I've owned the Dakota SLT extended cab for 2 years now and it has been a great truck for me. In that time, it has only broken down once, and that was the battery losing a cell. Now, at 93000 miles the upper ball joints are starting to go out, which I hear is common on these trucks. Mechanically the truck is very sound. I have the V6 2 wheel drive and do not find it very off road worthy. I am a little disappointed in the lack of power when compared to other trucks of similar size and age. For a V6 with so so horsepower, the gas mileage should be better. I'm pulling 18 on the highway. Overall I am very pleased with this truck.
The exterior body lines are strong and portray a very tough image, which is cool, but hardly seems met by the V6. The interior is very roomy and comfortable, probably more so than other trucks I've owned. It is definitely reliable and very structurally sound.
Seems more bark than bite - add a V8 or HEMI! Common problems with the ball joints going out, could be worse but still something that needs attention. Add more load bearing capability in the base models. Getting the V8 and/or 4x4 is not a bad idea if you can afford the gas prices.