Automakers frequently invite auto journalists to special media events to showcase an all-new or substantially updated vehicle over the course of a couple of days. When Chrysler Canada invited me to the San Francisco area to drive seven new or updated vehicles, this was by far the biggest media launch I had ever attended. The sheer size of the event showed just how much catching up Chrysler had to do after several years of product neglect. The Chrysler story has been well documented, from bankruptcy protection, government bailouts and a partnership with Fiat. These new products are a culmination of many years of hard work, trying to change a corporate culture by putting the customer and products first. The first vehicle launched by the new Chrysler was the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which last month had it strongest sales in over 10 years. The new Durango is based on a longer version of that Jeep platform and Chrysler hopes that this full-sized SUV will be as successful.
Ralf Gilles is the CEO of Dodge, an American, of Haitian parents who grew up in Montreal. He is also the V.P of design for the entire Chrysler group. His direction to the designers and engineers was to take the passion that they have for vehicles and channel it into the new Dodge. The idea is to move Dodge into a driver's brand, with upscale amenities that average people can afford. The Durango is no longer a traditional SUV built of a pickup truck platform. In fact, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and this Durango have the same underpinnings as the soon to arrive Mercedes ML and GL crossovers. This allowed the designers to produce an aggressive looking vehicle that is lower to the ground with a bold stance and car-like driving attitude. The Signature Dodge cross-hair grille is prominent as is the forward slanting nose of this Durango. Another target was to make the entire trim levels look first rate. Whether it is the base V6 shown here or the top Citadel model, all have a meaty, substantial look.
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