2008 Dodge Dakota Review

2008 Dodge Dakota - A big load of new.


Sales of large pickup trucks are sliding, but the revamped Dodge Dakota compact pickup seems like a good compromise between the big guys and mid-size pickups.

The Dakota was redesigned for 2005 and its lineup grew for 2006 -- and stayed much the same for 2007. However, the 2008 Dakota gets significant new features.

For starters, the latest Dakota has a tougher, boxier look, with a new hood, grille, front fascia, rear spoiler, fenders and headlights, besides a tailgate-mounted spoiler. Inside are a new instrument panel, additional storage bin above the glove compartment and a center console that incorporates cup holders with modular inserts and a pull-out bin for electronics. Also, $250 heated front seats are available for most models.

Dakotas range in price from $19,435 to $31,100 and come with rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD). The 4WD system shouldn't be engaged on dry pavement. Both 4WD and AWD systems have low-range gearing for off-road use.

There are extended cab and crew cab body styles. Extended cabs have a 6.4-foot cargo bed and rear-hinged back doors that don't open independently of the fronts. They seat up to five, although the rather uncomfortable backseat is only for short adults and kids. Crew cabs have a 5.3-foot bed and seat up to six with appreciably more rear seat space and conventional back doors.

Cab configuration difference is accomplished by shortening the bed.

There are six trim levels, ranging from the base ST to the higher-line SXT, SLT, TRX, Sport and Laramie.

All ride on a long 131.3-inch wheelbase that helps provide a generally smooth and composed ride for a truck with a solid rear axle instead of an independent rear suspension. All Dakotas are the same overall length, at 218.5 inches.

The standard engine is a carryover 3.7-liter V-6 with 210-horsepower. A 4.7-liter V-8 with 302 horsepower replaces V-8s with 230 and 260 horsepower. The V-6 is hooked to either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while the V-8 shoots power only through a five-speed automatic.

The smooth, quiet V-8 provides swift acceleration and the ability to more easily haul heavy loads than the V-6. The V-6 provides lively in-town punch and decent passing on highways, but is underpowered for anything but daily drives and light loads. Towing capacity ranges from 3,150 to 7,050 pounds.

Estimated fuel economy of the V-6 is 14-16 mpg in town and 18 to 20 on highways, depending on the transmission and drive setup. Figures for the V-8 range from 15 to 16 mpg in town and 21 to 22 on highways, depending on the drive setup.

The entry ST doesn't have much standard equipment, although it has air conditioning, AM/FM/CD audio system and rear anti-lock brakes. The club cab's rear jump seats cost $300, but a split-folding rear seat is standard in the crew cab version.

You get lots more stuff by moving up to the SXT, which starts at $20,995 for an extended cab model. It adds a tilt wheel, cruise control, rear jump seats and power mirrors, windows and door locks with remote keyless entry. The top-line Laramie club cab, which begins at $26,745, has a bunch of equipment. It includes the V-8, five-speed automatic, leather upholstery and an upgraded audio system. This model's club cab starts at $26,745, with the quad cab ending at $29,475.

Dakotas have options that add more features, including an $850 power sunroof for the SLT, TRX, Sport and Laramie and $665 upgraded cloth upholstery package for the SXT that includes a power driver's seat and heated front seats.

Available safety items include four-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction control, anti-skid system -- and front- and rear-side air bags, along with curtain side air bags that cover both seating rows.

The Dakota is fairly easy to enter and leave. Gauges can be quickly read, and controls are easily reached. But interior materials could be upgraded -- there's lots of hard, shiny plastic.

The Dakota handles much like a large sedan, with precise steering, well-controlled body lean in curves and decent braking, although four-wheel anti-lock brakes in the $640 Extra Security option are a plus.

Although officially compact-sized, the Dakota has become closer in size and price to some larger pickups.


Prices: $19,435-$31,100

Likes: New exterior/interior styling. More powerful V-8. Nice ride and handling. Reasonable fuel economy.

Dislikes: Marginal interior materials. Tight rear legroom in extended cab models.

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.

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