2006 Dakota New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Dakota is a mid-size pickup with a full-size attitude. Dakota is the largest pickup in its class and the only mid-size truck available with a V8. Dodge claims its 7150-pound maximum towing capacity is by far the best in class.
The Dakota looks big. Completely redesigned for 2005, it's larger than before and looks almost as big and tough as the full-size Dodge Ram. With sales of basic small trucks in steady decline, the market is headed toward bigger, more powerful, better-equipped pickups. (If you want a small, basic truck, you have a choice between the Ford Ranger and used pickups.)
The current Dakota is substantially longer than the previous-generation (pre-2005) version, with styling that mirrors the recently redesigned Durango SUV. Getting in is easy, and the redesigned interior is comfortable and convenient with controls that are easy to reach and operate. The Club Cab version of the Dakota achieved a five-star safety rating in frontal and side-impact crash tests conducted by the federal government.
For 2006, the rear doors on Club Cabs have been redesigned to open wider. Otherwise, changes between 2005 and 2006 are limited to packaging: A new sunroof and new sound systems are options for 2006 Club Cab models. An auxiliary audio jack has been added to allow playback from personal audio devices, such as an iPod. Sirius Satellite Radio now comes standard on 2006 Laramie models. Special-edition packages have been added to personalize your 2006 Dakota.
If you want a pickup that's big and brawny, but not as big as a full-size, you should visit your local Dodge dealer. Dakota is available with a choice of V6 and V8 engines. Underway, the Dakota is smooth and quiet. The optional 4.7-liter V8 burbles subtly in the background when cruising, but really scoots when the throttle is mashed. Yet its fuel economy is rated within 1 mpg of the standard V6's. The steering is light for easy maneuverability in crowded parking lots and the Dakota responds quickly on mountain roads and tracks nice and straight on the highway.
Dodge Dakota comes in two body styles: The Club Cab is an extended-cab version with small, reverse-opening rear doors to access the rear compartment and a 6 1/2-foot bed. The Quad Cab is a crew-cab style with four full-size doors and a 5-foot, 4-inch bed. Each can seat five to six passengers, but back-seat riders will be much more comfortable in the Quad Cab. Both bodies are built on the same 131.1-inch wheelbase.
Three trim levels are available, ST, SLT, and Laramie.
The standard engine is a 3.7-liter V6. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission. An optional four-speed automatic ($1,095) is available for ST and SLT; the Laramie comes standard with the automatic. A 4.7-liter V8 engine is available for all models ($785-$860). A high-output version of the 4.7-liter V8 is available for the SLT and Laramie. With either V8, a six-speed manual transmission is standard; a five-speed automatic is optional.
ST Club Cab ($19,785) and Quad Cab ($21,185) come standard with air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo with audio auxiliary jack, tinted rear windows, front disc/rear drum brakes with rear-wheel anti-lock (ABS), and 16-inch steel wheels.
SLT Club Cab ($21,540) and Quad Cab ($22,940) are upgraded with cloth bucket seats with a full-floor console, chrome bumpers, fog lamps, power mirrors, windows, and locks with keyless entry, 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels.
Laramie Club Cab ($24,750) and Quad Cab ($26,240) add leather bucket seats with six-way power driver's seat; Alpine AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six-disc changer, 288-watt amplifier, and Sirius satellite capability; leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls; auto-dimming day/night rearview mirror; UConnect Hands-Free Communications System with Bluetooth wireless technology; security alarm; Sentry Key engine immobilizer; an overhead console; and automatic headlamps.
Four-wheel drive is available for all models, traditional part-time 4WD (which adds about $2,850) or full-time 4WD with an electronically controlled locking center differential ($395) for SLT and Laramie models with V8 and automatic transmission.
Safety features: An Enhanced Accident Response System, or EARS, automatically turns on interior lights and unlocks doors in the event of an air bag deployment, so that medical or response personnel can help faster and easier. Side-curtain airbags for the front and rear seats are optional ($495); we recommend them because they are designed provide head protection. Head restraints and shoulder belts are provided for all seat positions. Seatbelts are your first line of defense in an accident, so always wear them.
Options include Sirius Satellite Radio ($195), the premium 276-watt, 288-watt, and new 508-watt sound systems, heated seats, four-wheel ABS ($495), towing packages ($455-$525), and 17-inch chrome wheels ($820). A sunroof is available for the Quad Cab. An optional hands-free communications system that uses Bluetooth technology integrates a compatible cellphone with the truck's audio system.
Option packages for 2006 include TRX, TRX4 Off-Road, R/T, and Night Runner. Each is available in the Club Cab or Quad Cab configuration.
TRX includes unique five-spoke/five-lug 16-inch aluminum wheels and Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires; tow hooks; a limited-slip differential; and TRX decal on the cargo box. The TRX package is available on 2WD ST, SLT and Laramie. TRX4 Off-Road includes everything in the TRX package plus painted shocks; an increased ride height of one inch; heavy-duty service package; skid plates; TRX4 Off-Road cargo box decal; and slush mats.
R/T is an SLT with the high-output 4.7-liter engine and: 17-inch five-spoke/five-lug chrome-clad aluminum wheels; hood scoop; sport appearance package (in Red Flame or Black only); body color grille surround; chrome exhaust tip; cargo box decals; R/T identification on headrests and instrument cluster; and Satin Silver accents for the center stack and door remotes.