The aging Dodge Durango will get a mild hybrid model in 2020 on its current platform.
The UAW's contract with FCA confirmed several new products that were expected, including a three-row Jeep, but the mention of a hybrid Durango that hadn't been announced sheds new light on the SUV's future.
FCA has been pushing the Durango, last redesigned for the 2011 model year, as a higher-performance offering in a packed segment of three-row people haulers. The hybrid adds a new wrinkle, joining the Toyota Highlander and Acura MDX, while the Lincoln Aviator and Mitsubishi Outlander have plug-in variants.
The Durango's most efficient configuration, with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine and rear-wheel drive, gets 26 mpg on the highway and 18 in city driving, or 21 mpg combined. The hybrid should build on that.
It won't be the first hybrid Durango. The 2009 model had a hybrid option that was built only for a few months, until Chrysler closed the Delaware plant where it was made.
The mild hybrid system in the Durango likely will be a variation of the eTorque system found in the Ram 1500 and Wrangler, said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions. This system "provides some additional boost at startup but does not require the large and costly motors and battery packs of a full hybrid system," he said.
"Combined with the stop/start system, eTorque can increase fuel economy, which is always the biggest drawback to vehicles of this size," Fiorani said in an email. "Allowing a big three-row utility vehicle to be more fuel efficient is an advantage and a differentiator in its segment. Family haulers, [by] definition, guzzle gas. If you can find a way to make it drink just a little less, buyers will notice."