Comparo: Dodge Durango vs. Ford Explorer
Round 2: Fuel Economy
When it comes time to pay at the pump, Ford wins in the apples-to-apples V6 comparison. The Explorer's EPA ratings are 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and 17/23 with AWD, while the Durango V6 is rated at 16/23 with rear-wheel drive and 16/22 with AWD.
Power and fuel-economy ratings for Ford's EcoBoost 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine are not yet available, but Ford says it will be at least 20 percent more efficient than the current V6. Dodge's optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is rated at 14/20 with rear-wheel drive and 13/19 with AWD.
Given the newer transmission, the technology employed by its V6 and the forthcoming EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine, Ford is clearly more interested in fuel economy than Dodge.
Winner: Ford Explorer
Round 3: Interior Space and Amenities
The interiors of both vehicles are far nicer this model year. Both replace hard, thick plastics with soft-touch surfaces in more elegant layouts. The Ford's dashboard features an ultramodern design with touch-sensitive controls and an available cutting-edge infotainment system called MyFord Touch.
MyFord Touch uses voice recognition — i.e., it obeys your oral commands — to control the trip computer, radio, navigation and climate controls, as well as devices such as MP3 players and phones. We want to like this system, but it is limited. On more than one occasion, an attempt to vocalize a street address turned into a one-sided argument with an inanimate object.
The Dodge also offers an integrated infotainment system. It is available with a hard drive to hold music files, a navigation system, an iPod interface and voice controls. Though not as advanced as the Ford system, it may work better, though the voice commands can also be frustrating.
Both vehicles offer some unique features more suited to luxury vehicles. The Explorer can be had with a dual-panel sunroof, second-row inflatable seat belts and a blind-spot warning system with cross-traffic alert. Upscale Durango options include a blind-spot/cross-path system, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning and a heated steering wheel.
Space in both vehicles is plentiful, but it's better utilized in the Dodge. The driving position feels more natural, there is more room in the second row, and the load floor has a better design. Behind the third row in the Explorer is a well that extends about 10 inches under the seats. The Durango also has a more traditional flat floor, as well as 3.8 extra cubic feet of cargo space — 84.5 cubic feet versus the Explorer's 80.7 cubic feet.
Winner: Dodge Durango, by a nose
Round 4: Value
The 2011 Dodge Durango starts at $29,195 and the Explorer's base price is $28,190. While the Dodge costs an extra $1,000, it comes with quite a few features that aren't standard on the Explorer, including alloy wheels, USB port, Bluetooth cellphone link and Sirius satellite radio. Pricing remains similar up through the lineup; both top out at around $48,000, though the Dodge has more features at every level.
While the Dodge may have a slight edge in pricing, the Explorer has more technology, namely in the driveline and AWD system. That translates to better fuel economy, more willing engine performance and increased off-road capability.
Going to the Scorecard
The Durango benefits from sharp steering and a smooth ride, and its looks are bit softer than the more SUV-like Explorer, though the available Heat trim looks almost customized.
So which do we recommend? Well, that's a tough call. Both offer a pleasant ride with impressive handling. Both have high-quality interiors with plenty of features, although the Ford has the latest in connectivity technology. Both also offer plenty of room, though the Dodge seems to make better use of its space.
Our first instinct is to say the Durango is the vehicle we'd rather drive every day because of its sharper steering and more stable straight-line feel. It's also the clear choice if you want V8 power or need to tow. The Explorer, on the other hand, is the best choice for fuel-conscious buyers, and the forthcoming EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine will only press that advantage.
Overall winner: 2011 Dodge Durango
The bottom line is that you can't go wrong with either vehicle. They are both far better to drive than their truck-based predecessors and they're more efficient, too. The American SUV needed to change, and we're glad that it has come this far.
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.
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I went from a 2002 Explorer V-6 4x4 to the new V-6 4x4 and there is no comparison. While I love my 2002 ( we kept it because it has been bullet proof ) the new Explorer is better in every way. Much more power, 5 mpg better MPGs, ultra quiet, much better ride and handling, and the best 4X4 syst I have ever used. SYNC works well once you spend a week or so using it and getting use to it. My city MPG has been slightly below EPA rating , but the power is so satisfying, its hard not to accelerate fast. The highway MPGs has been right on the EPA rating if not slightly better.
Overall, I am extremely pleased.
I've rented both these vehicles and I like the Ford. I drove a Durango in Texas all week and I thought I was going to get ran over, it has no power at all. It really hesitates and idles rough; it had 700 miles on it when I picked it up. The Dodge seemed to do pretty good on gas, but as doggy as it was, I thought it was a 4 cylinder, I actually checked under the hood to see, and it was the 3.6 liter 6 cylinder.
The Explorer is much quieter, has a smoother ride, and will fly when you press the accelerator. Which one is best for me is a no brainer. Liked the sync stereo in the Ford too.
Honestly I was shocked with ALL the dealers of ALL the brands. Hardly any of them had any stock with overhead DVD players. I'm sorry but how do you make an SUV or minivan without an overhead DVD? If I were a dealer, I would want at least 50% of stock to have that option but it was closer to 1%. This was a problem with Ford, Dodge, and GMC. I don't get it. Maybe I am just crazy though. Anyway, I love our new Durango and would recommend it to anyone.
Well I am a Dodge owner with a 2002 Durango an a 2005 Ram 1500 with Hemi power , the Dango has a 4.7. I have tested all types of PU'S an have come up with the ultimate PU. Chev chassis,Ford Cab quietness,an the power of the Hemi from Dodge. As far as Im concerned,The top three have done wonders in the last few yrs , but, My 1971 Dodge 1/2 ton , with a 383 an 4 sp tranny was by far the best one that I have ever owned. What ever I decieded to accomplish old blue was ready. It is impossible to explain what that truck was put through, after 301,ooo miles with oil an filter change every 4000 miles an a
little piston slap, I sold the truck to a man who wanted a 383 an the last I had contact with this person the engine had 399,848.. All I can say is change oil an filter, an keep a clean air filter any engine will run forever.
Good review...have done exactly the same and agree in total with you