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Used Dodge Dakota For Sale

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2001 Dodge Dakota
No Photo Available


2002 Dodge Dakota
27 photos

List price: $5,500

Special Offer

Expires Dec 29, 2017.

2002 Dodge Dakota SLT Magnum 4.7L V8, Truck, Dakota SLT, 4D Quad Cab, 4-Speed Automatic with Overdrive, 4WD, Bright Silver Metallic Clearcoat, Dark Slate Gray w/Cloth High-Back Bucket Seats. CarLink is your Guaranteed Credit Approval Dealership! We offer financing options that fit every customers needs. CarLink is conveniently located in Morristown NJ. We have the best selection around with over 250 Pre-Owned vehicles in stock and ready for delivery to you! We offer some of the lowest financing rates available and we also have special financing programs for bad credit and no credit. For more pictures and information about this vehicle, please visit If you have any questions, feel free to call 973-538-1400.

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1999 Dodge Dakota
25 photos

List price: $4,400

Special Offer

Expires Dec 29, 2017.

List price: Not Listed

13/17mpg ** We do numerous amounts of research before we price our vehicles. We look within a 200 mile radius of our dealership for similarly equipped, like miles, and like condition vehicles, then price our vehicles to market value. With market value pricing, it makes for a quick, no haggle experience that allows you, the consumer, the fastest and easiest experience you have ever had. ** We are committed to Excellence. We carry Black, White, Silver, Grey, Blue, Brown, Tan, Yellow, and Pink vehicles. Vehicles with 2nd Row Bucket Seating, Multiple Airbags, Back-Up Camera, Bluetooth, No Accidents, Dual Power Seats, Heated Leather Seating, Illuminated Entry, Power Moonroof, New Battery, New Tires, New Brakes, Non-Smoker Interior, 30+ MPG, One Owner Carfax Certified, Premium Wheels, Paddle Shifters, Premium Cloth Seating, Premium Sound System, 3rd Row Seating, Navigation, Rear Back-Up Sensors, Rear Bucket Seats, Rear DVD, Remainder of Factory Warranty, Remote Keyless Entry, Remote Start, Service Records Available, Steering Wheel Controls, Tow Package, Traction Control, USB Ports, XM Radio and much more!


2003 Dodge Dakota
29 photos

List price: Not Listed

There is no better time than now to buy this mighty Vehicle** Hold on to your seats! Safety equipment includes: Passenger Airbag - Cancellable...Other features include: Air conditioning, 175 hp horsepower, 3.9 liter V6 engine, 2 Doors, RWD...

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1997 Dodge Dakota
6 photos

List price: Not Listed

+ Perks

**LIKE NEW CONDITION, **PREMIUM WHEELS, **THIS CAR WILL NOT LAST LONG!, **REDUCED** PRICED TO SELL!. 4 Speakers, 40/20/40 Cloth Bench Seat, ABS brakes, AM/FM radio, Cassette, Dual front impact airbags, Front anti-roll bar, Front Center Armrest w/Storage, Front wheel independent suspension, Power steering, Rear step bumper, Sport steering wheel, Variably intermittent wipers, and Voltmeter.We offer Market Based Pricing, please call to check on the availability of this vehicle. We will buy your vehicle even if you don't buy ours -Randy All prices are plus tax, tag and fees.

2006 Dodge Dakota
No Photo Available

List price: Not Listed

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2010 Dodge Dakota
20 photos

List price: $14,995

Recent Trade! Big Horn 3.7 V6 Extended Cab 4x4. Drop In Bedliner, Soft Tonneau Cover, Chrome Running Boards, Remote Keyless Entry, Power Windows, Power Locks, Power Mirrors, Alloy Wheels. This vehicle has good tires! This Dakota has a clean vehicle history report and does not have any accidents! Call us today, this vehicle won't last long at this price! 618-344-0121 Laura Buick GMC, Serving our community for over 35 years!! We are a family owned dealership committed to providing our customers the best deals backed by outstanding service! CD Player Portable Audio Connection Security System Cruise Control Keyless Entry Climate Control Power Locks Power Windows Side Curtain Airbags Traction Control Tilt/Telescope Steering Wheel Power Mirrors Tilt/Telescope Steering Wheel Side Airbags

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2010 Dodge Dakota
No Photo Available

List price: $13,400

3/3 Limited Warranty.Call us at 800-239-7840 today to schedule your test drive.

