2009 Dakota New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Dakota looks big. It looks nearly as big and tough as the full-size Dodge Ram. And, in fact, it is big. It's the biggest pickup in the midsize class. It's also available with a V8. And its 7,050-pound maximum towing capacity is the best in the class. You might say Dakota is the midsize pickup with a full-size attitude with muscle to back it up.
It's also an easy truck to live with. Getting in is easy, and the interior is comfortable and convenient, with controls that are easy to reach and operate. The rear doors on Extended Cabs and Crew Cabs open wide, and the Crew Cab can accommodate six people. A new under-seat storage system for Crew Cabs provides useful cargo carrying capacity. The Extended Cab has earned five-star safety ratings in both front and side impact testing by the federal government (NHTSA).
Underway, the Dakota is smooth and quiet. The optional 4.7-liter V8 is improved for 2008, with more power and better fuel economy. It burbles subtly in the background when cruising, but really scoots when the throttle is mashed. It is also flex-fuel capable, meaning it can run on gasoline or up to 85 percent ethanol. 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.
For 2008, Dakota gets several significant changes: The 4.7-liter V8 is boosted to 302 horsepower (from 230). The former 260-hp high-output version is no longer available (for obvious reasons).
On the outside, the hood, grille, front fascia, headlights, fenders and rear spoiler have been modified for 2008, and built-in cargo box utility rails have been added. Inside, the instrument panel and center console are new for 2008, Dodge's MyGIG navigation system/radio is newly available with a 20-gigabyte hard drive, heated bench seats are offered, and the Crew Cab body style's rear seats get an underseat, collapsible storage system.
If you want a pickup that's big and brawny, but not as big as a full-size, the Dodge Dakota fits the bill.
Dodge Dakota comes in two body styles: The Extended Cab has small, reverse-opening rear doors to access the rear compartment. It comes with a 6 1/2-foot bed. The Crew Cab has 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 Crew Cab. Both bodies are built on the same 131.1-inch wheelbase.
Six trim levels are available: ST, SXT, SLT, TRX/TRX4, Sport and Laramie. Regardless of trim, however, Extended Cabs come with a front bench seat split 40/20/40; Crew Cabs come with front bucket seats, with the bench seat as an option. Bucket seats are optional.
Traditional part-time 4WD is available for all models. It can be set to 2WD, 4WD Low or 4WD High. The 4WD modes are locked, so the truck shouldn't be driven on dry pavement when in 4WD. A full-time 4WD system with an electronically controlled locking center differential is available on TRX4, Sport and Laramie models. It normally operates in 4WD high that can be driven on dry pavement, and has locking 4WD Low and 4WD High settings.
The standard engine is a 3.7-liter V6. It comes with a six-speed manual transmission. An optional four-speed automatic ($1135) is available. A 4.7-liter V8 engine is available for SLT, Sport and TRX/TRX4 models, and is standard on Laramie. It comes with a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, though the Laramie is available only with the automatic.
ST Extended Cab ($19,435) and 4x4 ($23,685) and Crew Cab ($22,135) and 4x4 ($25,085) come standard with cloth upholstery, 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. Crew Cabs have split-folding rear seats.
SXT Extended Cab ($20,995) and 4x4 ($25,245) and Crew Cab ($23,640) and 4x4 ($26,590) add power windows, mirrors and locks; remote keyless entry; center console, cruise control; fold-down rear jump seats (Extended Cab); rear exterior cargo lamps; tilt steering; and 16-inch painted aluminum wheels.
SLT Extended Cab ($23,950) and 4x4 ($26,900) and Crew Cab ($26,170) and 4x4 ($29,120) are upgraded with YES Essentials seat fabric (claimed to be stain resistant, odor resistant, and anti-static); Sirius satellite radio with a one-year subscription; security alarm with Sentry Key engine immobilizer; six-way power adjustable driver's seat; overhead console with compass, temperature readout and trip computer; sliding rear window with defrost; Full-Swing rear doors (Extended Cab) that open 170 degrees; color-keyed carpet mats; and fog lights. For 2008, SLTs add utility rails in the bed sides and SLT Crew Cabs get a collapsible storage system under the rear seats.
The off-road-oriented 4x2 TRX Extended Cab ($24,360) and Crew Cab ($26,550) and 4x4TRX4 Extended Cab ($27,545) and Crew Cab ($29,745) add fender flares, tow hooks, off-road tires, a higher axle ratio (3.55 vs 3.21), and other exterior trim cues.
Sport Extended Cab ($25,135) and 4x4 ($28,060) and Crew Cab ($26,565) and 4x4 ($29,475) add to the SLT the four-speed automatic transmission, leather-wrapped steering wheel, unique cloth bucket seats with larger side bolsters, the TRX's 3.55 axle ratio, and 18-inch painted alloy wheels.
Laramie Extended Cab ($26,745) and 4x4 ($29,725) and Crew Cab ($28,150) and 4x4 ($31,100) add to the SLT leather upholstery, steering wheel audio controls, premium 276-watt Alpine audio with MP3 capability and 6CD changer, remote starting, automatic headlamps, auto-dimming rearview mirror, body-color front bumper, and chrome bodyside moldings.
Options include heated seats ($250), four-wheel ABS ($295), various towing packages ($455-$525), premium audio, and chrome wheels in 17-inch and 18-inch diameters. An optional hands-free communications system uses Bluetooth technology to integrate cell phones with the truck's audio system. A sunroof ($850) is available on.