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2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid Preview

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2008


Critical Knowledge:
  • New addition to Durango lineup

  • Eight-passenger seating

  • Hemi V-8 engine with two electric motors

  • More than 25-percent increase in fuel economy

  • Available only with all-wheel drive (AWD)

  • 6000-pound towing capacity

  • Sales to start mid-2008


Introduction
Dodge entered the sport utility vehicle (SUV) market in 1998 with the Durango, an 8-passenger truck-based midsize SUV with rear- or 4-wheel drive. The Durango was redesigned and made bigger for the 2004 model year, placing it in between midsize competitors such as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and Jeep Grand Cherokee, and full-size SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Sequoia. In terms of interior space, V-8 engine availability and towing capacity, however, it is a competitor for the larger SUVs.

Dodge's parent company, The Chrysler Group, has teamed up with BMW, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz to develop a 2-mode hybrid system. For 2009, it is adding that system to the Durango. The 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid will only be offered with AWD. Dodge says the hybrid system will boost city fuel economy by 40 percent and overall fuel economy by more than 25 percent. The Durango Hybrid will go on sale in the middle of 2008 as a 2009 model.

Model Lineup
The 2008 Dodge Durango is offered in SXT, SLT, Adventurer, and Limited trim levels, each with rear- or all-wheel drive. The 2009 Durango Hybrid will be available only with AWD and in Limited trim. Limited standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control; leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; heated power mirrors; power windows; power doors; remote keyless entry; Alpine AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack and Sirius satellite radio with one-year subscription; MyGIG Multi-Media Infotainment System; leather upholstery; front bucket seats; 8-way power driver's seat; 4-way power passenger seat; power-adjustable pedals; driver's side and rearview auto-dimming mirrors; memory for the driver's seat, mirrors and pedals; heated front seats; second-row 60/40 split bench seat; 3-passenger split-folding third-row bench seat; rearview camera; power liftgate; universal garage door opener; electronic vehicle information center; front and rear LED lighting; rear power accessory outlet; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; fog lights; roof rack; and P265/60R18 tires on chromed aluminum wheels. Dodge's hard-drive-based MyGIG Multi-Media Infotainment System comes with an 8-inch touch screen, and a navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic. The 20-gigabyte hard drive holds music and picture files, as well as navigation map information.

Hardware
The 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid will share its 2-mode hybrid system with the 2009 Chrysler Aspen and the new hybrid trucks and SUVs from GM. In the Durango, the hybrid system will use the Hemi 5.7-liter V-8 engine teamed with a new electrically continuously variable transmission (ECVT). The ECVT has two electric motors and four fixed gears. The Hemi V-8 engine also has Dodge's Multi-Displacement System, which shuts down four cylinders under light load conditions to conserve fuel. Total output is 385 hp at 5300 rpm and 380 lb.-ft. of torque at 4200 rpm. Regenerative braking will charge the batteries.

With light throttle application, the Durango Hybrid will be able to run on electric power alone up to 30 mph. With heavier throttle, the gasoline engine will start. Like other systems, the gasoline engine will turn off at stoplights and restart when needed. Dodge estimates fuel economy at 18 mpg city/19 mpg highway compared to 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway with the standard version of the Hemi.

The 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid will be rated to tow up to 6000 pounds compared to the 8800 pounds for a properly equipped standard AWD model.

The Durango uses a ladder-type hydroformed frame with an independent torsion-bar front suspension. The rear suspension features coil springs and a solid rear axle with a Watt's linkage system that Dodge says centers the axle and reduces rear-end skate over rough surfaces.

On the inside, the Durango Hybrid will have a power gauge that will show when the electric motors are aiding power or being charged. The power gauge will also have a green "economy" zone that drivers can use to aim for optimal fuel economy.

Safety
Standard safety features on the 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid will include dual-stage front air bags; head-protecting curtain side air bags that cover all three seating rows and have rollover sensors; tire-pressure monitor; anti-lock brakes; traction control; electronic stability control with rollover mitigation; Dodge's Trailer Sway Control; rear park assist; and a rear back-up camera. The Dodge Durango has received a 5-star front impact rating for the driver and front passenger from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). All-wheel drive models have also received a 4-star rollover resistance rating from NHTSA.

Technology
The 2-mode hybrid system in the 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid uses a controller that determines when the vehicle should operate in the first or second mode. The first mode is mostly for around-town driving and can use battery power only. The second mode is meant for highway speeds and always uses full engine power. The controller determines the necessary torque for the driving conditions and instructs the engine and electric motors to respond accordingly. The engine and electric motors transfer torque to a series of gears in the transmission, which multiply torque similar to a conventional automatic transmission to propel the vehicle. No engine-speed changes are necessary for mode shifts to occur.

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