2005 Dodge Dakota
2 photos

List price: $6,947

2005 Dodge Dakota SLT in Maroon. 4.7L V8 MPI, 4WD. Contact Tonya T at Palmen in Racine for Today's Best Price!

List price: $8,977

+ Perks

New Arrival! CarFax One Owner! Low miles for a 2004! AM/FM Radio NHTSA 5 STAR CRASH RATING! ABS Brakes


2002 Dodge Dakota
17 photos

List price: $2,650

Special Offer

Expires Dec 29, 2017.

WholeSale Special!!! Check out this great deal at as-is wholesale pricing. We need to make room and for a select time, limited amounts of our inventory has been reduced to as-is, wholesale pricing. These deals won't last long, so stop by Mon-Fri 8 to 8 Sat 8 to 6, however we are closed on Sundays.

2002 Dodge Dakota
22 photos

2001 Dodge Dakota
16 photos

List price: $3,957

Special Offer

Expires Dec 29, 2017.

Dakota Sport 131 WB, 4D Quad Cab, Magnum 3.9L V6 SMPI, Dark Garnet Red Pearlcoat, ABS brakes, Air Conditioning, Alloy wheels, Deluxe Convenience Group, Fog Lamps, Keyless Entry, Power Convenience Group, Power Locks, Power Mirrors, Power Windows w/Driver's One Touch Down, Speed Control, Sport Plus Group, Tilt Steering Column. The Optional Features Included on this vehicles are: Deluxe Convenience Group (Speed Control and Tilt Steering Column), Power Convenience Group (Keyless Entry, Power Locks, Power Mirrors, and Power Windows w/Driver's One Touch Down), Sport Plus Group (Air Conditioning and Fog Lamps), Dakota Sport 131 WB, 4D Quad Cab, Magnum 3.9L V6 SMPI, Dark Garnet Red Pearlcoat, ABS brakes, Alloy wheels, 3.55 Axle Ratio, 4 Speakers, AM/FM radio, Bumpers: body-color, Cassette, Cloth 40/20/40 Split Bench Seat, Driver door bin, Dual front impact airbags, Front anti-roll bar, Front Center Armrest w/Storage, Front reading lights, Front wheel independent suspension, Overhead console, Passenger door bin, Passenger vanity mirror, Power steering, Rear reading lights, Rear step bumper, Split folding rear seat, Tachometer, Variably intermittent wipers, and Voltmeter. We offer Market Based Pricing, so please call to check on the availability of this vehicle. We'll buy your vehicle even if you don't buy ours!! Shop 24/7 @ **FREE SERVICE LOANER CARS AVAILABLE.

page 1 of 370

Dodge Dakota History

Full-size pickups are great if your day is filled with full-size tasks and you don't mind their unwieldy nature. And small pickups are nimble and capable machines as long as you don't encounter a job beyond their abilities. What Dodge did with the Dakota was split the difference between the two — produce a truck that could handle most of the jobs of a full-size pickup without giving up the everyday ease of a compact. For the most part, the company succeeded at this mission, and the Dakota has inhabited a comfortable niche in the market ever since.

It's somewhat remarkable that, considering the Dakota's success, it hasn't attracted more direct competitors. Just as remarkable is the fact that the Dakota was actually Dodge's fourth attempt to come up with a viable smaller pickup.

Before Dakota

Small imported pickups entered the U.S. back in 1959 with the appearance of the Datsun pickup and by the early 1970s, both Datsun (now Nissan) and Toyota were firmly entrenched in the market. There was obviously a demand for a smaller-than-full-size pickup truck and Dodge approached that market three times with three distinct efforts before conjuring up the Dakota.

The A100: 1964-1970

Dodge introduced its A100 line of forward control vans and pickups for 1964 in direct competition with the conceptually similar Chevrolet Greenbriar and Ford Econoline vans and pickups. That meant that the A100's driver and front passenger sat in bucket seats atop the solid front axle with either the 170- or 225-cubic-inch "slant six" inline six-cylinder engine between them. With 101 and 140 horsepower, respectively, neither engine produced overwhelming power. Both three-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmissions were available.

