I owned a 97 Dakota 2WD V8 prior to buying this one. I loved it. It got reasonable gas mileage (around 20mpg) and would leap off the line. My only problem was with all that torque (and crappy Goodyear Wranglers), the truck would spin out on slick pavement. My solution was to get a 99 Dakota Sport with the same 5.2 liter engine and 4WD. Whooboy! First of all the extra weight of the transmission drastically cut down on performance. Secondly gas mileage dropped significantly (of course) but what was most disturbing was the repair costs. Engine, suspension, electrical...you name it. All within the first 20,000 miles.
Good (not great) pickup. Short turning radius. Best handling truck I've ever driven.
The mopar battery was a constant source of problems. Recommend replacing it immediately.