New for 2000 is the replacement of the 5.2L engine with the 4.7L engine and a lighter, yet stronger, front axle. The Durango SLT Plus we tested had a 4.7L engine, a 46RE four-speed automatic trans, and a part-time NP231 transfer case. A full-time transfer case is optional.
The Durango drove nice and was easy to handle, although we did find the ride just a bit rough, particularly over stretches of asphalt highways. The leather interior was comfy and there's plenty of leg- and headroom in the front and second row seats. Dodge heard our calls about leaving a lever to engage the transfer case (yeah!) and even revised it for easier operation. Since the vehicle already has a console, however, we'd like to see the tranny shifter relocated from the steering column down to the floor.
As for flexibility, the second row of seats collapses, allowing you to fit lots inside. It has an impressive tow rating of 5,750 pounds. So with the optional third-row seat, you can take seven of your buddies with you and haul a boat that will hold everyone.
Specs Manufacturer: DodgeModel: 2000 Durango 4x4 SLT PlusBase Price: $27,975Price as Tested: $31,740
Options Tested: Customer Preferred Package 26G: power six-way driver seat, roof rack, fog lamps, floor console, front and rear floor mats, body color bumpers; SLT Plus Decor package: leather seats, overhead console, security group, AM/FM/cassette/CD/equalizer, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, 31x10.50R15 all-season tires, 15x8 aluminum wheels, fender flares, auto day/night mirrors, woodgrain accents
Engine: 4.7L V-8Transmission: R44E 4-speed automaticTransfer Case: part-time NP231Front Suspension: IFSRear Suspension: Chrysler 811/44 solid axleAxle Gear Ratio: 3.55:1
Political & Environmental Beat*DaimlerChrysler and, more recently, Ford bailed on involvement with the Global Climate Coalition, which opposed a global-warming treaty. GM is still a part of the coalition.
*DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors are receiving kudos from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 for their efforts to eliminate PCBs (a group of toxic chemicals) from the environment. It's part of the Great Lakes Bi-national Toxics Strategy, in which the companies were challenged to voluntarily reduce PCBs in electrical equipment by 90 percent in 2006, as well as to have a better handle on disposing and controlling PCBs so they aren't accidentally released into the Great Lakes Basin.
*Legislation has now been enacted in the District of Columbia to permit the optional display of vintage year-of-manufacture license plates instead of D.C. Historic Motor Vehicle license plates on historic vehicles.
*United Four Wheel Drive Associations has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for closing logging roads used by ORV enthusiasts. The Forest Service is expected to issue a transportation rule that will use the latest technology available to decide where, when, and how often to build, close, and destroy roads. Because this rule covers road engineering, you're encouraged to let the Forest Service know what you think about the permanent ban. For a sample letter, go to www.wi4wda.org/carlaboucher/index.html.
*The Australian Outback was named one of the 50 wonders of the world by National Geographic.
*Brooklyn has a new law that fines cell phone users who are talking while driving. Hands-free chat is OK if both hands are on the wheel, and an emergency situation is also an exception.
*It looks like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will add brake ratings to its list of crash safety tests, which already includes side, front, and rear impact ratings.
*The U.S. Department of Transportation is requiring that the 20-year-old mandatory rollover warning labels in SUVs be made brighter and more prominent.
To voice your support of or objection to a cause, visit Congress.org, a Web site that will help you contact your state rep. You can also check out the Bureau of Land Management (www.blm.gov) for information on this land that's your land.