Ladies and gentleman, Elvis has left through the back doors.
by Jill Amadio
If anyone can bring Disneyland into the compact pickup market, it's Dodge. Their new six-seater, full-size four-door truck focuses on people who have fun and fantasy in mind but who also want plenty of under-the-hood power and lots of towing capacity.
Dodge's new pickup is for those whose lifestyles might include never needing a truck bed, but who enjoy the macho aura it projects, who like shouldering aside wimpy SUVs in the fast lane, and for anyone whose lifestyle must morph from work to family to playtime using a single vehicle that can be parked inside the average garage.
If you're a first-time truck buyer and a compact is plenty large enough for your needs, the 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab is the kind of machine that can turn you off sedans, minivans and sport-utes forever. With a model lineup that boasts the largest, most powerful range of engines and the widest measurements in its class, and with just two models from which to choose - and two-wheel or four-wheel part or full-time drive - it's no gamble to go check them out.
Dodge offers more engine choices in the Dakota than in any other compact pickup. They include the base engine, a 3.9-liter Magnum V-6 with 175 hp, and two V-8s: the 4.7-liter delivering 235 hp, and the massive 5.9-liter with 245 hp.
Transmissions include a five-speed manual, a four-speed automatic, and a four-speed multi-speed automatic that has alternate second-gear ratios for better fuel efficiency and smoother power flow. Anti-lock brakes are optional. Both the 2WD and the 4WD come in two decor versions: the Sport with body paint-matching bumpers, and the SLT with shiny chrome trim. Payload capacity is 1450 lb, and the trailer-towing capability is a very reasonable 6350 lb. Cargo volume is 38 cubic feet.
Dressed to haul
There's no doubt it, this Quad Cab is one good-looking vehicle. A young cousin to Dodge's phenomenally successful Ram truck and the Durango SUV, the Quad Cab leans heavily on their aggressive grille styling for front-end appeal. The cab itself, though, is what arouses the curiosity, with its more-cab-less-cargo-box design.
Fortunately, there is no resemblance to a chopped-off sedan stuck onto a truck bed. In fact the cab, stretched by nearly fifteen inches, and its cargo area, present an integrated, well-proportioned design. The two front-hinged rear doors open wider than any other truck and maybe some sedans, and all four doors have roll-down windows.
To accommodate Grandma and the kids, the cab itself has increased and the cargo bed hanging out in back has shrunk. Well, there's room for your hunting dog and a couple of dead deer, or seven Elvis Presley impersonators, as Dodge demonstrated during a recent introduction in Las Vegas. In fact, the bed is 63 inches long, and 81 inches with the tailgate open and the addition of a bed extender. Front and rear cargo tie-down loops are standard and support up to a thousand pounds.
One neat convenience is the series of horizontal ridges in the wheelhouse and box sides for a divider that creates two-tier loading, while vertical ridges serve as slots for a bulkhead divide. Even the Quad Cab's roof can be utilized for cargo, supporting up to 150 pounds on a roof rack.
Here's where civilization really kicks in and it's difficult to remember you're in a down-and-dirty pickup. Everything that meets your eye shouts "Surprise! You're really in a car!" Keyless entry is standard, the overhead console has map lights, an electronic compass, and small storage spaces. Door panels hold books or notepads just like the poshest Jaguar, and on the 4WD models, a floor console can hold a cell phone or a small container of caviar. The dashboard, seats, steering wheel, and trim are nicer than in some passenger cars, and the rear seat cushions flip up for hiding packages either under the seats or in optional bins. The front bench seat is separated by a center folding armrest, or you can choose optional buckets seats.
Safety features focus on second-generation airbags, side impact protection, and three child-seat tether anchors in the back seat, plus child-proof door and window locks.
Dodge is expecting thirty percent of its Dakota Quad Cab buyers to be women, and judging from my test drive, Dodge might well exceed that estimate. This is one smooth and well-handling ride. Again and again, one must remember there's a cargo bed in back. In fact, at one point, when I was hauling two Sea-Doos I felt a small thump while cornering. A quick glance in the rear view mirror reminded me I'd been seduced by the firm but gentle suspension and ease of handling into thinking I was in a car. There's little sense of heaviness, even with the 5.9-liter Magnum engine and towing three-quarters of a ton of trailered Sea-Doos, and everything is so well buttoned-down I could have been in a high-priced SUV import. In fact, the absence of squeaks and rattles, even off-road, is a little unnerving.
Dodge says that weight-saving is part of the reason for smooth on- and off-roading, as well as responsible for excellent fuel efficiency, which is rated at 15 city/20 highway on the 2WD automatic transmission model, and one mile less per gallon on the 4WD model.
Much of the romance of this Quad Cab is in its versatility. Aftermarket accessories such as tents and covers that fit perfectly over the cargo bed provide living space anywhere you decide to park, and the wares available from Mopar Accessories for the Dakota Quad Cab are a riot of wonderfully innovative items. They include jungle-style brush guards, skid-resistant bedliners, side-rail bike carriers, electric motor winches, and steel dog houses.
Dodge has done its homework with this pickup and has produced a vehicle that can supply the fun you may have been missing in a truck that only holds two people. Having five friends along for the ride makes all the difference - even if they're all Elvis impersonators.
2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab
Base Price: $19,490 (2WD), $22,135 (4WD)
Engines: 3.9-liter V-6, 175 hp; 4.7-liter V-8, 235 hp; 5.9-liter V-8, 245
Transmissions: five-speed manual; electronically controlled four-speed automatic; electronically controlled four-speed automatic with alternate second-gear ratio
Wheelbase: 131 in
Length: 215.1 in
Width: 71.6 in
Height: 66.3 in
Weight: 4124 lb (2WD, base engine), 4391 lb (4WD, base engine)
Fuel economy: 15 city/ 20 hwy (2WD), 14 city/19 hwy (4WD)
Major standard equipment: Power brakes, heater, air conditioning (SLT), full-size spare tire, cigar lighter, voltmeter, tachometer, AM/FM stereo/cassette, split bench seat/center armrest, tilt steering column (SLT), tinted glass, engine compartment lamp.
© The Car Connection