodge Durango is the greatest SUV ever made. This first-gen model mimics his favorite Mopar muscle cars, as well, with its 5.9L Magnum V8, torsion bar independent front suspension and 9-1/4 rear end. It will even clear a 32-inch tire without a suspension lift. Where Freiburger dislikes independent front suspension for off-roading, Dulcich thinks it's great, soaking up all the bumps and ruts like they aren't even there. Compared to the Suburban, the Durango is light, nimble, and quick. It helps that the Durango is more than 2 feet shorter than the Suburban. Dulcich says it's like a trophy truck that you can sleep in! But he does have a pretty uncomfortable first night in the Durango. That's not the truck's fault, though—his air mattress had a leak.
Competing for Pink Slips!
As the trip goes on, the guys get even more competitive, to the point where a serious wager is made: a winner-take-all off-road obstacle course of doom—for pink slips! Will Freiburger get to take his Suburban home, or will Dulcich claim victory and keep the Suburban for himself (he's already got a Durango at home)? These mall-crawling and grocery-getting 4x4s may not be the types of Roadkill vehicles you're used to—they're too clean, too new, and too reliable—but they are proof that you can go out and buy something cheap to have a blast in.