By on December 5, 2008

With waning interest in full-size pickups, all the major players have hit the market with a resounding thud. While the dee-luxe apartment in the sky is safe and clear for GM and Ford’s power players, the squeeze play can take the pie away from lesser-known trucks: those that do less, but cost more than expected. That said, now’s not a good time to be the mid-size Dodge Dakota.

But there’s never a good time for ugly. While the previous Dakota wore a face so contrived and misaligned it passed muster in a Grand Theft Auto III landscape, the re-skinned 2008 model looks right at home in…Grand Theft Auto IV. The freshened face has the right amount of parallel lines and refined treatments, but its face is generic, inoffensive and forgettable.

And without serious styling up front, the rest of the Dakota’s form lacks presence. Yes, the “new” Dakota sports the same half-baked fender bulges that, much like plate tectonics gone awry, extend to the front doors’ midsection. The rear form fails for the same reason, sweeps so broad of beam only work on Monte Carlos of yore. No matter the trim level, there’s less “macho” in this rig than its full-size competition.

Then again, Dodge’s sales brochure promotes the mighty Dak to younger guys with Mountain Dew-esque hobbies. Oh dear. Sure, the base ST version isn’t for the latte-minded, iPod intensive, extreme sports fans in all of us, but adding those (precious few) options does nothing for higher-minded appeal. With typical Detroit irony, the market-inappropriate interior is awash in the type of brittle and crude plastics that bring about lust to a workingman’s heart. Maybe Dodge is courting those “lifestyle” buyers after falling off the rock wall and spending a week in the cold, unyielding walls of the local ICU.

No, really. There isn’t a shred of soft touch polymer to be found: even the cloth-covered seats are firmer than expected. From the lack of a standard tilt wheel, a tone-deaf CD/MP3 player and an airline worthy, chair-mounted armrest (in lieu of a real console), there’s no love for the base model. On the plus side, four active Dakoteers have adequate wiggle room in the crew cab. There’s even a pair of (optional) Stow-N-Go milk crates below the rear bench for carrying…something.

Be it people or cargo, the V6-propelled, 4500lb Dakota isn’t the choice of the aficionado. Or anyone else, for good reason: with a meager 235lb-ft of torque and a wheezing 210 horses underfoot, an unladen Dakota barely motivates itself. Slow is not the word; the Dodge simply can’t get out of its own way. Even with the 6-speed manual’s remarkably close ratios and accurate (but notchy) throws, the 3.7L Dodge is no match for its 4.0L competition from foreign shores, never mind the positively ancient Ford Ranger.

Add optional 4WD into the mix and the proof meets pudding: locking the Dak into 4-low proves that gearing alone cannot a truck make. Even with the mandatory autobox, the 4.7L V8 is the only logical choice.

Luckily, going slow isn’t so bad. The fully boxed and hydroformed frame stays planted in corners, with less body flex than the Toyota Tacoma. There’s enough grip to stay out of the ditch, though the numb and lifeless steering is not Man’s best friend. But the Dakota’s well-sorted rear leaf springs were a pleasant surprise, keeping stable and tracking confidently on most any road, paved or not.

If and when the Dakota reaches cruising velocity, its occupants are rewarded for their labor with a smooth and compliant ride. Even when unloaded, body motions are kept in check and the cabin is almost car-like in its quiet demeanor. And when flight turns to fright, the Dakota’s strong disc/drum brakes yank the mid-size truck to a halt with passion: especially when pushing the envelope unleashes the terrifying howl of rear-wheel only ABS intervention. Sure, Dodge offers an all-corner alternative as an option, but this oversight in the base model is a shot of guarana in an overpriced energy drink.

Speaking of, how does 26 grand for a zero-option truck grab ya? Not only do other quasi-large trucks offer more bang for less coin, the Dakota treads in dangerous water: the four portal, full size trucks offer more utility, power and style for a minor bump in monthly payments. And forget about bonus points for fuel economy: the overworked throttle sucks gas like the big dogs.

Even with discounts and mid-size benefits, there’s nothing to love about the once appealing nature of the Dodge Dakota. Smaller trucks do everything the Dakota’s customer demands, but with more power, style and value. And with the Dodge Ram on shaky ground, expect the cash-strapped Cerberus to flip the less appealing Dakota sooner than later.

