Horace and John Dodge started building auto parts in 1900 (for Ford and Oldsmobile), and fifteen years later went into full-fledged auto production. Dodge Brothers Corporation came to that decision when brother John became, in his own words, “tired of being carried around in Henry Ford’s vest pocket”. Dodge became part of Chrysler Corporation in 1928 and Chrysler has since 2011 had an alliance with Turin, Italy’s Fiat.
Of my several dozen cars and trucks owned over the years, only one was a Dodge. I think it was a 1975; a half-ton van that I owned for about two days. When I got home with it my next door neighbor suddenly decided he had to have it so that he could start a plumbing business; hence I sold it to him.
Also, I have vivid memories of my brother’s 60’s-vintage Coronet 440 with a 383 V-8 and 3-speed column-mounted manual transmission. It was particularly fast and on one occasion I took a high school friend for a ride so that I could show him how easily it “pegged out” at 120 mph. On this night it seemed sluggish while accelerating past the 110 mph mark, at which time buddy Bruce suggested I should trying putting it in third gear. My tale of brother Vince’s Dodge brings to mind the 1958 hit “Beep, Beep” by the Playmates, in which the driver of the little Nash Rambler is unable to get his car out of second gear while going 120 mph.
My latest brush with Dodge was this last week when I received a 2013 Dodge Durango R/T AWD to test. The Durango is a full-size SUV built on the Jeep Grand Cherokee platform (since 2011) and with the R/T you get a 5.7 liter, 360 horsepower V-8 with 390 ft.-lbs. of torque. It came in Maximum Steel metallic clear coat and had the R/T specific black leather interior. The transmission was a six-speed automatic and fuel economy ratings were 13-city and 20-highway. I drove to Denver and back with the Durango and registered 19 mpg, and for the week observed a 16 mpg reading. The hemi engine features cylinder-deactivation to enhance the economy. And of course the R/T features all-wheel drive with a 2-speed transfer case for extreme 4 x 4 situations.
The R/T Durango is next to the top of the lineup with a base price of $38,595. Options on the test vehicle included a technology group for $1,595, two leather interior packages for $2,090, navigation system for $795, and second row captain chairs and console for $1,095. Thus, total M.S.R.P. including freight came to $45,165. It was loaded with tilt/telescope, 6.5” nav screen, power mirrors/windows/locks/seats, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton starting, heated buckets, adaptive cruise control, blind spot/cross path detection, seating for six, and Sirius satellite radio. The backup camera was on hand as was a park assist warning system. Red “R/T” stitching was on the seatbacks of all four buckets.
Exterior styling of the big Durango was understated – 20” pretty alloy wheels with Goodyear Fortera 265/50R20’s, dual chrome exhausts, big monochrome crossbar grill, self-leveling high intensity headlamps, and fog lamps. The sound (inside and outside) was in accord with the all-business looks – a constant hemi rumble.
Driving to Denver’s Auto Show in the Durango was pleasurable with a superb ride and lane guidance. The car feels big (and is, at 5,300 lbs. and 200” overall length); this reviewer wouldn’t mind looking at one at trade-in time.