There are certain things you own that you just shouldn't tell people about, and the 2008 Dodge Dakota is one of them. No, that's not a cheap shot at Dodge's midsize truck. Rather, it's like a beach house or a big-screen TV. If you have one, you will suddenly have friends calling on you for favors every weekend.
Once word is out that you have a pickup truck, friends, family and casual acquaintances will immediately start turning to you for their moving, hauling and towing needs. Sure enough, when news of our time with the 2008 Dodge Dakota Crew Cab Laramie spread, one of our editors was roped into helping his grandmother move. So the Dakota was filled up with 40 years' worth of Grandma's stuff, including a pair of shelving units, a chandelier, 18 plants and a Bang & Olufsen record player.
In other words, as a truck, the Dakota did all that was expected — plus, its innovative under-seat rear storage was an added bonus. When viewed in a broader context, though, the Dakota was less impressive. Even though our Laramie tester featured items nothing else in the class even offers, it was still frightfully expensive given its industrial interior and punishing ride. This truck feels old, even though it's only been around since 2004.
If you're looking for a pickup, there are other choices from Honda, Nissan and Toyota that are cheaper and more refined. Still, the Dakota has its strengths — namely its V8 power (it's the only midsize pickup to offer a V8) and best-in-class towing capacity. If either of these traits is important to you, the 2008 Dodge Dakota may be worth a look.
Since the Dakota is the only midsize pickup to sport a V8, it offers class-leading horsepower and towing capacity. It's got 302 horses under the hood and can tow up to 7,050 pounds when properly equipped, as our Laramie tester was. Not surprisingly, power is quite abundant, pulling hard early and often with an ample 329 pound-feet of torque on tap. At our test track, the 4x4 Dakota went from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. With less equipment and rear-wheel drive, it would have been even quicker.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that best-in-class V8 power comes with pretty terrible gas mileage. EPA estimates are 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. Over the course of 1,270 miles in two identical Dakotas, we matched the EPA's combined number, even though a majority of those miles were on the highway. By comparison, the V6-powered Toyota Tacoma provides nearly the same acceleration capabilities with 3 more miles per gallon in the combined cycle — something to consider if only 6,500 pounds of towing capacity is enough.
The Dakota proved to have excellent brakes for a truck, even if it had rear drums and a soft pedal. From 60 mph, the fully loaded Dakota came to a stop in 126 feet — better than many family sedans. The Dakota's steering is pretty inert, though, offering little feedback through turns and a numb on-center feel. Still, there were no spooky moments when one editor got stuck in a biblical thunderstorm — the truck plowed confidently through rain and standing water.
If you've got a bad back, do not buy a 2008 Dodge Dakota Laramie. All body-on-frame pickup trucks with their live rear axles provide a harsh, often crashy ride, but the Dakota is particularly noteworthy for its punishment during highway journeys. Even on relatively glass-smooth highways, every pavement imperfection greets your backside with a solid bump, then a good jiggle — there's no need for a BMI test, since the Dakota will happily point out every bit of fat on your body. We're used to firm rides, but it's the jiggle bit that really gets old after four hours in the saddle.
On the upside, the Dakota's bucket seats are quite comfy, while the driver seat offers a wide range of adjustment. Even the rear seat proved to be comfortable, with a pleasant backrest angle and full headrests.
That comfy backseat bottom features a 60/40 split, and can be raised to provide loads of interior storage. At various points, a weekend's worth of luggage for two, a set of golf clubs and a whole heap of Grandma's stuff fit into the Dakota's aft cabin. Keeping various loose items in place was a pair of milk-cratelike boxes that pop up from the floor beneath the 60/40 bench — a thoughtful touch, to be sure. Another was the tie-down rail system and bedliner that kept things secure during the move.
Inside, the spartan cabin is, for the most part, straightforward. Switchgear is where you'd expect it to be, while the climate controls are a no-brainer. Our test truck's MyGig navigation and audio system was a different story, as it features a smallish screen with frustrating menus — particularly for satellite radio. The "UConnect" Bluetooth connection worked well and was easy to program, although it lacked the typical steering wheel controls.
Design/Fit and Finish
Does anyone really expect a pickup truck to be luxurious? Probably not, but it should offer more than the 2008 Dodge Dakota does. The truck's cabin features innumerable plastic surfaces and switchgear that looks and feels industrial, with an overall quality that rivals lawn furniture. The Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline and Toyota Tacoma put it to shame. Even though our fully loaded test truck offered features that those others do not, it's hard not to think that something with a price tag of $35,760 should be nicer.
Interior design is also pretty industrial, but at least the exterior has that brawny Dodge appearance that gives the Dakota arguably the butchest look in its class. That's gotta count for something, right?
Who should consider this vehicle
The 2008 Dodge Dakota is a good choice for anyone who needs the most towing and hauling possible without stepping up to a full-size model. But its lack of refinement and high price mean there are much better choices available.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
2008 Dodge Dakota Overview Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2008 Dodge Dakota and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2008 Dakota featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2008 Dodge Dakota and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2008 Dakota 4.6 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2008 Dakota.
Review Just bought my Dakota. Love it! I Love the off-road capability, the looks, style. Even it's 3.7 L v6 performs great in towing, off-roading, etc.
Edmunds Value Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
Available Dodge Dakota 2008 Submodel Types: Quad Cab, Club Cab, Crew Cab, Extended Cab, Regular Cab
Exterior Colors: Bright Silver Metallic Clearcoat, Flame Red Clearcoat, Black Clearcoat, Patriot Blue Pearlcoat, Bright White Clearcoat, Mineral Gray Metallic Clearcoat, Brilliant Black Crystal Pearlcoat, Atlantic Blue Pearlcoat, Inferno Red Crystal Pearlcoat, Deep Molten Red Pearlcoat, Graphite Metallic Clearcoat, Bright Silver Metallic Silver Clearcoat, Deep Water Blue Pearlcoat, Electric Blue Pearlcoat, Graphite Metallic Clearcoat/Bright Silver Metallic Clearcoat, Intense Blue Pearlcoat, Forest Green Pearlcoat, Sunburst Orange Pearlcoat, Timberline Green Pearlcoat, Dark Spectrum Blue Metallic, Detonator Yellow Clearcoat, Flame Red Clearcoat/Light Driftwood, Forest Green PC/Bright Silver, Light Almond Pearl Metallic Clearcoat, Light Khaki Metallic Clearcoat, Medium Bronze PC/Bright Silver, Moss Green Pearl Metallic, Solar Yellow Clearcoat
Interior Colors: Medium Slate Gray cloth, Dark Slate Gray, Medium Slate Gray, Dark Slate Gray/Medium Slate Gray cloth, Khaki cloth, Khaki, Mist Gray, Agate, Taupe, Dark Khaki/Medium Khaki leather
Popular Features: Rear Bench Seats, Fold Flat Rear Seats, AWD/4WD, Crew Cab, 6000lb Towing Capacity, Extended Cab, 6ft Bed, Power Driver Seat, Upgraded Engine, Alarm, Aux Audio Inputs, Towing Hitch, Tire Pressure Warning, 3500lb Towing Capacity, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Trip Computer, 5000lb Towing Capacity, Leather Seats, Remote Start, Standard Cab, 2500lb Towing Capacity, Heated seats, Upgraded Stereo, Sunroof/Moonroof, Bluetooth, Navigation, USB Inputs