[CarMax provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance and a tank of gas.]

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46 Comments on “Review: 2009 Dodge Dakota Crew Cab ST 4×4...”


  • avatar

    I completely agree that the Dakota is a complete waste of a mid-sized pickup. My two experiences with quad-cab ’08 models both resulted in some left-side head trauma. I had checked my blind spot and inadvertently conked the horribly placed front seatbelt anchor point. It looks like a cancerous growth oozing out of the ceiling.

  • avatar

    Next up for me is either the Hyundai Sonata SE or the Volvo XC70 T6. Maybe one of those will seem exciting after a pair of pickup reviews?

    TrueDelta doesn’t have any reliability information on the Dakota yet–not enough owners signed up. We’re starting to get results on a few other pickups:

    http://www.truedelta.com

  • avatar
    forditude

    Why, Dodge? The 5.9 R/T was at least compelling, but this thing might as well be called the Caliber pickup. Why would anyone buy this when Dodge dealers are practically giving away Rams?

  • avatar
    Loser

    They still make these?

  • avatar
    confused1096

    At least they don’t offer these things with the thirsty and gutless 2.5L engine anymore.
    I owned two Dakotas in a row. It will be a cold day in Hades before I own another one of these POS trucks. I think I worked on both of them almost as much as I drove ‘em.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    I saw an F150 with 4wd (and not much else, but still…) for about 16k in the paper the other day, this thing doesn’t stand a chance.

    @confused1096
    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Sweet! Another pickup truck review!

    Somebody tell Sajeev we need a Ranger review redux. Make it a long-term test this time.

    The Dakota has passed its prime. I still remember somewhat fondly how my Grandpa beat the crap out of his, pulling trailers full of forklifts and cinder blocks behind it, loading it down with cement saws and a ridiculously heavy toolboxes. That thing had the 318 V8 in it, a short rear end, and an automatic trans, but it lasted 200,000 before needing a new engine. And even after the new engine, the original trans was working well enough– the rear end was crap, but the trans was fine.

    I still see that truck today. He sold it with nearly 300,000 on the clock and it now is a runabout truck for someone to take to town, the flea market, etc.

    It is that memory of a tough, “right-sized” 1992 Dodge Dakota, that I choose to remember. The new Dakotas are bloated, more failure-prone, and less capable. This product (and especially the Mitsubishi equivalent of it) will surely die, mercifully, in the near future. That is, if Chryslerberus has any sense whatsoever.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    In all honesty I’ve had very good luck with the base Dakota. I purchased over a dozen 05 base model Dakotas with the 6 cylinder and auto for service vehicles.

    So far they have been absolutely outstanding in the reliability department. A couple of the trucks now have 200k+ miles and no engine, tranny or electrical failures of note.

    These trucks are VASTLY better than the utter POS Colorado that they can’t be described in the same sentence.

    This has been my experience with the Dakota trucks for a number of years. The big difference on the newer ones is much quieter, better ride and pieces don’t fall off versus the older ones.

  • avatar
    austinseven

    Frankly, my dear……………

  • avatar
    1169hp

    I had a Jeep Liberty with the same 3.7-V6 in it and it was extremely thirsty! I tried everything from synthetic oil to a K/N air filter. Nothing helped. I could barley get 16 mpg highway..driven conservatively.

    Mileage numbers of 15/19..is only likely with the benefit of a tailwind and a Daytona/Taladega style draft.

  • avatar
    davey49

    How come we don’t see photos of the actual cars you test drive?
    The 6 speed manual might be unavailable now or soon enough. It’s a Getrag unit.
    The reason to buy this over a Ram is the smaller size. It’s easier to drive in crowded cities and in parking lots, it’s less cramped than a Ranger or Colorado.
    There’s never been many Dakotas at dealers near me. I don’t think the dealers even order them.

  • avatar

    God what an awful excuse for a pickup truck this thing has turned into. At least back in it’s heyday it had the wannabe-big-rig styling going for it. Now it has… zilch.

    Amazing – the ancient Ranger wins more hearts. Now THAT’S bottom feeding.

  • avatar
    Banger

    davey49:
    “I don’t think the dealers even order them.”