Built around a unibody structure and short 90-inch wheelbase, the A100 pickup featured a rather shallow bed that was fine for light-duty use. But the cab-over configuration was awkward and off-putting to many consumers. Dodge added Chrysler's 273-cubic-inch small-block V8 to the A100's options list for 1965 and then replaced that V8 with the 318-cubic-inch version for 1967. Otherwise, the A100 remained in production essentially unchanged through 1970 when Dodge's new "B-Series" vans appeared with no pickup variation among them.

Today the A100 pickup is best remembered as the base upon which many drag race wheel-standing exhibition vehicles, like Bill "The Maverick" Golden's legendary "Little Red Wagon," were built during the '60s and '70s. Not a bad legacy.

The Ram 50: 1979-1993

Dodge didn't introduce another compact pickup until the Mitsubishi-built D50 joined the line for 1979. Both Ford (with its Mazda-built Courier) and Chevrolet (importing the Isuzu-made Luv) had been in the compact truck market for seven years before Dodge finally brought in the D50, but the D50 was a superior product in many ways.

Built around a 109.4-inch wheelbase on a conventional frame with a separate 6.5-foot cargo box, the D50's chassis was relatively supple compared to its direct competitors and, while the standard 2.0-liter SOHC four only made 93 horsepower, the optional 2.6-liter SOHC four knocked out a full 105 hp — excellent in those emissions-strangled times. Beyond that, the larger-displacement engine had counter-rotating balance shafts that smoothed out vibrations, and it could be backed by either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. The standard engine was supported by a four-speed manual transmission.

The D50's name changed to Ram 50 for 1981, but the truck was hardly changed. Four-wheel drive was available for 1982 to create the "Power Ram 50," but otherwise changes were limited to such cosmetic items as a new front grille. For 1985, the Ram 50 was available with a 2.3-liter turbodiesel four. In 1987 (alongside the introduction of the Dakota), the Ram 50 was redesigned with squarer, more conservative sheet metal but mostly carried over many of the same chassis and mechanical pieces. The most significant change came in the form of a longer-wheelbase (116.1 inches) long-bed version.

Dodge added extended "Sports Cab" models to the Ram 50 range for 1988 — which added 11 inches of space behind the front seats for storage space within the cab. All Sports Cab models rode on the longer wheelbase, essentially putting the additional wheelbase into a cab stretch instead of bed length. In 1990, the base engine was upgraded to a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated for 116 horsepower. The only optional engine was now the same Mitsubishi-built 142-hp, 3.0-liter V6 that was also used in Dodge and Chrysler minivans.

But with the arrival of the Dakota, a presence in the market after 1987, the Ram 50's days were numbered. Both the V6 and the Sports Cab were eliminated from the 1992 line, as the Ram 50 was now strictly an entry-level vehicle. Rear-wheel antilock brakes were added to the mix for 1993, but after that the Ram 50 was gone, and it was up to the Dakota to attract buyers who wanted a smaller Dodge truck.

The Rampage: 1982-1984

In the context of the times in which they were built, both the A100 and Ram 50 were pretty conventional as smaller trucks go. But with the introduction of the Rampage, Dodge left convention behind and charted wholly new waters for a domestic manufacturer.

Introduced for the 1982 model year and conceptually similar to VW's then-in-production Rabbit pickup, the Rampage was basically a Dodge Charger (a coupe derivative of the small front-drive Omni four-door sedan) with its back end chopped off and a pickup bed glued on. It was sort of like a miniature version of Chevrolet's El Camino — only weirder.

The Rampage shared its basic mechanical package with the Charger and had a transverse-mounted 84-hp, 2.2-liter, SOHC four-cylinder engine turning either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transaxle up front. Like a proper econocar of the era, it used a MacPherson strut suspension up front and, at the other end of its 104.2-inch wheelbase, a truck-appropriate solid rear axle on leaf springs.

The Rampage's performance wasn't scintillating, but it was an interesting machine that had its own charm in either base High Line or Sport trim. A five-speed manual transmission was added to the mix for 1983 and, like the Charger, it got a new grille for 1984. But with sales always less than robust, that was it for the Rampage.

