The all-new 2005 Dodge Dakota represents yet another bold move into the truck market for Dodge. With sales of basic small trucks in steady decline, Dodge has redesigned the Dakota as a much larger, much edgier, and more macho mid-size pickup. The Dakota is now the largest and by far the most powerful pickup in the segment.
Dakota competes against the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet
Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier. As with full-size pickups, competition for compact or mid-size trucks is hot. Though the Ranger is dated, Canyon, Colorado, Tacoma, and Frontier are totally new pickups for either 2004 or 2005. Dakota's biggest advantage, other than its larger size, is the availability V8 engines, not one, but two of them. Its towing capacity has been expanded to 7,150 pounds, by far the most in the class.
Built on a new frame, the new Dakota is substantially longer than the previous model with styling that complements the recently redesigned Durango SUV and Ram pickup. Getting in is easy and the redesigned interior is comfortable and convenient with controls that are easy to reach and operate.
Underway, the Dodge 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. The Dakota responds quickly on mountain roads and tracks extremely well on the highway.
All Dakotas are Club Cab extended-cab versions or Quad Cab four-door crew cab models and are set up for five- or six-passenger seating. Standard-cab pickups have faded in popularity as families are increasingly using pickups for recreation and as a transportation alternative to a car. So Dodge doesn't even offer a regular cab Dakota.
Club Cab and Quad Cab are available in ST, SLT, or Laramie trim levels. Either bodystyle and all three trim levels come standard with a 3.7-liter V6. A 4.7-liter Magnum V8 engine ($785) is available on all models. A high-output version of the 4.7-liter V8 is available for the SLT and Laramie trim levels. Each engine comes standard with a six-speed manual.
A four-speed automatic is optional with the V6 engine; a five-speed automatic is optional with either of the two V8 engines. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available: A traditional part-time four-wheel drive system is standard on 4X4 models. Full-time four-wheel drive with part-time differential locking is optional.
With the Club Cab, you get a 6 1/2-foot bed length; with the Quad Cab you get a 5-foot 4-inch bed. Both bodies are built on the same wheelbase. Club Cabs now feature small doors to access the rear compartment, which the old model did not have.
The ST trim level comes standard with 16-inch wheels. SLT adds 16-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps, tilt steering, dual rear seats, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Laramie comes loaded with leather seats, six way leather power driver's seat, an Infinity six-speaker 288-watt premium sound system with six-disc changer, cruise control, fog lamps, overhead console, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls.
Options include the premium audio system ($530), Sirius satellite radio ($195), four-wheel ABS ($495), front-seat side-curtain air bags ($495), towing packages ($455-$525), and 17-inch chrome wheels ($820). In addition, the MoPar aftermarket parts side of Chrysler will have dozens of appearance, performance and entertainment options that can be installed at the dealership before or after delivery. Among them: a chrome air deflector for the top of the grille, chrome accents, light bars, and roo bars.