Dodge made major changes to the outside of the Dakota last year, introducing a four-door Quad Cab body style. The big changes this year are on the inside, where a redesigned dashboard and other components give the interior a new look. When the Dakota Quad Cab arrived in January 2000, the Nissan Frontier was the only other compact pickup to offer crew-cab styling with four conventional, front-hinged doors. Since then, the Chevrolet S-10, GMC Sonoma and Toyota Tacoma added that feature.
Though generally classified as a compact pickup, the Dakota is larger than the S-10, Tacoma and Ford Ranger. Some in the auto industry consider it the only midsize pickup.
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, 5.25-foot cargo bed instead of a 6.5-foot bed.
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, at 112 inches and 196 inches, respectively.
Changes for 2001 include new gauges, climate controls and a tilt steering column with a greater adjustment range. A new floor console for models with front bucket seats includes three cupholders, an armrest and several storage bins.
Transfer case operation moves from a floor-mounted lever to a more convenient dashboard switch on four-wheel-drive models.
The Quad Cab interior is about a foot longer than the Club Cabs inside, and it shows in the vastly roomier rear seat. The Quad Cabs rear seat offers adequate room for adults, but they will be cramped in the Club Cab. The tall rear doors on the Quad Cab also make it easier to get in and out of the rear seat. The front passenger seat on the Club Cab slides forward, but it is still a tight fit and awkward to climb into the rear seat.
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 stuff.
Under the Hood
The Dakota is unique among compact pickups for offering V-8 engines. A 235-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8 is available on all three body styles. A 245-hp 5.9-liter V-8 a larger engine than the V-8s in some full-size pickups is available on all body styles and mandatory on the sporty R/T model.
The base engine for two-wheel-drive regular cabs and Club Cabs is a 120-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder, but because it is too small for this truck and available only with a manual transmission, few Dakotas are so equipped. A 175-hp 3.9-liter V-6 is standard on most other models.
The Dakota has a lot going for it, including V-8 engines, a smooth ride and head-turning styling patterned after the full-size Dodge Ram pickup. The Quad Cab puts the Dakota at the head of the compact class for interior room and rear seat access.
For more satisfying performance, one of the V-8s is a better choice than the other engines.