2003 Dodge Dakota Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Dodge Dakota

How do you feel about these results?

Tell us why you feel that way.

Contact Me No Thanks
Dodge Dakota Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 5.9 L V 8-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 4-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 250 hp @ 4400 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 12/16 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2003 Dodge Dakota

  • If one word could best describe the 2003 Dodge Dakota, comfortable would be it. Whether carrying five adults, cruising the interstate, transporting cargo or tackling off-road terrain, the Dakota is at ease no matter where it is or what it's asked to do.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Plentiful V8 power, alert transmission, spot-on suspension both on- and off-road, easily accessible and accommodating cabin.

  • Cons

    As thirsty as a frat brother, a bit big for serious off-roading, can get pricey if too many options are chosen.

  • What's New for 2003

    Finally realizing that a 120-horsepower engine has no business being in a 3,500-pound (or more) pickup, Dodge drops the 2.5-liter inline four from the Dakota's powertrain roster. An optional five-speed automatic transmission for the 4.7-liter V8 debuts, as does a Stampede package that provides the show but not the go of the R/T model. Speaking of the R/T, that model receives four-wheel disc brakes this year.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

  Average Consumer Rating (109 total reviews)  |  Write a Review


Dakota sxt v6 regular cab

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

Best and most reliable truck ever owned. When I first got it, needed a computer and some maintenance after that it runs like a champ and it does what I ask it to do and never lets me down. The 3.9 v6 magnum starts right up in sub zero temps in the middle of brutal Maine winters and runs strong. The truck gets up and goes with the 3.92 rear , while its missing top end power. The 4wd in the truck is awesome with good clearance and it out classes any fords, chevys, and toyotas offroad. Take this truck to rugged Maine north country offroad through mud holes , rivers and mountains every summer to go camping and its never giving me a problem. Very good looking truck and fun to drive.




Awsome

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

Best truck I have owned yet. Went looking for a new one this summer and was not happy. They have nothing like this out there. Ford and Chevy gave up making Rangers and S-10's. Toyota has a smaller interior. This truck has been excellent in upper Michigan. In snow and off road it handles like a champ. Never had any major issues yet and has been a joy to drive. I plan on keeping it for another 80K. Why spend money on the new junk! The 4.7l V8 really goes and has tons of power that can tow a 24 ft trailer with no problem.




Reliability!

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

I purchased this truck new, and have done the maintenance. (4.7 V8, automatic) It's the most reliable vehicle I've ever owned. 148,000 miles and counting. Cost per mile for maintenance and repairs is only $0.025. 19.6 MPG since the day I bought it(I have a soft tonneau on it). It still looks good and has no squeaks or rattles. I'm very happy with this truck.




Best vehicle i've owned

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

I bought this truck new in 2002 and have loved it all the while. Only had to replace an o2 sensor. My previous truck was an Isuzu and the Dakota is a million times better. I haul welders, tools and a trailer, so it gets used. I expect to get another 8 years out of it. I get about 13 mpg with tools in and about 17 mpg empty. I put an extra leaf spring in it to help haul the weight which was a great idea.



6 of 7 people found this review helpful

Misfiring when moisture in air

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

Every time I start my Dakota in the morning and there is moisture in the air, it will misfire and shake and go away when I drive for 5 minutes. Today, it's been raining all day and I went to go start it and it won't start. It will crank over but that's it. fuel pump turns on, coils have a shock to plugs, jump start didn't work. I don't know what to look at. Can anyone help?




Overall a great truck

by on
Vehicle: 2002 Dodge Dakota

Bought new in '02. Love the looks of this model year and still get compliments on it. Great versatility for hauling cargo and misc. stuff in the bed and comfortable enough to fit four adults or family in the cab. It's been a reliable vehicle, but one thing I'd do over is opt for the larger engine. Same or better mileage with the V8 and better performance. Still a wonderful truck!



Full 2003 Dodge Dakota Review

What's New for 2003

Finally realizing that a 120-horsepower engine has no business being in a 3,500-pound (or more) pickup, Dodge drops the 2.5-liter inline four from the Dakota's powertrain roster. An optional five-speed automatic transmission for the 4.7-liter V8 debuts, as does a Stampede package that provides the show but not the go of the R/T model. Speaking of the R/T, that model receives four-wheel disc brakes this year.