As idiosyncratic as the Rampage was, within its limitations it was a good-driving machine, and today it has a small but fanatic following. Front-drive pickups were never going to be a big niche within the pickup truck market, however, and if Dodge was going to survive as a truckmaker it needed a significant slice of sales it could call its own. That's where the Dakota comes in.

First-Generation Dakota: 1987-1996

Except for the fact that the Dakota is sized between the smaller compact and larger full-size pickups, it's a thoroughly conventional truck. That means it has always been built atop a stout ladder frame with a double A-arm front suspension and a solid rear axle in the back on leaf springs. That lack of innovation makes sense in light of the fundamentally conservative nature of the pickup truck market and the inherently rugged result of such construction. Sure, it was the first truck with rack-and-pinion steering, but there's never been anything truly innovative about the Dakota.

At its introduction, the 1987 Dakota was available in two wheelbases (111.9 and 123.9 inches) with either a 6.5- or 8.0-foot bed, and in three different trim levels (base, SE and LE). A conventional two-door cab was the only one offered. Power came from either a 2.2-liter, SOHC carbureted four rated for 96 hp or a 3.9-liter, OHV carbureted V6 good for 125 ponies. Both could be had with either a standard five-speed manual transmission or a three-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive was offered, but buyers were required to step up to the V6 engine.

Scavenged from the front-drive K-Car, the 2.2-liter four was inadequate for lugging even the lightest, nearly 3,000-pound Dakota around with much confidence. The V6 was essentially Chrysler's 5.2-liter (318-cubic-inch) V8 with two cylinders lopped off, and at the beginning of its development, was neither particularly smooth nor particularly powerful. "With the fewest horses available," wrote Popular Science when comparing the '87 Dakota to six-cylinder versions of the full-size Ford and Chevy pickups and Jeep's Comanche, "it was no surprise that the Dakota finished dead last in the acceleration trials. And frankly, we had to wonder about the 5,500-pound tow claim for the 3.9-equipped Dakota." How slow was the Dakota? Pop Sci's 13.1-second, 0-60-mph clocking was downright turtlelike.

Still, Popular Science found that the Dakota's three-speed automatic shifted well and that the truck's other virtues more than compensated for the power deficit. "The Dodge Dakota nailed down top honors by a significant margin in two of the most important tests: braking and high-speed handling. Without question, Chrysler has put the accent on automotive-style performance…. The Dakota's interior and ride not only set high standards for trucks, but passenger-sedan designers should take note as well. Night or day, the bright, sharp instrumentation was a snap to read. The A/C, ventilation and heater controls were simple to use and did an outstanding job of quietly and precisely controlling the cabin temperature. And finally, though [we] usually dislike plastic wood on instrument panels, [we] found the subdued test-tube timber in the Dakota's cab tolerable — if not quite attractive." Ultimately, the magazine concluded that the Dakota was the best in the test. "The best light-duty pickup was obviously the Dakota LE. It was top dog in all the important performance areas, except acceleration. And considering the civilized ride and interior in the Dodge, it makes a strong case for itself."

With sales of 104,865 Dakotas during the '87 model year, Dodge had a hit on its hands. In fact, the Dakota even outsold both the full-size Ram (Dodge sold 98,563 of those) and the smaller Ram 50 (Dodge still sold a respectable 76,913 of those during '87). So the company left well enough alone for 1988 with the only significant change being the fitment of single-point throttle-body fuel injection to the 3.9-liter V6, an upgrade that unfortunately didn't alter its 125-hp output. But sales declined during '88 to 91,850, as other trucks were attracting buyers with such tricks as extended cabs and fresh sheet metal. Dodge would need to do something different for '89.

Change came in the form of two unusual variations on the basic 1989 Dakota. The weirdest of the pair was the first convertible truck offered by a manufacturer since the early days of Ford's Model T pickup. "On the surface, a pickup truck with a flop top makes as much sense as a steel baseball mitt," Car and Driver wrote upon its first exposure to the Dakota Convertible. "But everyone knows that most pickups actually live a life of leisure. So if people are buying pickups for the fun of owning a car alternative, why not go full-frivolous and build a sun-worshipping, let's-go-to-the-beach party animal?"