    And why would they, when the base Ram with the V6, stick and a few options is going for 50% off? That means in order to really present any sort of “value” proposition, they’d have to sell the Dakota at a [presumably] huge loss– say, under $12,000 with AC, cloth seats, and CD player.

    I see base Rams with select options going for $12,000-$14,000 all the time around here– and with slow sales, most dealers are ready to haggle well below that already-low number. More capability, more space, roughly the same fuel economy. The only thing the Dakota has going for it is, as you mentioned, the easier maneuverability.

  • avatar
    86er

    How do these compare to the previous gen, Sajeev? I have a 2000 and have never gotten around to testing these new-fangled ugly ones.

  • avatar

    Wholeheartedly agree. I think this truck should be in the Ten Worst Automobiles award.

    Here’s the thing: I noticed right away after looking at it how ugly and boring it looks. But then the fuel economy is terrible at any trim level, which for me would be the only reason to buy a compact truck in the first place. You look at a four-cylinder five-lug Tacoma, that’s got some good fuel economy numbers right there. 21 mpg overall with auto, 23 with manual. This truck barely manages 18. And it’s heavy and slow. Probably even slower than the Taco.

    Sajeev, we need two things on this site, one of them’s a review of either the Frontier or Suzuki Equator, and the other one is a review of the base Access Cab Tacoma. You wax rhapsodic about the Ranger, and it’s one of my favorites too, but the base Tacoma is very, very good. The access cab’s got lots of room in the back for a compact, and the fuel economy numbers look very good. It’s a good work truck from my viewpoint.

  • avatar
    davey49

    It seems that the same amount of people who would chastise someone for buying/making a huge truck for casual use would also chastise people for buying/making the Dakota because it’s a waste and “you could get a full size for the same price”
    Price isn’t everything.
    The Dakota is another one of my favorites.

  • avatar
    Banger

    davey49:

    No chastisement from me. As I related above, I have some fond memories of Dakotas past– albeit I’m not wild about this latest one’s look-and-feel. I’m just trying to relate how many consumers will rationalize this decision in the real world:

    They go to the neighborhood Dodge dealer. They are confronted with two options. One, the V6 Ram, is bigger than they’re likely to really need, is huge inside, gets 16 miles per gallon on a good day, and is heavily discounted– with wiggle room to spare once you’re actually wheelin’ and dealin’ with the sales person. The other, the Dakota, is in some ways less capable, is smaller inside the cab (definitely livable, but still smaller), gets the same fuel economy, and is not-so-heavily discounted. As the old Dodge commercials used to say, Advantage: Ram.

    I seriously cross-shopped a metallic blue 2006 V6 Ram against my 2006 Ranger, until I paused to think about the fuel economy versus what I really need out of a truck. I really didn’t need a truck that big, but for its capability and space, it was a heck of a deal at under 20,000 miles and less than $10,000 (advertised at $10,900, but likely to sell for $1,000 less once I haggled with the then– as now– slow dealership). If lightly-used examples were that cheap back in January 2007, I know you can find an equally killer deal on them now. Lightly-used Dakotas? Not so much.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    I really REALLY don’t understand the midsized like the Dakoda. They don’t have the utility of the big boys, but they have all the costs, esp with the bigger engine.

    The only midsizeds which make sense are the stripped ones, eg, a Tacoma with the manual and 4-banger.

    Heck, the BASE, STRIPPED Dakota, with the V6 and extended cab is $22 grand. Wiskey-Tango-Foxtrot? That says this is not a work truck, but a poseur truck for the suburban yuppie.

    A Silverado WT lists for less! An F-150 is less!

    Heck, for $24 grand you can get an F-150 regular cab with the 1.5 ton payload package!

    Or $15 grand and get a stripped Tacoma 4-banger.

  • avatar
    windswords

    The last good Dakota was the 2nd generation with the “baby Ram” styling. This is another great product brought to you by Dumbler and Dieter “Dats gut enough fer ze Amerikens” Zetche. Thanks!

  • avatar
    CaliCarGuy

    did this get one star because its a chrysler product? because ive had some experiences wit the dakota and its a decent truck wit the v8. yea the interior materials are low par but other then that i think its a fine truck

  • avatar
    autoemployeefornow

    I guess you can’t always review a “good” car/truck. If it is bad as you say it is then it is should go the way of the dinosaur. Although I’m sure it’s not a big seller there must be someone who buys this truck even though you say it’s a POS.