Introduction

Debuting back in 1987, the Dakota filled the sizable gap between compact and full-size pickups. Although referred to as a compact, the Dakota can be thought of more as a midsize truck. But it wasn't until 1997, when the Dakota was redesigned and adopted the handsome look of its bigger brother, the Dodge Ram, that people took notice. The following years saw the introduction of the potent R/T muscle truck (packing a 250-horsepower V8 along with a monochrome paint scheme and big wheels) and the Quad cab, a true crew-cab style truck with full-size doors and plenty of room for those in back.

This year, Dodge dropped the 2.5-liter four cylinder engine and added a number of upgrades, including the options of a five-speed automatic transmission and a six-disc CD changer. As before, three cab configurations and a multitude of trim levels are available including everything from a basic, standard cab workhorse to a leather-lined 4WD Quad Cab that can serve as a family vehicle. Our chief complaint with the 2003 Dodge Dakota is that the V8 models tend to be very thirsty; it's a struggle to average more than 13 or 14 mpg with those trucks.

The Dakota offers more room, more power and more capability than the other trucks it ostensibly competes against, such as the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger. Everything from its towing capacity and stance to its available V8 power and roomy interior are a cut above the smaller rigs. If you're in the market for a sensibly sized yet accommodating compact pickup, a test drive of the 2003 Dodge Dakota is certainly in order.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2003 Dodge Dakota is available in three body styles: regular cab, extended ("Club") cab and crew ("Quad") cab. Both two- and four-wheel-drive versions are available. No less than seven trim levels are offered; base, value-oriented SXT, flashy Sport and Sport Plus, luxury SLT and SLT Plus and the stormin' R/T. We think eliminating the base and Plus models (by incorporating the "Plus" upgrades -- power windows and locks, alloy wheels, keyless entry, wheel flares and handling package -- into the SLT and Sport) would simplify things for potential buyers as well as Dodge's assembly lines. Notable options include leather seating, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, four-wheel ABS (rear-wheel ABS is standard on all models), and full-time four-wheel drive.

Powertrains and Performance

Standard on all Dakotas is a 3.9-liter V6 (175 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque). Next up the power ladder is the optional (on Sport and SLT models) 4.7-liter V8 (235-horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist). Then there's the 5.9-liter V8 that comes on the R/T (where it's rated 250 horsepower and 345 lb-ft) and is optional on Quad Cab models (245 horses and 335 lb-ft). A five-speed manual transmission comes with the 3.9 V6 and 4.7 V8 engines. A four-speed automatic is optional on the V6, standard on the 5.9 V8. New this year is the option of a five-speed automatic for the 4.7 V8. Even the heaviest Dakota, a 4WD Quad Cab, performs well with the smaller V8. We've recorded a 0-to-60-mph time of 8.8 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 16.8 ticks. Class-leading work ability is here as well; maximum payload is rated at 2,160 pounds while max towing capacity is 6,600 pounds.

Safety

The Dakota fares well in most crash tests. Frontal impact testing garnered four out of five stars. Side-impact tests rated a full five stars; especially impressive considering the lack a side airbag option. Frontal offset crash testing, however, was another story; the 2003 Dodge Dakota was rated as "Poor," the lowest of the four ratings in that test.

Interior Design and Special Features

A 40/20/40-split front bench seat is standard on all but the SXT and R/T models, which come with high-back buckets. The buckets are optional on the other trims. In Quad Cabs, there is a 60/40-split folding rear bench seat. Large gauges and simple controls highlight the cabin, and build quality is surprisingly good, with high-quality materials and a lack of rough edges or uneven seams.

Driving Impressions

Willing power plants, automatic transmissions that are rarely caught off guard and well-sorted suspensions make these trucks easy to live with, no matter what they're asked to do. On-road, the supple suspension swallows up bumps, yet doesn't have the truck wallowing through the turns. And off-road, the 2003 Dodge Dakota easily handles everything, even severely rutted and rock-strewn trails. Only the Dakota's broad girth (compared to that of the truly "compact" pickups it competes with) makes for some anxious moments when negotiating narrower trails. In virtually any other environment, the Dakota performs with a "no sweat" attitude.

Talk About The 2003 Dakota

Gas Mileage

EPA-Rated MPG

  • 12
  • cty
/
  • 16
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs