The Dodge Durango went away a few years ago, and stayed away for 2 years.  Some of us wondered if high gas prices and an economy spiraling down the porcelain facility, had done the truck in. But in 2011, it was revived and truly better than ever.

It’s no secret that automakers build their large SUV’s on the same platforms as their pickups. The Tahoe is a Silverado at heart, The Expedition is an F-150.

Dodge though, built the Durango on the chassis of the lovely, mid-sized Dakota pickup. Now that the Dakota truck is gone as a platform, the Durango had to be a new sheet of paper. Well, not completely new. It is the same platform as the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee and Mercedes M-Class. Call it the last vestige of Chrysler's old German overlords.

But, it works, and works extremely well. In fact, if you are out shopping for a large SUV, Dodge and Jeep offer the true class of the field right now. And if you don't really plan to go off-road, the new Durango will fit the bill perfectly.

The look is not as heavy as the last generation, though the truck weighs in at nearly 5100 pounds. But you'd never know it. Whether you have the RT with its 5.7-liter, 360 horsepower V8 Hemi, or the 3.6-liter V6 with its 295 ponies in the luxury Citadel, the truck is a performer. The price you pay for the Hemi's growl is mileage. Though, to be fair, the V6 all-wheel-drive Citadel gets only 16 city, 23 highway. The Hemi loses a few at 13 city, 20 highway.

The trucks have a third row seat, but the rear area is better served making room for cargo, and it will hold a lot, whether it's picnic supplies or the picnickers themselves.

The interior itself is very luxurious now, and I’d like to call attention to the radio. It has two large knobs on either side. One is for volume and the other a channel selector. It is old fashioned, simple, and requires less driver attention than the multiple buttons or even worse, some kind of wheel you twist, tilt, press to get a station. By the time you’re done, you may have slammed into the guy in front of you.

The gear shift is a small rotary knob that dials up the gear you need. And when you dial up D, that tranny runs its way up through 8 gears. And if a rotary gear shift seems weird, remember, it was Chrysler way back when that had the first push button transmission.

On the road, the truck is planted, sure-footed and a pleasure. But I'll again confess my prejudice here. I don't get the sports-truck deal. It's a truck, meant to haul or tow stuff. Making a heavy, tall box into some kind of sports car really is like teaching a pig to dance. They'll never be Fred Astaire and it annoys the pig.

Though, to be fair, the team at Dodge came about as close as you can come.

The difference between the RT and luxury Citadel is engine, mileage, and trim. The new Durango starts at just under $30,000, the hot rod R/T can start at $37,500 for a rear-wheel-drive, and the Citadel's base price is just over $41-K.

For that you get a very darned nice truck. If you stop by the Dodge store first, you may not visit any others. It’s that good.


More From K2 Radio