  • avatar
    netrun

    These used to be nice trucks. Did Dieter hit everything with an ugly stick on his way out???

  • avatar
    Johnster

    One of the last times I attempted to rent a “compact” car all they had was a Dakota Crew Cab or a Kia Rondo. I went with the Rondo.

    That “consumer” magazine noted that a Dakota with the 4.9 liter V-8 was slower than a Nissan Frontier with a 3.5 liter V-6.

    Ever since it first came out the Dakota has offered the lousy gas mileage of full-sized pickup with reduced cargo capacity of a mid-sized pickup, although it is arguably smaller, more convenient and easier-to-use.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What, exactly, is the point of this, the Tacoma or the Frontier? When you have Rams and Tundras and Titans in striking distance (or below) in price and economy, these trucks really look pointless. Heck, even the base Colorayon is pushing it’s luck, and, unless you’re hankering for a five-speed, four-cylinder Ranger, the F150 is a better deal.

    These trucks need to have something that differentiates them from their larger brethren: a lot cheaper, a lot smaller, probably powered differently.

    Or maybe a few just need to go away altogether. Like minivans, there’s only room for a two or three best of breeds (or two bests and one bottom-feeder), not six or seven why-bother specimens.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    I think an SRT-10 version would really put the cherry on the parfait for the Dakota. Maybe with a large spoiler and chrome wheels.

    Seriously. Dodge could then justify the Dakota’s existence in a RAM-sized world as a sport truck, 2WD only. If they’re going after the poseur “my penis is bigger than yours” set, then the base engine should be the 5.7L HEMI in this thing, and they should add an SRT-10 option.

    But since it isn’t, and they won’t, it should be canceled immediately and forgotten.

  • avatar

    Thank you all for reading. One thing to keep in mind is that the crew cab Dakota is the super-pricey one, the regular cab is much cheaper. Unfortunately, the same is true for small and full-size trucks. The four door body adds a lot of extra cost no matter where you buy it.

    ————————————————–
    MarkAtkinson : I had checked my blind spot and inadvertently conked the horribly placed front seatbelt anchor point. It looks like a cancerous growth oozing out of the ceiling.

    Interesting. FYI: I didn’t have that problem, mostly because I push my side mirrors far out to virtually eliminate the blind spot between the rearview mirror and the side mirrors. Learned that trick at a BMW performance driving school event. And if its good enough for them, its good enough for the Dak.

    ————————————————–
    Michael Karesh : …maybe one of those will seem exciting after a pair of pickup reviews?

    Pickup reviews are Awesome. Period. You non-Texan and/or urban folk need to get with the program. :)

    ————————————————–
    confused1096 : At least they don’t offer these things with the thirsty and gutless 2.5L engine anymore.

    Personally, I don’t see the difference. The new Dak is larger, so the 3.7L six is yesteryear’s 2.5L four. And I just know there’s someone out there with a Shelby-ized 2.5L turbo Dakota. Sweet.

    ————————————————–
    Banger : Somebody tell Sajeev we need a Ranger review redux. Make it a long-term test this time.

    LOL, I think you just did. No long term tests, and JL tested a fully loaded Mazda B4000 with all the goofy proactive suspension/cosmetic stuff that’s par for the course with press cars. Maybe a comparo that’s old school Ford vs. Chevy style: I would like to know just how the Ranger really stacks up to the Colorado/Canyon.

    ————————————————–
    Bill Wade : In all honesty I’ve had very good luck with the base Dakota. I purchased over a dozen 05 base model Dakotas with the 6 cylinder and auto for service vehicles. These trucks are VASTLY better than the utter POS Colorado that they can’t be described in the same sentence.

    Glad to hear your real world durability experience…but I gotta know (with your fleet experience) how is the Dak better than the Colorado?

    ————————————————–
    davey49 : How come we don’t see photos of the actual cars you test drive?

    My camera sucks, even the B&B made fun of my pics when blogging from the NAIAS. I’ll get something better soon(er or later).

    ————————————————–
    86er : How do these compare to the previous gen, Sajeev? I have a 2000 and have never gotten around to testing these new-fangled ugly ones.

