Measuring close to the midsize truck category in dimensions, Dodge’s smaller pickup truck comes with V-6 or V-8 power and is offered in a variety of configurations. For 2004, a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine replaces the prior 175-hp 3.9-liter. The 5.9-liter V-8 power plant and the R/T edition have been dropped. Front bucket seats are now standard in Quad Cab models.
A new Stampede package was added during 2003; offered on regular-cab and Club Cab Sport models, this option group includes ground-effects side moldings, wheel flares, 16-by-8-inch aluminum wheels and a rear stabilizer bar.All-disc brakes are standard in four-wheel-drive and high-capacity models. Dodge offers a five-speed-automatic transmission that features a dual-ratio second gear; it teams with the 4.7-liter V-8 engine.
A value-priced but boldly styled SXT model is available for budget-minded shoppers. The lineup also includes base, Sport, Sport Plus, SLT and SLT Plus trim levels.The Dakota was last redesigned for the 1997 model year, and the automaker is expected to redesign this truck for 2005.
Basic Dakota styling is patterned after the company’s full-size Ram pickup. Regular-cab, Club Cab (extended-cab) and Quad Cab (crew-cab) body styles are available. The Quad Cab and Club Cab models both ride a 131-inch wheelbase and measure 215 inches long overall. Because the Quad Cab devotes more space to passengers, it comes with a shorter, 5.5-foot cargo bed as opposed to the Club Cab’s 6.5-foot bed. The Quad Cab version can tow as much as 6,100 pounds, while a regular-cab model can tow as much as 6,600 pounds.
Regular-cab models use a 6.5-foot cargo bed, and they have shorter dimensions than the Quad Cab. Each measures 196 inches long overall on a 112.1-inch wheelbase.Unlike other extended-cab compact trucks, no rear doors are offered on the Dakota Club Cab. The SXT model includes deep gray bumpers, upper and lower fascias, body-colored fender flares and sporty 16-inch aluminum wheels.
Dakotas may be equipped with either a front bench or a pair of front bucket seats. Bucket seats are now standard in the Quad Cab. Club Cab and Quad Cab models have split rear benches with cushions that fold for extra storage space.
Because the Quad Cab’s interior is about a foot longer than the Club Cab’s, its backseat is vastly roomier. Space for adults in the Quad Cab’s rear seat is adequate, but they will likely be cramped in the Club Cab. Tall rear doors that open 90 degrees on the Quad Cab ease entry and exit.
Under the Hood
A new 210-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 serves as the base engine, but Dakotas are unique among compact pickups because they can be fitted with a V-8 engine. A 230-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 is available for all three body styles with Sport or SLT equipment. Three transmissions are available: a four-speed automatic for the V-6, a five-speed automatic for V-8 models and a five-speed manual that can team with either engine. A dashboard switch controls transfer-case operation on four-wheel-drive trucks.
Four-wheel antilock brakes are optional, and side-impact airbags are not offered.