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By Mike Levine
September 1, 2009
Vehicle Overview The Dodge Dakota is the perfect size for many pickup truck consumers; it's not too small or too big. The problem is that incentives on full-size trucks, like the Dodge Ram, put pressure on potential Dakota buyers to purchase larger trucks.
The Dakota has impressive towing and hauling capabilities, sharp exterior styling and decent interior accommodations. But there's no regular cab. The Dakota comes in Extended Cab or Crew Cab only, riding a shared 131-inch wheelbase. The Extended Cab has a 6-foot-4-inch cargo box, while the bed in the Crew Cab is 5 feet-3 inches long.
The Dakota is one of only two compact or midsize trucks available with a V-8 engine. The base power plant is a V-6. Both cabs are available in three trims: ST, Big Horn/Lone Star and Laramie. The TRX4 off-road package is offered only in 4x4 models.
The Dakota's strongest selling points are its size and capability. Maximum towing capacity is 7,250 pounds, and all V-8 models are rated to tow at least 5,500 pounds.
New for 2010 The Dakota receives new front and rear suspension components to improve ride quality and handling, but there's no change to payload or towing figures.
The six-speed manual transmission for the base 3.7-liter V-6 has been dropped, leaving only a four-speed automatic for the six-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic for the 4.7-liter V-8.
Exterior Dodge gave the Dakota a front-end makeover for 2008. The edges are crisp and the styling elements are integrated well. The cargo bed has chiseled wheel flares to match the aggressive front end. The Dakota looks good with either the chrome grille or monochromatic finishes.
Bedliner standard in Laramie, available in Bighorn/Lonestar
Dual-position tailgate helpful in containing cargo
Big 6-inch-by-9-inch mirrors available
TRX4 offers skid plates, front tow hooks and fender flares
Sliding rear window available on Extended Cab, standard on TRX4
18-inch alloy wheels standard on Laramie
Interior The Dakota's interior has nice touches, including white-face electroluminescent gauges, extra storage options and available heated leather seating. Some interior materials are not as kind to the touch as other vehicles in the segment, but the roomy cab is arguably quieter on the road than other compact trucks.
Under-seat Crate' N Go storage in Crew Cab
Alpine 276-watt, six-CD audio system standard in Laramie, available in TRX4 and BH/LS
Sirius Satellite Radio standard in Laramie and TRX4, available in BH/LS
Under the Hood
210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 with iron block and aluminum cylinder heads, SOHC, two valves per cylinder and 235 pounds-feet peak torque
302-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 engine with iron block and aluminum cylinder heads, SOHC, two valves per cylinder and 329 pounds-feet peak torque
Four-speed automatic (standard in V-6)
Five-speed automatic (standard in V-8)
Safety While the Dakota is behind the curve in offering advanced features, the truck has a solid chassis and body structure. It earned five-star ratings for front-impact crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Side curtain airbags are available but not standard. Four-wheel antilock brakes are optional, not standard. Electronic stability control is not available, but the Enhanced Accident Response System will turn on interior lights, unlock doors and shut off the fuel pump should the airbags deploy.
Electronic brake-force distribution
Latch child-seat anchors
Seat belt pretensioners
Of Interest to Truck Owners
Maximum gross vehicle weight rating: 6,010 pounds
Maximum payload capacity: 1,750-1,810 pounds (Extended Cab 4x2 V-6 auto)
Maximum towing capacity: 5,800-7,250 pounds (Extended Cab 4x2 V-8)
Fuel tank capacity: 22 gallons
Axle ratio: 3.55:1, 3.92:1
Transfer case low range: 2.72:1
Crawl ratio: 40.85:1 (manual with 3.55:1 axle), 31.79:1 (five-speed auto with 3.92:1 axle)