    Can’t say, I’ve only rode shotgun in a 5.9 R/T: which was ALL kinds of sweet, dude. Though its probably a safe bet that the new one rides and feels more confident in corners with that beefy chassis and extra girth. I’d 100% box the frame on an old R/T and just laugh at every new Dakota you see on the road.

    ————————————————–
    davey49 : It seems that the same amount of people who would chastise someone for buying/making a huge truck for casual use would also chastise people for buying/making the Dakota because it’s a waste and “you could get a full size for the same price” Price isn’t everything.

    Yes, there’s also fuel economy and usability for the dollar. But neither of which make any business (CEO or fleet manager) sense when you pare the Dakota with full sizers and other small trucks. See Nicholas Weaver’s comments.

    Rarely did I use less than ½ throttle in the V6 Dakota, I can’t imagine the fuel economy being any better than a 4.6/5.3/4.7 Ford/Chevy/Dodge full size. And I doubt the smaller trucks work so hard to keep up with traffic.

    ————————————————–
    psarhjinian : What, exactly, is the point of this, the Tacoma or the Frontier? When you have Rams and Tundras and Titans in striking distance (or below) in price and economy, these trucks really look pointless. Heck, even the base Colorayon is pushing it’s luck, and, unless you’re hankering for a five-speed, four-cylinder Ranger, the F150 is a better deal.

    Granted the line is getting much too blurred these days with plus-sized Nissan and Toyota compacts, but there’s still a good reason to buy these. And I don’t think you have to be a small business owner with a fleet of Tacos, Rangers, etc to see why their lifetime cost of ownership and bulletproof durability is immensely desirable.

    Small trucks are fun. Driving a last-gen Taco (or any vintage of 5-speed Ranger) should be high on every pistonhead’s bucket list. Maybe that’s the Texan in me coming out.

  • avatar

    The Luigiian : Sajeev, we need two things on this site, one of them’s a review of either the Frontier or Suzuki Equator, and the other one is a review of the base Access Cab Tacoma. You wax rhapsodic about the Ranger, and it’s one of my favorites too, but the base Tacoma is very, very good.

    Wow! Absolutely! I didn’t like my $28,000 Taco poseur press truck, but I think the $17,000 version deserves some recognition. I’ll talk to RF about doing a comparo like Montgomery did with Japanese family sedans.

    Frontier vs. Taco vs. Ranger vs. Colorado…what do you guys think?

  • avatar
    86er

    Frontier vs. Taco vs. Ranger vs. Colorado…what do you guys think?

    Something along those lines would be great. Although the commentary would be rather predictable, I’ve always felt that this site needs more truck talk, stat.

    Just watch those page views go up and up after that.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Sajeev:
    “One thing to keep in mind is that the crew cab Dakota is the super-pricey one, the regular cab is much cheaper.”

    I went to the Dodge site earlier today, and unless I missed something, Dodge has pulled something of a Nissan. That is, they can’t be arsed to come up with a truck that isn’t at least an extended cab. This leaves the Taco, Coloranyon, and B-Ranger as the only option for those of us who have no need for a truck with “grocery space” behind the seats. As long as I’ve got enough space for a set of wrenches and other necessaries behind the seat, I’m good. Which is why my Ranger is a true regular cab.

    And thank you for noting my comment. I’m with you and all the others who have suggested it: We need a small-truck smackdown on here, and soon. I mostly look forward to the ancient Ranger eating the much newer Colorado’s lunch, personally.

  • avatar
    davey49

    I never see any pictures of the actual cars driven in any TTAC tests. Makes it hard to believe you actually drive the cars.
    I wasn’t thinking in a business sense when commenting on the Dakota’s size/price.
    Who would buy a V6 Ram?
    I’m a bigger guy and the Ranger and Colorado are very cramped for me.
    It is disappointing that there is no regular cab Dakota.
    I do see a few of these on the road.
    I’d get the V8.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Boy…those rear “seats” make an early-90′s Geo Storm’s back seats look like the rear of a BMW 760Li!
    How does that entry about torture in the Geneva Convention go again? I can smell the cheap plastic through my screen.
    I swear it should come as a surprise to no one that the company that gave us this, the Avenger, Sebring, Aspen, Durango, and the now ancient 300 is in the most trouble.
    I guess I’m throwing this Dakota into the TWAT-List.

