Dodge trucks are on a roll. First it was the Ram, with its Peterbilt-like front-end; then came a revised Dakota, playing on the same look that made the Ram such a hit. Discarding the old slab-sided look helped Dakota sales pick up, and several additions made for 1998 continue for 1999. The Dakota has the usual assortment of truck options. Trim levels include Base, Sport, Plus, SLT, SLT Plus and R/T. There's rear-wheel drive or a part-time four-wheel-drive system. Next comes regular or club cab, short bed (6.5 feet) or long bed (8 feet). Next are engines. Starting with a 120-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder which can only be anemic in a vehicle that weighs in at 3,557 pounds. Next comes the 175 horsepower 3.9-liter V-6. The text vehicle, a short-bed crew cab came with DaimlerChrysler's tried-but-true 5.2 liter V8. Known in another lifetime as the 318, this mill churns out a respectable 230 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Top of the heap is the 5.9-liter 250 horsepower V-8. Available only on the R/T model, it feeds its power exclusively through the rear wheels. The 5.2-liter had quite enough juice to squirt its 3,705 pounds through traffic easily. There was good oomph as well as a decent 2,000 pound payload capacity. Like any old OHV V8, the noise is familiar upon acceleration, and for a truck that competes against other compact pickups, the V8 is a great option -- one offered only by Dodge. It's fed through a four-speed automatic transmission, or a five-speed manual is available with all engines except the 5.9-liter V8. Towing capacity for the V8 is 5,400 pounds and 6,700 with the 3.92 axle ratio. Power steering is improved this year on four-wheel drive models, with rack-and-pinion steering replacing the old recirculating ball steering. The result is the truck feels more responsive, with some road feel making it through to the driver. The ride was good, with decent bump absorption, although there's enough rocking to remind you that this is no car. The rear end stayed fairly well planted, despite its empty bed. The overall feel is almost sporting. This is especially true considering the interior was quiet -- quieter than most of Dodge's cars. Braking was okay, but nothing special. A firm foot was need to activate the power front-disc/rear-drum brakes. The rear brakes have anti-lock standard. Four-wheel anti-lock is optional. The four-wheel-drive system used on the Dakota is for use only for slippery or off-road conditions. It can be shifted on the fly. It proved its worth through the treacherous ice storms of early January. The crew cab model proved roomy enough, although Dodge still doesn't have rear doors on its crew cab, at least not yet. That makes the rear a challenge for anyone trying to reach it. A quick trip is all that can be expected of the large flat bench that Dodge calls a seat. Leg room is limited. It's best used for storage or small children. The front cloth bucket seats felt comfortable and supportive. The center console was convenient with plenty of storage and cupholders. The dash is straightforward and functional, if less stylish than its exterior. The instrument panel had a full set of gauges including readouts for voltage and oil pressure, unusual for any vehicle in this era of cost-cutting. Vehicles at twice the price usually skimp in this area. The rest of the dash seemed straight from the Chrysler parts bin, so interior pieces will seem familiar to those who have K-cars and their descendents. (WillChrysler ever get rid of their truely cheap ignition slot?) As long as we're mentioning annoyances, I'll mention two. The rear window doesn't slide open, so why not put a rear defroster in? Secondly, the only way to adjust the mirrors was to push them manually. This in a truck with keyless entry, power windows and locks -- at least install a manual adjustment inside the cabin. Otherwise, the cabin was nicely assembled, certainly bett er than some GM trucks. But as far as compact pick-ups go, this one has the usual benefits that all Chrysler (now DaimlerChrylser) products have. Plenty of style, along with more room than competitors in its class. Certainly, this 5.2-liter V8 is a well-known motor, along with gobs of power. It's certainly the engine to have in this truck, giving up only 20 horsepower and 45 pound-feet of torque over the R/T. Go for the short bed, and you have a pick-up that's fairly maneuverable, yet brawny enough to get the job done. It's a nice combination, which may be why there are so many Dakotas prowling the streets. Dodge aimed correctly. 1999 Dakota Club Cab 4x4 Sport Engine: 3.9-liter OHV V-6 or 5.2-liter OHV V8 Transmissions: 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic Tires: P215/75R15s, P235/75R15 optional Standard: Dual front air-bags with passenger shut-off switch, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes with rear anti-lock, 15-gallon gas tank, full-size spare with winch carrier, variable intermittent windshield wipers, AM/FM cassette stereo, bucket seats. Major options: Preferred Package 26B (Sport Appearence Group, map pockets body color grille and fascia, P235/75R15 tires with aluminum wheels, 22 gallon fuel tank), Sport Plus Group (air-conditioning, light group, mini-overhead console, fog lamps, power locks/windows, keyless entry), four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, 5.2-liter V8, AM/FM CD audio system. Base price, base model: $13,770 Base price test model: $19,615 As tested: $24,205 EPA rating: 13 mpg city, 16 mpg highway Test mileage: 14 mpg
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||April 11, 1999|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||March 5, 1999|
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