Orlando Sentinel's view

Dodge dealers were a little miffed when, in 2005, their company announced that it would be building pickups for Mitsubishi dealers to sell, beginning with the 2006 model year. The Mitsubishi Raider pickup would be essentially a clone of the Dodge Dakota, which had been redesigned for 2005, its first major makeover since 1997.

Those grousing Dodge dealers have short memories: When Dodge had no small pickup to counter the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-10, Mitsubishi supplied Dodge with a small truck to sell as the Ram 50.

As it turns out, though, Dodge dealers did not have much to worry about. In April, Mitsubishi dealers sold only 300 or so Raiders. During that same period, Dodge dealers moved more than 4,100 Dakotas.

It’s safe to say, then, that Mitsubishi hasn’t done a stellar job of letting customers know it has a pickup truck available. Given the small budget the designers had to work with to make the Raider look different from the Dakota, they did a remarkable job: The Raider is arguably the more handsome product.

And regardless of the name, this is a good pickup truck, with one major problem: Be it a Dakota or a Raider, the list price is so high that savvy buyers know they can get a full-sized truck for very nearly the same amount of money. Consequently, both pickups carry healthy incentives — through the end of May, the Raider has a $3,000 rebate, and I would expect a discount in addition to that.

The test truck was a relatively basic Raider LS Extended Cab, which meant it had two full-sized front doors and two smaller rear doors that open front-to-back. There’s a rear seat, but it’s much better for cargo than people. If you need to carry adults in the rear seat regularly, for their sake opt for the Raider Double Cab, which has a larger rear seat and two genuine rear doors. The extra room inside comes at the expense of the cargo bed — for the Extended Cab, the bed is 6 feet, 4 inches long, and for the Double Cab, 5 feet, 3 inches. Overall, both trucks are the same length — 219.9 inches.

There are two Raider engines: the base 3.7-liter, 210-horsepower V-6, which the test truck had, or a 4.7-liter, 235-horsepower V-8, offered only in the Double Cab. The LS Extended Cab comes with a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while V-6-powered Double Cabs get only the automatic. The V-8 Double Cab gets a five-speed automatic. Towing capacity ranges from a low of 2,950 pounds for the Extended Cab with a manual transmission, to 6,500 pounds for the V-8 Double Cab.

The test truck, an automatic-equipped Extended Cab, could tow 4,000 pounds, or 4,100 pounds had it been four-wheel-drive. The tester had a Class 3 hitch, and though I’m sure it could handle a 2-ton trailer, I wouldn’t want to try it in hilly terrain unless I were in no hurry at all. The V-6 is fine for light-duty work but lacks the low-end grunt for heavier jobs.

Inside, the Raider LS’s cockpit isn’t fancy, but it’s comfortable. Between the standard and optional equipment, it was hardly deluxe but had all the basics. On the road, the ride was smoother than I expected, and handling was quite good.

The Extended Cab LS with the automatic transmission started at $23,230, and with shipping and some options, the bottom line was a pricey $25,468. But, as suggested, there are incentives available, and hungry Mitsubishi dealers are no doubt prepared to deal. There’s nothing wrong with the product — it’s just a matter of getting the word out that Mitsubishi, once again, has a pickup to sell.

CONSUMER INFORMATION Base price: $23,020. Price as tested: $25,468. EPA rating: 16 mpg city driving, 22 mpg highway. Details: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive pickup with a 3.7-liter, 210-horsepower V-6 with a 4-speed automatic transmission. PHOTO: A high list price means healthy incentives on the Raider.

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