  • avatar
    bailoutbailout

    Chrysler really is not even trying. They keep manufacturing these shitty products as if they assume if they build it someone will buy it. The trucks looks cheap and has an underpowered AND thirsty engine. The end is nigh I fear for the mopar crew.

  • avatar

    Boy…those rear “seats” make an early-90’s Geo Storm’s back seats look like the rear of a BMW 760Li!
    How does that entry about torture in the Geneva Convention go again? I can smell the cheap plastic through my screen.

    To be fair, they depict the back seats of an Extended Cab, not a crew cab. Toyota offers the same types of ugly useless backseats in the Tacoma Access Cab. The actual Crew’s back seats are much better.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    FWIW, the Mitsubishi Raider is the same vehicle with more outré styling and less options (no V8).

    I don’t know why anyone would buy either a Dakota or Raider (my pet peeves are those incredibly dorky rear-seat head restraints and the location of the steering wheel when it’s the fixed, non-tilting version) but the Mitsubishi probably sells worse and, therefore, might be even cheaper.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I own an ’02 “baby Ram” version of the Dakota Quad Cab with the 4.7l V8, multi-speed auto, limited slip 3.92 rear-end and can offer this “review”

    My older truck was RIGHT-SIZED that’s why I bought one, I needed a V8 for towing my boat, plus extra seats for guests. So I test drove the F-150 and thing was a BEAST… simply huge & un-park-able to me. The Dak was truely the perfect size, I had a Ranger and it was too small. The short wheel base of the Ranger makes it jump all over the place while towing, the Dak stays puts no matter what the trailer load does. I’ve had trailer tires blow out at 75mph and it was non-event.

    The handling when not towing is nothing to write home about, but the steering feel is way more direct then most trucks/SUVs I’ve tested. Sure it understeers like the heavy pig it is then transitions into tank slapping oversteer in the rain or on broken pavement, so clearly its not a good autocross choice, but as far as trucks go its better then average.

    The 4.7 is strong engine with a good powerband, the “multi-speed” automatic has an alternate 2nd gear for getting you up to speed while towing. Shifts are smooth with only a slight throttle response delay due to the “fly-by-wire” computer controller. The tranny would have been perfect if it had been a 5 speed with closer ratios especially in overdrive. The major problem (no shock here) is the horrible gas mileage – my truck gets 12-13MPG while highway towing or city driving, the highest I’ve ever seen is 16-17 on the highway unloaded (and wind at my back)… talk about pathetic, especially when the Nissan Frontier with its V6 offers similar HP and TQ numbers and is quicker. With mileage this bad a 24 gallon tank goes fast, the range is ONLY 260 to 280 miles depending on how much the low fuel light scares you.

    Agree with MarkAtkinson: I fear the day I’m in accident in this truck and my skull is CRUSHED by the shoulder seatbelt mount. In an effort to get four doors in such a small package they made the front too small thus placing the seat belt anchor in a horrible place. With the seat pushed all the back for my 6 foot frame the “growth” on the B pillar is perfectly aligned with my left ear!

    The interior of my truck, while a boring wash of black-ish grey plastic, has held up BETTER then my wife’s garage kept VW Passat. The center console is HUGE, has TWO power outlets (one switched by the key) and 3 Big Gulp sized cup holders that swallow anything you throw at them. My steering wheel tilts and all controls are clearly marked and easy to operate, no complaints here. However the seats are not supportive at all, its like sitting on a park bench (complete with the wood splitters and biting ants). The head rests do not adjust and only come up to about my collar. Bottom line: these seats might be most uncomfortable I’ve ever experienced. Also in the grand tradition of American made vehicles the headliner is sagging. Guess I shouldn’t complain as its stayed up for EIGHT years in Florida’s hot, muggy climate.

    Mechanical the truck has been near bullet proof. I repeat NO majors issues at all! The only times its been in the shop is for two recalls: one related to a low idle/stumbling at idle problem and one for a wiper motor issue. Keep in mind I’ve put 65K miles on this vehicle 90% of which was towing about 200 miles a week. The rear-end has slight “shimmy” to it around 30MPH when cold no sure what’s all about but the diff is fine as I can tell. The only real problem (and its big one) is the brakes – they suck and suck BAD! I’ve gone thru THREE sets of front rotors… and yes I’ve switched to high quality aftermarket performance ones, I think the rotors are just too small for a vehicle of this heft with a boat in tow.

