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 midsize pickup. The Dakota is now the largest and by far the most powerful pickup in the segment.
Dakota competes against 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 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.
Either body style 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.
Club Cab and Quad Cab are available in ST, SLT, or Lariat trim levels. 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.
Starting out with a truck that's almost four inches longer than the previous Dakota, with almost all the extra length devoted to front crush space and deeper bumpers to meet future crash standards, the new Dakota boats almost 56 cubic feet of interior space.
The new size goes hand in hand with an all-new look, with much sharper edges on the laid-back grille, roof, fenders, doors and bed, and fender lines deliberately extended halfway along the length of the door. The Dakota retains the look of the Dodge Ram and Durango, though it looks crisper and the grille is laid back, not vertical. The intersection of the front fender, multi-element, twin-lens headlamp and grille makes the whole design work beautifully.
Underneath, there is a completely new frame shared in part with the Durango SUV, a frame that is eight times as strong in twist resistance and twice as strong in bending resistance as the old frame, introduced in 1997. A new coil-over-shock independent front suspension is used on both two- and four-wheel-drive models, with conventional leaf springs at the rear. All models come with front and rear tow hooks and tie-downs in the bed.
New to the Dakota is an Enhanced Accident Response System or EARS, which 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.
Just about everything on the inside of the Dakota is new. There are new black-on-white gauges with chrome rings, with the central speedometer about twice as large as the other two gauges. The angular center stack houses the sound system, climate controls and vents. The thick four-spoke steering wheel features audio and cruise controls.
The designers have added in more brushed sheetmetal accents around the cockpit, and the whole design works very well in terms of usability, convenience, and reach. The plastic materials looked good, but not great, and interior fits and finishes were good.
This truck has four huge doors that open out to nearly 90 degrees, so ingress and egress were very good, indeed. The rear seats are deliberately stepped up on their bases so that rear-seat occupants can see out more easily, and they are split into 40/20/40 folding sections with two rear cupholders.
The driver's seat, the only one we occupied for any length of time, looked good and felt good with its upper and lower support wings and good padding where it counts. Interior room, even for a tall, gangly driver like me, was excellent. It's the best in the class with this new cab size. The rear seat room in our Quad Cab test truck was more than generous for family-style use, with 33 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat. A center console and lots of cubbyholes provide space to stash stuff.
New interior features for the 2005 Dakota include standard head restraints and shoulder belts for all seat positions, taller head restraints, optional Sirius Satellite Radio, and an optional hands-free communications system that uses Bluetooth technology to make a compatible cellphone work as part of the truck.
The test truck, which was configured for five with front bucket seats, was surprisingly quiet, smooth and civil in its behavior, more like a car than a truck inside. The glass is 20 percent thicker, mufflers are larger, and there's more sound insulation throughout the body and firewall than before. It drives bigger than it looks, with a hefty, Ram-like way about it, a nicely muscular street swagger.
The 4.7-liter Magnum V8 engine costs a little extra, but for us it was worth every penny, because fuel mileage barely takes a hit (EPA-estimated City/Highway 15/19 for the V6, 14/19 for the V8). The 3.7-liter Magnum V6 is rated 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. The 4.7-liter V8 generates 230 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. The 4.7-liter High Output V8 wasn't available at press time, but is expected to put out more than 250 horsepower and more than 300 pound-feet of torque.
Our Quad Cab with the standard 4.7-liter accelerated with uncommon vigor and a wonderful exhaust note. At highway speeds it settled down into a nice background burble in overdrive fifth gear. Its strong torque means plenty of low-down grunt for pulling payloads of up to 1,800 pounds or towing up to 7,150 pounds.
The transmission has perfectly spaced ratios for trucking, and worked without complaint, roughness or harshness, even in high-rpm full-throttle upshifts. With only two occupants and no load, it really scoots from the stoplight despite the nearly 4800 pound weight of the Quad Cab 4X4. For towing, there's a Tow/Haul setting that alters the shift pattern of the automatic transmission.
The new rack-and-pinion power steering is a bit over-assisted for our tastes but will probably be okay for most customers. The chunky steering wheel feels great in the hands. The truck tracks extremely well, responds quickly to inputs, and stays hunkered down during mountain road playtime. Its 265/70R16 BFGoodrich Wrangler tires were both grippy in corners and very quiet at highway speeds, adding a measure of plushness to the ride quality that we really appreciated. We'd rate the ride and handling very high, though like all pickup trucks, it can get a bit choppy over small, high-intensity bumps and ruts.
The Dakota offers only rear-wheel anti-lock brakes as standard safety equipment, but four-wheel ABS disc/drum brakes are optional. We deliberately tried the rear ABS on a straight, flat, dry road for several maximum-g stops with no load and no passengers, and it worked very well, keeping the unladen, light-in-the-rear pickup straight and coming to crisp stops four times in a row without locking the rear wheels.
Anyone in the market for a medium-sized truck that goes around acting like a full-size truck, but for a lot less money, should have a look at the new Dodge Dakota.
The Dakota is unique in the class, with its brawny style, generous size, powerful V8 engines for towing, and plenty of room for a typical family. And the Dakota starts below $20,000.
|Model Line Overview |
|Base Price (MSRP) |
|Model lineup: |
|Dodge Dakota V6 ST Club Cab 2WD ($18,565); 4WD ($22,224); V8 ST Club Cab 2WD ($19,350); ST Quad Cab 2WD ($20,774); 4WD ($23,624); SLT Club Cab 2WD ($21,129); 4WD ($23,979); Quad Cab 2WD ($22,529); 4WD ($25,379); Laramie Club Cab 2WD ($24,339); 4WD ($27,189); Laramie Quad Cab 2WD ($25,829); 4WD ($28,679); SLT V8 HO; Laramie V8 HO |
|210-hp 3.7-liter dohc 12-valve V6; 230-hp 4.7-liter sohc 16-valve V8; 4.7-liter sohc 16-valve HO V8 |
|6-speed manual; 4-speed automatic; 5-speed automatic |
|Safety equipment (Standard): |
|front airbags with OCS on passenger side; rear-wheel ABS, EBD |
|Safety equipment (Optional): |
|four-wheel ABS; front-seat side-curtain air bags |
|Basic warranty: |
|3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: |
|Warren, Michigan |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): |
|Dodge Dakota Laramie V8 Quad Cab 4WD ($28,679) |
|Standard equipment: |
|leather seats, six way leather power driver's seat, Infinity six-speaker 288-watt premium sound system with six-disc changer, cruise control, fog lamps, overhead console, leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls; 16-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps, tilt steering, dual rear seats, power windows, locks and mirrors |
|Options as tested: |
|V8 engine ($785); automatic transmission ($1,170); 6-way leather power heated seats ($845); bedliner ($245) |
|Destination charge: |
|Gas Guzzler Tax: |
|Price as tested (MSRP) |
|four-wheel drive |
|4.7-liter sohc 16-valve V8 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): |
|230 @ 4600 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): |
|295 @ 3600 |
|5-speed automatic |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: |
|14/19 mpg. |
|131.3 in. |
|218.8/71.7/68.6 in. |
|Track, f/r: |
|62.8/62.9 in. |
|Turning circle: |
|37.5 ft. |
|Seating capacity: |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: |
|39.9/54.9/41.9 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: |
|38.4/56.0/36.4 in. |
|Cargo volume: |
|Towing capacity: |
|7150 lbs. |
|Suspension F: |
|Suspension R: |
|Ground clearance: |
|8.0 in. |
|Curb weight: |
|4758 lbs. |
|Brakes, f/r: |
|disc/disc with ABS in. |
|Fuel capacity: |
|22 gal. |