Earlier today, I saw an '04 Durango cruising around. I thought to myself, "those aren't supposed to be at the dealerships until next month." I didn't think much else about it until I went by the dealership again.
To my surprise, there were 16 or so brand new Durangos in the back of the dealership! All different colors and trim levels!
I found out that these were all pre-production vehicles that were flown in for a press event for the Durango this weekend. All of the Durangos were being tested by Chrysler engineers prior to going to the press event.
I took the opportunity to talk with some of the engineers about various issues.
Let me say that I wasn't a fan of the new Durango body once the final look was official. I would rather have seen DCX come out with one closer to the RT concept version.
After seeing the new Durango in person, I've got to say that these things are sharp! The still images don't do them justice.
Some items to note, from the engineers:
1. 330 hp, 370 lb-ft. for the Durango Hemi is due to a different powertrain/pcm "configuration" - the engineer's word.
2. Tow/Haul feature - much like turning off OD in the Rams, but with greater fuel economy in the Durango. The engineer said something about the transmission being able to hold 4th gear without sacrificing power.
3. The RT version has NOT been scratched. It is still a very real possibility according to the engineer.
Hemi info from the engineers:
1. The RC Hemi Ram would "smoke the Lightning" - engineers words, if the pcm were "slightly altered" - again, engineers words, not mine and with a 5-spd manual. His note about the 5-spd manual didn't leave me much performance optimism about the 5-45FRE automatic transmission. Maybe the transmission *is* the major factor in not delivering all of the Hemi's power, as many of you have suspected.
2. DCX has a lot of plans to use the Hemi in many "configurations", read "differing states of tune". So, we'll begin to see the Hemi in a number of vehicles with a number of output ratings. Looks to me like the Hemi is going to be quite versatile. It also seems to me that the Hemi *does* have gobs of power just "sitting there" waiting to be unleashed. Again, as many of us have suspected.
3. PVO - Performance Vehicles Operations will begin to step up its visibility and not just with the SRT line.
4. The SRT-8/Magnum still doesn't have an official name, but will have one of the Hemi "configurations". The dodge.com site says, "...430 horespower with the WhippleCharger supercharger." Let's keep in mind that the claimed output is only 25% more with the supercharger, given that the SRT-8's Hemi starts with the Ram's 345 hp configuration. 25% increase from forced induction is not much, if you ask me. Then again, these are still concept/test numbers. And, Mopar is rumored to be developing their own supercharger.
5. Another item of interest from the engineer is that Mopar Performance is rumored to be preparing to open their very own speed shops at dealerships. He led me to believe that only specific/special dealers would get the Mopar Performance speed shops. I'm thinking that the 5-Star dealerships would get them. So, you would be able to purchase everything from the Mopar catalog at the dealership without waiting for any particular part to be ordered. Each speed shop would be fully stocked, and capable of performing factory installations.
Awhile back when PVO was created, I read in a magazine that PVO was planning to go this route as an in-house tuner for Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler brands.
6. Another item the engineer hinted at that DCX is toying with.....a 6.1 liter punched out version of the Hemi. Well, looks like StarTech in Germany has already done that. http://www.startech.de/homee.htm
That's all I can remember, for now. I will be getting more information from the engineer tomorrow when I go back to visit.
BTW- All of these Durangos are the first ones in the nation to actually be driven as final release, pre-production versions.