Conventional wisdom would have it that Chrysler is in a holding pattern this year, awaiting some of the big new product launches promised as part of its new affiliation with Italy’s Fiat. But, yet again, conventional wisdom would be wrong.
True, some of the most important launches are yet to come, but the troubled U.S. maker is turning out a significant assortment of all-new and updated models for 2011, including eight under the Chrysler and Dodge brand names. That includes an all-new version of the Dodge Durango, which the maker is billing as “the return of the man van.”
There was reason to be skeptical, of course, as we headed to California for a first ride in the 2011 Dodge Durango. Chrysler has a history of wrapping the same basic product under a variety of different wrappers, and one could only wonder whether the ’11 Dodge SUV would be little more than a warmed-over version of the new, 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee remake.
To our surprise – and satisfaction – what we discovered when we got a first close-up look at the 2011 Dodge Durango was a crossover/ute with a decidedly distinct appearance, both inside and out, and on-road manners that are notably different from those of the Grand Cherokee.