2005 Dodge Dakota Review

2005 Dodge Dakota - Ready for the big boys.


The Dodge Dakota launched the mid-size pickup truck market when introduced in early 1986, but the redesigned 2005 version has become nearly a full-size model that can do many full-size pickup jobs.

Dodge still calls the new-generation Dakota a mid-size pickup. It retains nearly the same wheelbase at 131.3 inches, but is about four inches longer, 2.7 inches wider and hundreds of pounds heavier than its predecessor.

The new Dakota thus has nearly full-size pickup truck proportions. It's one of few Dodge trucks without a Hemi V-8, which wouldn't fit without costly under-hood alterations, but has strong conventional V-8s.

As with its predecessors, the 2004 Dakota was larger than compact pickups but not quite a full-size one.

That made it pretty much a flop for years because most pickup buyers wanted either a small or large pickup. But the market always changes, and the Dakota has become more appealing to folks in recent years, when many different sizes and types of vehicles have been introduced.

New Dakota features include sleeker styling with sharper and more geometric lines, giving this truck the appearance of its bigger brothers, the Ram and Durango.

There's also a stronger frame and stiffer construction for better ride and handling, besides a new high-output V-8. Brakes are updated, and there's a new front/rear suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, besides improved refinement and sound deadening.

Also new: optional side curtain air bags for all seats, standard Laramie automatic headlights, six-speed manual transmission instead of a five-speed unit, handsome chrome-clad 17-inch wheels, optional Infinity speaker system and an extra-cost satellite digital audio radio system.

The new Dakota has quick steering and an almost carlike ride, although there is some choppiness over bad roads with four-wheel-drive versions. Handling is good, although traction and stability control systems aren't offered. Stopping distances are comfortable. Rear-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard, with a front-rear anti-lock system an extra $495. The all-disc brake option is gone.

Towing capacity is increased to 7,150 pounds from 6,500 pounds.

The redesigned, hushed interior has gauges that can be quickly read and nice, easily reached controls. However, the interior looks subpar, with drab colors and too much hard shiny plastic.

At least there's plenty of room in the Quad Cab version, which has four carlike doors. The Dakota also is offered as a Club Cab model, which had only two front doors last year but has added two rear-hinged back doors that don't open independently of front ones.

The Dakota comes in ST, SLT and top-line Laramie trim levels. The six Club Cab extended cab versions list for $19,510 to $27,325, while the six roomier Quad Cab crew cab models cost from $20,910 to $28,815 for the Laramie four-wheel-drive Quad Cab that I tested.

The Club Cab has a six-foot, six-inch cargo bed, while the Quad Cab has a five-foot, four-inch bed.

The Dakota comes with rear-drive, four-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive. Both four- and all-wheel drive systems have low-range gearing for tough off-road driving.

The four-wheel drive isn't for dry roads, but I tested the Dakota after a heavy snowfall and was happy to leave it engaged on slippery side streets, where it provided good traction. Low-range gearing let it pull out of snowbanks as if it were the Fourth of July.

Dodge calls the new Dakota a mid-size pickup. That way, it can state that the truck has advantages over, say, the redesigned Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. For one thing, it's got the only V-8 in its class; the new Tacoma and Frontier have four- and six-cylinder engines.

The Dakota is too big and heavy for its standard 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 to provide anything but middling performance outside town. But its available 4.7-liter V-8 does much better, producing 230 horsepower and more torque in standard form. The high-output 4.7-liter V-8 generates 260 horsepower with even more torque.

The V-6 comes with either a six-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic transmission, and the standard V-8 works with either the manual or a five-speed automatic. The high-output V-8 comes only with the five-speed automatic.

Fuel economy is mediocre with any engine: The V-6 delivers an estimated 15-16 mpg in the city and 19-22 on highways, depending on the transmission and drive setup, and the regular V-8 providing 14-15 city and 19-20 highway. The high-output V-8 provides 14 and 18.

The Dakota has a leg up on rivals, if only because it has the only V-8s in its class. And such things as its improved refinement, ride and handling also should help sales.



Nicely redesigned. Refined. Fast with available V-8s. Good ride and handling.

Lazy with standard V-6. Bland interior. Larger size hinders in-town use. Marginal fuel economy.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

For more reviews from Dan, visit Facebook.