Dodge gets the jump on most of its rivals with the January introduction of the 2000 Dakota Quad Cab, a compact pickup with four conventional doors and seats for up to six people.
The Dakota Quad Cab joins the Nissan Frontier as the only compact pickup that currently offers crew-cab styling with four conventional, front-hinged doors.
General Motors will introduce four-door versions of the Chevrolet S-10 and GMC Sonoma next fall, and Toyota will follow a couple of months later with the Tacoma Double Cab. Ford does not plan a crew-cab Ranger but instead offers the Explorer Sport Trac, a four-door sport utility vehicle with an open cargo bed.
The four-door Quad Cab rides the same 131-inch wheelbase as the Dakota Club Cab (extended cab) and has the same overall length of 215 inches. The Quad Cab devotes more space to passengers, so it comes with a shorter cargo bed 5.25 feet instead of 6.5 feet.
All other compact pickups offer at least one rear door on extended-cab models, but the Dakota Club Cab does not. The only choice for Dakota buyers who want more than two doors is the new Quad Cab.
Dakota regular-cab models also use the 6.5-foot cargo bed but are shorter in wheelbase and overall length (112 inches and 196 inches, respectively). Dodge has dropped an 8-foot cargo bed offered in previous years.
Quad Cab interiors are about a foot longer than those of the Club Cabs, and it shows in the vastly roomier rear seat. Adults have room to relax in the Quad Cab, whereas they're cramped in the Club Cab. The tall, wide rear doors on the Quad Cab also make it much easier to get in and out of the rear seat. On the Club Cab, the front passenger seat slides forward, but it is still a tight fit and awkward to climb into the rear seat.
All three body styles are available with a three-place front bench or bucket seats. On all models except the base regular cab, the front seat is a split bench with a folding center armrest and covered storage bins. The Club Cab and Quad Cab have split rear benches with cushions that fold for extra storage space. Elastic straps on the underside of the cushions provide handy places to secure ice scrapers, umbrellas and other small gear.
Under the Hood
Dakota is unique among compact pickups for offering V-8 engines. New to the Dakota line this year and borrowed from the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a 4.7-liter V-8 with 235 horsepower that is available on all three body styles. A 245-horsepower, 5.9-liter V-8 larger than the V-8s in some full-size pickups also is available on all body styles.
Base engine for two-wheel-drive regular cabs and Club Cabs is a 120-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder. A 175-horsepower 3.9-liter V-6 is standard in most other models.
All body styles are available with four-wheel drive, which can be engaged on the move with a floor-mounted transfer-case lever.
Dakota has a lot going for it, including head-turning styling patterned after the full-size Dodge Ram pickup, V-8 engines and competitive towing capability and payloads. The new Quad Cab moves the Dakota to the head of the class for interior room and rear seat access.