Dodge has gotten a lot of mileage out of its mid-size Dakota pickup. It not only pleases buyers looking for a hard-working alternative to big full-size trucks, but it also serves as the basis for Dodge’s popular Durango sport-utility vehicle. But while both machines are successful, the folks at Dodge know there’s always room for something new!
Something new like more room, more power, and more features. Everything that today s personal-use truck buyer demands. Taking a cue from its big brother, the full-size Ram, the Dakota is now available in Quad Cab configuration. But unlike the clam-shell arrangement on the Ram, the Dakota is a true crew-cab, with four full-size doors and a real back seat, a back seat with enough head and leg room for adults, although not quite as much as a Durango sport-ute.
In addition to very useful passenger space, the Quad Cab features easy-to-fold split seats that give it exceptional versatility, and up to 26 cubic-feet of dry cargo room. Though you do lose some space for big loads out back. The longer cab reduces bed length to 5-foot, 3-inches, which Dodge claims is all that most folks need. Longer loads can be handled with an optional bed extender.
To haul your passengers and cargo to and fro, the Dakota also gets a new engine. Last year s 3.9-liter V6 and 5.9-liter V8 are joined in the Dakota lineup by the Jeep Grand Cherokee s 4.7-liter single-overhead-cam V8. The new Magnum V8 delivers 235 horsepower, and 295 lb-ft of torque.
This allows the Dakota Quad Cab to carry up to 1,450 pounds of cargo, or tow up to 6,350 pounds of trailer. Both manual and automatic transmissions are available. With the automatic, our Quad Cab sprinted to 60 in an impressive 8.0-seconds flat. And through the 1/4-mile in 16.3-seconds at 82 miles-per-hour. The power band is wide and flat, with the 4.7-liter delivering strong thrust at any throttle opening. The automatic s shifts are smooth and solid.
To complement the new drivetrain, the Quad Cab gets a revised suspension. It includes retuned front shocks, staggered rear shocks, new rear springs, and a lightweight tubular front stabilizer bar. All Dakotas, both two and four-wheel-drive, now use rack-and-pinion steering. This gives the Quad Cab a more stable feel in corners, with quicker turn-in to boot. It does not, however, eliminate the Dakota s very noticeable front push. It does, however, have a much friendlier character. And in a 4x4 like our test truck, a stiffer feel, with less body roll.
Overall, the Quad Cab is an impressive package, offering a unique combination of pickup and sport-ute attributes. It won t appeal to hard-core work truck buyers, but today s personal-use buyer will find it to be a versatile, appealing machine.
That buyer will have to drop at least $19,770 to secure a two-wheel-drive Quad Cab. A 4-wheel-drive model like our test truck starts at $22,415.
If, however, you are a sport-utility vehicle purist, the Dodge Durango also benefits from changes to the Dakota platform. Like its pickup truck cousin, it too garners the 4.7-liter V8, but only on the 4X4. Output is the same 235 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
But while the Dakota offers a choice of manual and automatic transmissions, the Durango comes standard with the 4-speed automatic. Which, despite slow shifts in our test vehicle, still ran to 60 in 8.5-seconds. And through the mile in 16.6 seconds at 83 miles-per-hour. But almost 150-pounds more weight, and this particular unit s more lethargic transmission behavior made our Durango feel much slower than the Dakota.
In more sedate daily driving, the sluggishness that we felt on the track was much less evident. And the retuned suspension delivered a very comfortable ride. Its softness, however, translated into even more front plow and body roll than the Dakota. Yet, revised suspension components still delivered quite capable handling for an SUV.
Along with upgraded mechanicals, the Durango also gets new trim levels, ranging from a base Sport model, to our top-of-the-line SLT+ test vehicle. Which now oozes luxury, thanks to upscale standard leather on everything from seats to steering wheel, and good-looking wood grain trim on the instrument panel.
Plant yourself in the more supportive front bucket seats, and you re surrounded by a cabin that s now more luxury car than off-road vehicle. Though all this new luxury does nothing to detract from the Durango s versatility or ability to carry up to 88 cubic-feet of cargo.
Of course, this much luxury and utility doesn t come cheap. A Durango 4X4 with the standard 4.7-liter V8 carries a base price of $28,705. Add on the SLT+ luxury package, and it rolls off the dealer s lot for $31,020.
But whether you favor the plushy coverup of the Durango SLT+, or the pickup bed Dakota Quad Cab, you ll still benefit from the numerous improvements to the Dakota family of vehicles.
Old, borrowed or blue are all very nice. But as the folks at Dodge know, and show with the latest Dakota and Durango, nothing improves an already popular vehicle like something new!
Engine: 4.7-Liter Sohc Magnum V8
Torque: 295 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.0 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.3 Seconds @ 82 MPH