The 2009 Dodge Dakota is marketed as a mid-size truck, but with a wheelbase of 131.3 inches--longer than some current full-size pickup trucks--it feels much like its full-size brethren. Blame the supersizing of America for the Dakota's growth spurt if you want, but at least you'll be able to haul quite a bit with that extra space.
For 2009 the Dodge Dakota comes in just two body styles, Extended and Crew Cab, along with four trim levels, down from six last year. The available trims are ST, Big Horn (which sells as the Lone Star down in Texas), TRX4, and Laramie. Bed length options are limited solely to a 6.6-foot carrier for the extended cab and a 5.3-foot bed on the four-door crew cab. Bed utility is increased on the 2009 Dodge Dakota thanks to built-in cargo box utility rails.
The mid-size Dodge Dakota, one of only two V-8-powered mid-size models available in all the land, is a rare breed in its class. While a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 is standard fare, Dodge also offers an optional 302-hp, 4.7-liter powerplant. The six-cylinder engine comes with either a four-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission, while the V-8 is mated exclusively to a five-speed auto. Fuel economy is typical for trucks of this size, if not a bit better than average, with both the V-6 and V-8 achieving EPA estimates of 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway in two-wheel-drive models.
With all of the emphasis placed on pumping some life into the engine compartment of the new Dodge Dakota, some basic safety features seem to have been completely overlooked. While the engine benefits from fully modern technology (and delivers up to 7,000-pound towing capabilities), the brakes are pure old school: discs in front, drums in the back with rear-wheel-only anti-lock brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock control is optional. Handling is perhaps a bit better than you would expect, thanks to a quick-ratio rack-and-pinion steering setup, but the suspension is prone to excessive floating. However, given the truck's weight (more than 4,500 pounds), you can't expect it to handle like a sports sedan.
Coming off its significant refresh in 2008, the 2009 Dodge Dakota offers few changes. The latest Dodge Dakota still boasts the more angular Nitro-ish exterior that debuted last year and features better fit and gap management, while new fenders dramatically change the truck's profile, which now includes a rear spoiler--a genuine aero feature.
The 2009 Dodge Dakota also features full-swing rear access doors on Extended Cab versions, which open nearly 170 degrees to facilitate entry and exit, as well as cargo loading into the backseats. Seating for five is standard, and with the rear seats folded, there's up to 30 cubic feet of storage space. The larger Crew Cab offers even more room: another 7.5 cubic feet. Seating is comfortable, especially inside the Laramie and TRX4 models, which feature upgraded seats for 2009. Also increasing interior utility is Dodge's Crate 'N Go system, new for 2009, which features custom removable containers that fit under the rear seat, allowing gear to be organized and contained within the truck without rolling around.
The useful and space-efficient center console design, carried over unchanged from last year, incorporates cup holders with modular inserts and a pull-out bin specifically designed to hold electronics such as an MP3 player (which may be plugged into any of the Dodge Dakota's audio systems), cell phone, or PDA. While Detroit automakers have tried to emphasize quality of late, the 2009 Dodge Dakota comes up well short of its competitors, both foreign and domestic, in this department.
The Bottom Line:
If you need most of a full-size pickup's capabilities but want to be able to get into a parking space or carport, consider the 2009 Dodge Dakota with its available V-8.