With its separate frame, the Dakota Convertible needed little in the way of extra bracing to support its structure, but it was awkward-looking with a roll bar fitted where the rear bulkhead had once been and a top that stacked inelegantly over the leading edge of the pickup bed. The manual top also wasn't the easiest to operate, was downright ugly when up and had a plastic rear window that seemed to fog up and distort the moment someone actually tried to look through it. The convertible sold in small numbers (2,482 examples during '89) and its life would be short.

The more significant variation came from the California shop of Carroll Shelby, who was at that point applying his famed mix of performance and hucksterism to Chrysler products. The Shelby Dakota was a product of high-performance 101 engineering, in that it was basically a Dakota fitted with the 5.2-liter fuel-injected V8 from the larger Ram pickup and the new four-speed automatic transmission that was offered across the Ram and Dakota ranges for '89. In the Shelby Dakota, the 5.2-liter V8 delivered five more horsepower than in the Ram (for a total of 175) thanks to the use of electric cooling fans necessitated by the tight confines of the engine bay.

Car and Driver found the Shelby Dakota clearly superior to previous iterations of the vehicle in the acceleration department. "Fitted with the V8, this pickup suddenly has pickup," they wrote. "The Shelby Dakota hustled from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, half a second quicker than the 4.3-liter V6-equipped Chevy S-10 pickup. And if you really want to blow the grass clippings out of the load bed, the Shelby can punch a 113-mph hole in the air. That's only 4 mph slower than the nearly four-inch-narrower Chevy S-10 with the optional Cameo aero bodywork."

For $15,813, a Shelby Dakota buyer got a white or red two-wheel-drive truck festooned with Shelby logos and the same suspension as the Dakota Sport with Goodyear P225/70HR15 Eagle GT tires on five-spoke wheels. That's about $3,000 more than a Dakota Sport with the V6. Despite a convoluted production process that had Dakotas shipped to Shelby's California shop for conversion, the planned 1,500 Shelby Dakotas were all shipped to customers.

Other than the Shelby, the regular-production '89 Dakota appeared to be little changed from the '88 model. But beyond the adoption of the previously mentioned four-speed automatic and fitment of ABS to the rear wheels, the base truck got a new fuel-injected 2.5-liter, OHV four-cylinder engine rated at 99 hp. Still, sales for 1989 slid to 89,294.

Extended cabs finally came to the Dakota line with the introduction of the 1990 Club Cab. Riding on a stretched frame containing a 130.9-inch wheelbase, the Club Cab truck's cab was a full 19 inches longer than that of the regular cab Dakota and contained a full-width rear bench seat. However, as with every other extended cab pickup of the time, there wasn't a second set of doors available to access that extra space. Club Cabs were available only as two-wheel-drive models this first year. Otherwise, the Dakota line was only slightly changed with another 1,089 convertibles making their way to customers and a single additional horsepower being added to the base four's rating rounding it out to 100. A total of 72,224 Dakotas were sold during the '90 model year.

What Shelby did in '89, Dodge did itself during 1991 with the addition of the 5.2-liter V8 to the Dakota's list of regular production options. Delivering 170 hp, the V8 was exactly the sort of power plant the Dakota had been crying out for since its introduction, but it was really only a hint of what was to soon come. In order to accommodate the slightly longer engine, the Dakota's nose was redesigned with more space directly behind the grille. The new engine and revised styling helped swell Dakota sales to 82,336 for '91, including the last eight convertibles.

As welcome as the V8 was in '91, the thoroughly revised series of "Magnum" V6s and V8s were even bigger news during 1992. Basically, Chrysler took both the 3.9-liter V6 and the 5.2-liter V8, and reengineered them around improved cylinder heads and much more advanced multiport fuel-injection systems. The result was a startling rise in output with the 3.9-liter V6 now making a healthy 180 hp (up from 125) and the 5.2-liter V8 now carrying a stout 230-hp rating (versus 170). A '92 Dakota V6 now had more power than the Shelby of three years before and the Dakota V8, particularly when equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, could challenge Mustang GTs in straight-line performance.

Car and Driver tested a '92 4x4 Club Cab (the heaviest Dakota then built) equipped with the V8 and five-speed manual transmission and clocked it to 60 mph in just 7.9 seconds with a quarter-mile performance of 16.2 seconds at 84 mph. The Dakota was now officially powerful — even the base 2.5-liter four got a boost to 117 hp — and Dakota sales skyrocketed to 132,057 units. That's a full 60-percent more Dakotas than were sold during '91 and easily the best sales year for this truck yet.

