Hot Take: The Second-Generation Dodge Durango Was Uglier Than the Pontiac Aztek

All Photos by Dodge

At the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, Dodge showed the world a concept version of the then-upcoming second-generation Dodge Durango. It was called the Dodge Durango Hemi R/T, and my god, was it hideous. So naturally, the brand went ahead and released a very similar design for production.

“That’s the ugliest American car of this millennium,” my friends often say upon singeing their corneas at the sight of a Pontiac Aztek. But every time, as we rush ourselves to the nearest eyewash station, I inform my dry-heaving buddies that their statement is, in fact, false.


The ugliest American car of this millennium is the second-generation Dodge Durango.

Obviously, this is just an opinion, but my friends—who were only able to glimpse at the Durango for a moment through auto-dimming welding helmets before turning away from my phone in pain—have all realized their errors. And upon looking at the images in this post (I’d suggest only using your peripheral vision), you probably will, too.

Let’s start with the front end:


“HELP!” the Durango yells. “I’m confused and scared!” The car’s headlights (which looked similarly to those of the Ram and Dakota of that era) are what I like to call the “Deer In The Headlights” headlights, and they make the car look like it just soiled itself.

Between them, that giant oddly shaped grille that cuts into a bumper that looks like a giant chin, and a narrow hood that awkwardly tapers inward, the front is a downright disaster.


The rear is also terrible, with those bubbly, horrid taillights and the quarter panels that flare out to meet them. The rear hatch—a curved design with a single horizontal line above a tacky piece of plastic chrome—doesn’t help, either.


But the real eye-scorching occurs when you look from the side. That’s where you can see a little bit of all of the Durango’s flaws. There are the strange headlights and taillights, the front chin-bumper and the rear quarter panel bulges.


On top of that, you can see a prominent hood gap, huge wheel flares in the back, and the disgusting fenders up front, which stretch up toward the front of the car to meet the headlights.


The good news is that in 2007, Dodge made some major changes to the design, shown above. It was much better, with the horrible headlights that blend into the fenders now gone, and with it, also the hideous tapering hood.


Still, the giant flares remained, as did the taillights. So I guess you can’t win them all.


I heard a rumor from folks in the know at Chrysler alleging that an early Durango design was even more hideous than what came out for 2004. Whether that rumor refers to the concept above, or to an entirely different design that was somehow worse (seriously, how?), I may never know.

But in any case, we can take solace in the fact that the ugliest American car of the millennium could have been uglier. So there’s that, at least.

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About the author

David Tracy

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).