    From the outside my truck has a nice chrome touches and the paint is holding up however the panel gaps are scary bad. Prime example: the hood alignment is so bad the wipers actually HIT it in places. Door sill gaps are big enough to lose a #2 pencil in. The infamous Dodge interior that everyone loves to hate is fine… its nearly perfect with only one ill fitting trim piece around the rear side window, nothing has fallen off or wore out in the seven years I’ve own it.

    The new Dak is ugly, it looks like a lego kit version of my baby Ram. Since my truck is paid off and no alternatives are in sight (the F-100/Ranger replacement was canceled) I plan on keeping my Dakota for many years to come.

  • avatar

    davey49: I never see any pictures of the actual cars driven in any TTAC tests. Makes it hard to believe you actually drive the cars.

    I guess you never saw my Ford GT review. Or just about anything Bill Montgomery wrote. You’ll have to take our word.

    I wasn’t thinking in a business sense when commenting on the Dakota’s size/price. Who would buy a V6 Ram? I’m a bigger guy and the Ranger and Colorado are very cramped for me.

    Not thinking about these trucks from a business perspective as a car journo would be pretty stupid on my part. And buying a V6 full size truck is a BIG step up (product wise) from the V6 Dakota I sampled: forget about price and fuel economy, which will be very, very similar. Bang for the buck.

    But back to you, do you find the new mid-sizish Tacoma cramped? Its not much smaller inside than the Dakota, especially in the front two seats.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Tacoma and Frontier are OK sized, I’d prefer to have an American vehicle. The price on the Tacoma is better for the base model.
    No low price RAMs are for sale near me. I think trucks still sell fairly well here. All the dealers have ones starting at $34K (4wd SLT Quad cab)
    It could be also that snow plowers picked up all the bargains.
    Chevys seem easier to find.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    Sajeev Mehta

    Glad to hear your real world durability experience…but I gotta know (with your fleet experience) how is the Dak better than the Colorado?

    The first time I looked at a Colorado the salesman was sitting beside me when I started it. I turned on the air conditioner and acrid smoke started pouring out of the defroster vents. He sat there with a straight face and said no problem, it would be fixed before the ink was dry on the paperwork.

    Colorado #2 made it about three blocks from the dealership when everything electrical shut off. No lights, no start, no radio, no nothing, same salesman. This time he said the prep guy must not have hooked up the battery.

    Me, being a complete moron, looked at a third one. This truck’s left taillight was full of water with the added bonus of inoperative windshield wipers and radio.

    I guess I was being slightly unfair to the Colorado since I left the lot laughing at the salesman without purchasing said vehicle. I extrapolated my Colorado experience from using the less than stellar (massive understatement) S-10 pickup, an electrical and mechanical disaster and my initial perception of the Colorado’s quality. It was a misleading and poor editorial response. I won’t commit this error again.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Sajeev:

    Not thinking about these trucks from a business perspective as a car journo would be pretty stupid on my part. And buying a V6 full size truck is a BIG step up (product wise) from the V6 Dakota I sampled: forget about price and fuel economy, which will be very, very similar. Bang for the buck.

    Your last sentence said everything I was trying to get across: Bang for the buck! And even the 4.7 V8 can’t be that big of an option, if your concern is, as davey49′s, “who buys a V6 full-size truck?”

    Myself, I know plenty of people who do. They need the bigger cargo box (complete with ridiculously high bed sides which nobody save Yao Ming can reach over from the ground). They also want the beefier suspension for better load handling when they, like many pickup owners, haul the occasional bed full of Quickcrete or trailer full of ATVs. They do not desire the Quad Cab SLT trim package, because to them, that’s just frilly drawers and they realize the perceived “value” the dealership places on these items (ridiculous prices) isn’t worth the minimal increase in practicality.

    As JMII’s verbiage states, there are certain limits (brakes, suspension) you will reach with the Dakota much earlier than you will with a comparably priced Ram. And when the Dakota doesn’t get better fuel economy, the only real “selling point” it has with many people is that it is easier to park.

