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Best Bets get above-average mpg, class-average or better reliability, class-average or better crash-test ratings, and our recommendation.
By Cars.com Staff
December 8, 2010
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 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 2011 The Dakota receives two new exterior colors: Hunter Green Pearl and Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl. For 2011, all Dakota models receive standard antilock brakes and side curtain airbags.
Exterior Dodge gave the Dakota a front-end makeover for 2008. The edges are crisp and the styling elements are well-integrated. 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 Big Horn/Lone Star
Dual-position tailgate helpful in containing cargo
Big 6-by-9-inch side 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 six-CD audio system standard in Laramie, available in TRX4 and Big Horn/Lone Star
Sirius Satellite Radio standard in Laramie and TRX4; available in Big Horn/Lone Star
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 of 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 of torque
Four-speed automatic standard in V-6
Five-speed automatic standard in V-8
4.7-liter V-8 engine compatible with E85
Safety While the Dakota is behind the curve in offering advanced features, the truck has a solid chassis and body structure. Side curtain airbags and four-wheel antilock brakes are now standard for the 2011 model year. Electronic stability control is still 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)