I was atracted to the Dakota due to the low price but now wish I had spent a little more up front and bought a Frontier or Tacoma. It rides well around town and on the highway, but offroad it is very disapointing. The ground clearance stinks, and the approach angle is even worse. It needs at least another 2-3'' of suspension to be worthwhile offroad. Oh, and front tow hooks and skid shields aren't even standard on the 4X4.
I bought my '05 Dakota about a year ago and after 24000 miles I have had no problems at all. Fuel mileage was about 18 hiway, before the exhaust and air intake changes, now it's about 20. Fun truck to drive and off road it does very well.
This is a great truck. It is the right size and power level. The interior is well thought out and is welcoming without detracting from the "truck- ness." The 2005's have a better warranty and are identical mechanically and almost identical visually. I have only had this truck for 1600 miles (about 2 1/2 months) and aside from a catalytic convertor problem that was promptly addressed it has been a strong runner. I was wanting a full-size but the gas on those is horrible and for all practical purposes, this truck can tow and haul the same as them (unless you have a massive boat or something at which point you would probably get a deisel) and isn't underpowered like the other midsize trucks.
The ride is good for a truck (the rear suspension could be taught a few manners, though) and the fuel economy and power are just about right. It can tow and haul enough stuff to satisfy all but the biggest movers. The interior is nice but still masculine (its a truck...) and the seats are comfy.
That rear suspension could use a little damping. Other than that, just little things. Also, I should have got the limited slip rear diff cause in the rain in 2WD, you have to be easy with the throttle.
This truck has it all in one versatile package. I can haul 4 adults, a load in the bed and tow a large boat at the same time comfortably. I get decent fuel economy, 18 to 19 mpg in mixed driving but I stick to posted speeds mostly. My kids love the DVD system and the stereo is kicking.
The exterior look.
More engine choices and a little bit softer interior.
I am very happy with my Dakota! After owning a Ram for many years I was hesitant to downsize, but my wife didn't like driving fullsized trucks. The Dakota is a perfect compromise between the smaller competitors and full-size trucks; it has more room for the family, but is still easy to drive. It truly is in a class by itself and is often compared to the cramped feeling compact trucks that are not true Mid-size trucks. The Dakota can actually tow loads in the full-size range, it is heavy, solid, roomy, and has plenty of power (with the optional 4.7HO) to meet the needs of most. It has an aggressive look and nice interior. We have owned many Dodge vehicles and so far this is the best one yet.
The 4.7HO is worth it and has plenty of go power. The 6disc Mp3 player is nice and holds tons of music. The Quad- cab is perfect for our family of four. There is plenty of room for the kids and the car/booster seats; plus the necessities. When the need arises the back is even comfortable for adults.
While I am happy with mine a larger bed option for those that need it would be nice. A Hemi SRT8 would be awesome and the R/T should have more to offer in the performance area too. It is basically a cosmetic trim package and performance is the same as the H.O. option with some fancy trim.