"Bigger, bolder and tougher." That's how Dodge described its Dakota pickup truck, as redesigned for 2005. A V-6 is standard, but the Dakota can be fitted with either of two V-8s, and Club Cab and Quad Cab models are offered. Dakotas are available with rear- or four-wheel drive in three trim levels: ST, SLT and Laramie.
For 2007, Dakotas get a standard two-position tailgate that can be locked at an angle to better carry cargo. Available YES Essentials fabric is designed to be stain-, odor- and static-resistant. A remote starter is newly optional.
Club Cab models have a 6.5-foot bed, while the Quad Cab gets a bed that measures 5 feet, 4 inches. Squared-off styling on the hood, grille and fender edges gives a distinctive look. Wheels are available in 16-, 17- and 18-inch sizes.
Quad Cab models can be configured for six-person seating rather than the usual five-person capacity. With the rear seats folded, Club Cab storage space totals 30 cubic feet, versus 37.1 cubic feet in the Quad Cab. Club Cab models have forward-facing rear seats and rear-hinged access doors.
Under the Hood
A 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 is standard. Stepping up a notch, the available 4.7-liter V-8 produces 230 hp and 290 pounds-feet of torque and can run on E85, regular unleaded gasoline or a mixture of the two. Topping the performance list is a high-output 4.7-liter V-8 that makes 260 hp. Transmission choices include a four-speed automatic, five-speed automatic and six-speed manual. Either a part-time or full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case is available.
Rear-wheel antilock braking is standard; four-wheel ABS is optional. Side curtain airbags that protect passengers in both rows of seats are optional.
A V-6 Dakota is overtaxed — short on power and sluggish for passing and merging. The V-8s are more suitable on grades. After only a slight delay at start-up, the V-8-equipped Dakota delivers a steady, satisfying stream of power. Automatic transmission shifts are a bit more noticeable than in the V-6 model, but they're seldom annoying.
Performance with the high-output engine isn't appreciably quicker than with a regular V-8. When pushed, its automatic transmission slams hard into the next gear. Dodge's manual gearbox is pickup-truck typical with its slightly mushy feel, but it works with a well-behaved, easy-engaging clutch.
Four-wheel-drive versions ride with pleasant smoothness on good pavement. The suspension reacts quickly to bumps and recovers promptly. On narrow two-lane roads, the Dakota maneuvers quite handily and with satisfying steering feel. Rear occupants in the Quad Cab sit with their knees up and have minimal foot room.