Versus the competiton:
Decked out in black wheels and tires with raised yellow letters, the Dakota Club Cab Sport looks like it just rolled in from Kansas Speedway. And that’s the idea.
To commemorate Dodge’s return to NASCAR racing, Dodge Motorsports packages are offered on about 5,000 special editions of the Neon, Intrepid and Dakota truck. In addition, Dodge will ship each buyer a Track Pack that includes binoculars, cooler, hat, stopwatch and a bunch of assorted racing paraphernalia. Race fans will love it.
The Dakota Club Cab Sport is a nice piece of work, with or without the Motorsports package. The black wheels and yellow-lettered tires are intended to mirror the look of race vehicles, and if you’re into that look you’ll love it. I think its appeal could wear thin fairly quickly.
The bright red test truck was equipped with the 230-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 engine that is delightfully free of vibration and extremely willing to strut its stuff. This V-8 is the same one originally developed for the Grand Cherokee, and it is as much fun as it is strong. It responds immediately to the throttle, and the automatic transmission is a perfect companion because it has two second-gear ratios, one for accelerating from a stop and a slightly higher one that is selected when you need a quick downshift for passing or pulling up a hill. The shift pattern feels like it knows what you want it to do because it adapts to each person’s driving style. Putting 230 horsepower into a compact truck gives pleasingly powerful performance. It zips around town as if it had been slurping down Red Bull energy drink, yet it’s perfectly willing to be calm when you want to cruise politely.
Inside, the instrument panel has been revised with new instruments and additional outlets for the heating and cooling system, whose capacity has been increased. The tilt steering column has a wider range, door panels are new and the floor console supplied with the optional bucket seats has three cupholders, including one to accommodate oversized cups or bottles.
The Dakota’s cabin doesn’t feel anything like a truck’s because it is nearly as tight and quiet as a family sedan. Creature comforts, such as steering wheel controls for the sound system, pamper the driver. The seats are shaped for support, yet they aren’t confining. One drawback to the Club Cab is the lack of rear doors, and that inhibits access to the already tiny back seat. The Quad Cab, with separate rear doors and a bigger back seat, would be a more useful package, but the Quad Cab’s bed is more than a foot shorter than the 6.5-foot bed of the Club Cab.
The base price of the test truck was $17,235. The option list was long: Cruise control, trailer package, 4.7-liter V-8, AM/FM/CD player, fog lamps, automatic transmission, air conditioning, power driver’s seat, power mirrors, power windows, keyless entry and the Motorsports package.
The sticker price was $25,475.
Three years or 36,000 miles.
Point: The Dakota Club Cab has the refinement of a family sedan and the function of a truck. That’s a nice combination. The 4.7-liter V-8 is powerful and smooth.
Counterpoint: Race fans will like the Motorsport package of black wheels and yellow-lettered tires, but its appeal might wear thin. The Club Cab’s back seat is small and hard to access.
Engine: 4.7-liter, 230-hp V-8
Transmission: automatic Rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 131 inches
Curb weight: not avail.
Base price: $17,235
As driven: $25,475
Mpg rating: 14 city, 19 hwy.