    Yes, “bang for the buck” sums it up nicely. This is why you’re the writer here, Sajeev.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    You mentioned the seats as “firm” but were they comfortable? One common denominator I notice in most of the current Mopars I have driven (rentals all) is that the seats are universally uncomfortable, front and rear. Caliber, ugh! Ditto Sebring, most Jeeps and PT Cruiser. It’s a small thing, but it just demonstrates the cynicism that has befallen Chrysler in the Daimler (and now Cerebrus) eras.
    The designers just don’t care. Because it costs not one penny more to make a seat more comfortable than not, it just takes good design talent. And that is in woefully short supply at Mopar these days.

  • avatar

    davey49 : Tacoma and Frontier are OK sized, I’d prefer to have an American vehicle. The price on the Tacoma is better for the base model.No low price RAMs are for sale near me. I think trucks still sell fairly well here. All the dealers have ones starting at $34K (4wd SLT Quad cab)

    Understandable as to why you stick with American trucks, but you can’t sneeze without hitting a base Ram at any dealer here in Houston. Not to mention the local ads are always enticing (advertised at 50% off a while back) so they can’t be selling very well at all.

    But, going on a tangent, Ford killed the 4.2L minivan motor for the new F150. Now it’s got the Crown Vic’s 4.6L V8 as a base engine. These trucks are so big that having a standard V8 might sense, as it increased the power (needed) and didn’t change fuel economy at all. Would be interesting to see how the base V8 Ford stacks up to the V6 Chevy and Dodge trucks…

    ——————————————
    Banger : If your concern is, as davey49’s, “who buys a V6 full-size truck?”Myself, I know plenty of people who do. They need the bigger cargo box (complete with ridiculously high bed sides which nobody save Yao Ming can reach over from the ground). They also want the beefier suspension for better load handling when they, like many pickup owners, haul the occasional bed full of Quickcrete or trailer full of ATVs. Yes, “bang for the buck” sums it up nicely. This is why you’re the writer here, Sajeev.

    I’m also here to say stupid things like, “if you fuse a B-series with a Ranger do you get a Banger?” (rim shot) Thank you, thank you, I’m here all week…

    Seriously though, we are on the same page. Economies of scale in big truck production make mid size trucks less desirable, because you get so much more for the money! I just wish Detroit reincarnated the Chrysler Slant Six or 4.9L Ford for these base trucks.

    ——————————————
    willbodine : You mentioned the seats as “firm” but were they comfortable?

    No, it wasn’t the good type of firm. They’re a little better than the Caliber I rented two months ago.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Nicely done. In the spirit of conglomerated names that we seem to have around here (“Yukatahoburbelade” still being the best I’ve heard), I was thinking “Branger,” or somewhat more phonetically spelled, “Brainger,” might work. Then you would have the Coloranyon, the Dakraider, the Frontquator, and the Brainger. The Taco, sadly, has no stablemate with which we can create such automotive asininity.

    And hurrah for straight-six power plants! I had a little (very little) hope that GM would hold onto the straight-six when they had it in their SUVs a year or two back. Too bad they seem to have let that one go. Inline five? Am I the only one who says, “Huh?” every time I read that?

  • avatar

    Oh yes! I forgot about the totally modern straight six from GM. That seems like one motor that deserves to outlive the products that we were (forced) to drive just to have it.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    Hey, the Dakota SUV with the Hemi and the Ram Pick-up are the best of the best for this time. It’s just that it’s the end of an age. These lunks will be collectable. I just wish I could afford a Viper to pack in grease.

  • avatar

    Brett Woods: I think the sales of Dodge trucks & SUVs relative to Ford/GM for the past 30 years show how “not good” they are. Some of it is not fair but overall they’ve been spotty on quality, heavier on fleet sales, and give little reason for entrenched Ford and GM buyers to go elsewhere. They’ve been a distant third in sales for good reason(s).

    If I were to collect the “End of An Age” grouping of late model trucks and SUVs, the only Chryslers on my list are a Cummins Mega Cab and the SRT-10.

    Thirty years from now, Tahoes might be the new “six fo” Impala. And I’d be okay with it.

  • avatar
    rucky840

    Thoso who Have or have had Dakotas seem to like them.


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