General Motors replaced its compact Chevrolet S-10 and GMC Sonoma pickups with midsize Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks for 2004.
Dodge, it appears, took notice and replaced its midsize Dakota with a larger version, call it midsize plus, for '05.
The new Dakota is a little longer and wider and, with the only V-8 in the midsize segment, capable of towing more than 7,000 pounds.
Dodge says the new Dakota is "the right-size pickup, more fuel-efficient and maneuverable than a full-size that can still get the big jobs done-full-size capability in a midsize package."
Will some dump their less fuel-efficient and less easy-to-maneuver full-size Dodge Rams for a midsize Dakota?
While wheelbase stays the same, Dakota is about 4 inches longer and about a half-inch wider and sports an updated design that bears a strong resemblance to Ram.
But Dakota didn't grow just because GM brought out larger midsize models.
The added length wasn't meant to provide more room for occupants to stretch their legs in the cabin or for more cargo capacity for the bed.
The 4 inches were added in front of the axle to provide more crush space to better protect occupants in an impact. And that's protection for those in the Dakota and in the vehicle striking the Dakota. Front and rear bumpers also have been extended slightly to better protect in low-speed impacts.
Other noteworthy changes include dropping regular-cab models in favor of a choice of a Club Cab with two swing-back rear-access doors or a Quad Cab with four conventional doors.
While a 3.7-liter, 210-horsepower V-6 is standard, for '05 you have a choice of two 4.7-liter V-8 engines, a 230-h.p. version that produces 290 foot-pounds of torque or a 260-h.p. version producing 310 foot-pounds of torque.
Either V-8 can tow up to 7,150 pounds while the 230-h.p. version boasts slightly better mileage-15 m.p.g. city/20 m.p.g. highway versus 14/19 last year. Though only a 1 m.p.g. gain, at it's better than a 1 m.p.g. loss.
We tested the Quad Cab and, other than the pleasant resemblance to Ram, the one feature that stood out was how wide the front and rear doors swing open for easy entry and exit.
However, the driver's door swings open so far that if you don't have a very long wingp, you'll have to slide out of the cabin to reach the door to close it.
Seats are wide and supportive, controls are well-placed for easy use and attention was paid to detail by providing not only stowage space, but also coin holder and cell phone power plug under the center console armrest. And console cupholders have flexible plastic arms to hold a small coffee or pop can or a large water bottle or pop cup.
Tall drivers-those who won't have to reach as far to close the door-will find that the front seat track has been extended by more than 8 inches to allow for more legroom.
If you need more cargo space or to haul something inside in bad weather, the back seat bottom cushions lift and fold against the backs so you can put lots of items on the floor.
The '05 Dakota also comes with an advanced air-bag system. A dash light warns when the front passenger air bag is deactivated because the seat is empty or a child safety seat has been placed on it (though child seats belong secured in back). Front air-bag deployment speed is also regulated by the weight of the passenger, meaning the larger the occupant, the faster the deployment, the smaller the occupant, the slower the speed.
Also new for '05, and in keeping with the added crush space upfront and the concern for safety, side air-bag curtains that serve front and rear seats are a $495 option. They are worth the expense as evidenced by government crash test data that point out how curtains save lives.
The test vehicle came with four-wheel-drive, one of those easy-to-use turn-the-dial-under-the-dash systems to switch from rear-wheel-drive to 4WD to 4WD low.
It also came with the optional ($785) 230-h.p. V-8 (high-output 4.7-liter a $1,355 option). It responds quickly to pedal pressure, and there's no hesitation or waiting when pulling out to pass or merge.
The V-8 is meant for higher towing capability while the 3.7-liter V-6 is meant for higher mileage operation (17/22 with 5-speed automatic).
When you push the pedal hard, the V-8 gives out a little growl to provide the performance sound truck owners relish. The growl takes attention away from the fact that the fuel gauge needle moves quickly as well-minus sound effects.
Have to wonder, however, whether the engine growl would become a grunt with the smaller V-6.
For those who need to tow 7,000 pounds but don't want to do it with a more costly full-size pickup that's a little more cumbersome to maneuver and a lot more cumbersome to park, the Dakota with V-8 offers a welcome alternative.
Of course, a V-8 with displacement-on-demand that shuts off 4 cylinders when not needed to provide better mileage, like the Hemi does in the Dodge Magnum R/T wagon, would be an even more welcome alternative in the Dakota truck.
Dodge developed a new fully boxed frame for the '05 Dakota and redesigned the suspension system to provide less of the harsh ride associated with pickups. You'll still experience a firm ride, but jostling is held to a minimum.
As for suspensions, the '05 Dakota isn't one of the 600,000 four-wheel-drive Dakota pickups and Durango sport-utility vehicles being recalled by Dodge in which the upper ball joints could prematurely wear and possibly allow the wheels to fall off.
Those were 2000-2003 models. Dodge said based on the wear problem, it changed suppliers for the '04 model year. In keeping with its redesign, the '05 Dakota has a different suspension system.
The Quad Cab with Laramie trim that we tested starts at $28,679. Standard equipment includes rear-wheel anti-lock brakes, 16-inch all-terrain radials, power windows/locks/mirrors, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo radio with six disc in-dash CD changer and MP3 player, power driver's seat, keyless entry and tinted glass.
You can upgrade to four-wheel ABS for $495 and on/off-road 17-inch all-terrain radials for $595. You may not go off-road that much, but the larger tires give the truck a more rugged look. And whether you opt for the factory installed bed liner ($245) or find one on your own, you'll reduce road noise while enjoying a neater look for the bed.
Desk-cleaning giveaway: It's not the night before Christmas, but all o'er the desk some creatures appear to be stirring and that can only mean it's time for a desk-cleaning giveaway to dispose of the junque.
Send a post card (no letters) to Jim Mateja, Chicago Tribune, 616 Atrium Drive, Vernon Hills, 60061 to enter the free drawing. Deadline is Dec. 31.
Winners (?) will be announced in a future column and, as always, junque cannot be returned-especially that which moves on its own.
- - -
2005 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4x4 Laramie
Wheelbase: 131.3 inches
Length: 218.8 inches
Engine: 4.7-liter, 230-h.p. V-8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 m.p.g. city/20 m.p.g. highway
Base price: $28,679
Price as tested: $32,504. Includes $625 for towing group; $495 for anti-lock brakes; $495 for side air-bag curtains; $785 for Magnum V-8; $140 for sliding rear window; $250 for heated front seats; $195 for Sirius satellite radio; $595 for on/off-road 17-inch radials; and $245 for bed liner. Add $645 for freight.
Pluses: Larger, roomier and with styling upgrade similar to that of full-size Ram. V-8 power for hauling and towing more than 7,000 pounds. Rear seat bottoms lift and fold back to expose floor for more cargo capacity. Front seats on 8-inch longer tracks to provide more legroom. Side air-bag curtains for both rows of seats.
Minuses: Front doors open so wide you have to stretch to close them. V-8 power translates into modest mileage.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation and Wednesday and Friday in Business. Hear him on WBBM Newsradio 780 at 6:22 p.m. Wednesdays and 11:22 a.m. Sundays.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||November 5, 2004|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||July 30, 2005|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||March 12, 2005|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||January 23, 2005|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||December 17, 2004|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit Newspapers||December 8, 2004|
People Who Viewed This Car Also Viewed
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Dodge Dakota
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.