On the heels of such success, Dodge barely changed the Dakota for 1993, except for redesigning the bucket seats and adding four-wheel ABS as an option. The result was 119,299 units sold during the model year.

Changes for 1994 included the significant addition of a driver-side front airbag and a third brake light for the tailgate. The V6's output retreated to 175 hp and the V8 to 220 thanks to a new camshaft that, in compensation, had better torque characteristics. Sales cooled only slightly to 116,445 Dakotas. The essentially unchanged 1995 Dakota found 111,677 buyers, and the carryover 1996 Dakota (well, there were some minor color and trim changes) was still popular enough to sell 104,754 units.

The introduction of the vastly popular big-rig-styled, full-size 1994 Dodge Ram had left the square-cut Dakota looking, well, old. It was time for a new Dakota that could combine the original's convenient size with its big brother's panache. That panache would come for 1997.

Second-Generation Dakota: 1997-2004

With the overwhelming success of the full-size 1994 Ram, there was little doubt that the next Dakota would inherit many of its styling elements. So when the 1997 Dakota appeared, it was no surprise that it looked like a 7/8th-scale Ram.

The look of the '97 Dakota was all new, but underneath there was much that was familiar. The new truck still rode on three different wheelbases depending on cab and bed configuration, and they were the same wheelbases as before. Regular cab Dakotas with the short bed rode on a 111.9-inch wheelbase, the regular cab Dakota with the long bed had 123.9 inches between the front and rear wheels and the Club Cab had an extravagant 130.9-inch wheelbase. Though thoroughly retuned, the suspension was essentially identical in specification. The drivetrains carried over pretty much intact as well with the base 2.5-liter four now rated at 120 hp, and the 3.9-liter V6 and 5.2-liter V8 returning with the V6's 175-hp rating intact and the V8 rising back to 230 hp.

Even Consumer Reports was impressed with the new Dakota Club Cab. "The new, much-improved Dakota is now our top-rated compact pickup," the magazine wrote. "What's more, it still has a 78-inch-long cargo bed, a good half-foot longer than those of other compacts. All in all the Dakota is one nice truck, though it's too new for us to predict its reliability." The rest of the road test continued on a mostly positive note: "The new Dakota feels nimble," the CR editors continued, "[and] it handled our emergency-avoidance maneuvers competently. But like most small pickups, it rides very uncomfortably…. The foldable rear seat is wide enough for three. But as in other compact pickups, room for knees and feet is inadequate. The controls and displays are well designed, and the climate control system works well."

After experiencing a Dakota Club Cab for ourselves, our staff took issue with Consumer Reports' assessment of its ride quality. "What surprised us was how nicely the four-wheel-drive Dakota performed on pavement," our editor wrote. "Obviously, the truck was reasonably quick, thanks to its 5.2-liter V8, but it didn't seem much speedier than rivals from Ford and GM. Where the Dakota shined was in ride quality, cab comfort and braking. Zooming along I-70 into Denver one day, we misjudged the exit speed on an unfamiliar off-ramp. Hitting the brakes hard resulted in an immediate drop in velocity and the ability to get around the loop without sliding into the grass. The brake pedal provided excellent feel and feedback, something GM dreams about and Ford is still fine-tuning.

"The steering was communicative, and the small wheel helped maneuverability. The cab was surprisingly quiet, a characteristic purposely designed into the vehicle by Dakota engineers. And while you won't mistake the ride for that in your mother's Lexus LS 400, our Dakota was easier to live with on broken pavement than some passenger cars we've driven recently."

While the sheet metal got most of the attention publicly, the biggest improvement came inside, where the cab was simply designed and equipped with dual front airbags. "The cab was roomy for two front passengers in large, comfortable bucket seats," we wrote. "For short trips, three can be accommodated on an available bench front seat. Visibility was quite good, and all controls except those for the stereo were within easy reach. Large rotary dials control climate functions and the Dakota employs an old-fashioned pullout knob for the headlights — bravo! Our truck had an optional sound system with a CD player that supposedly benefited from an Infinity speaker system. Uncharacteristically, the sound quality in our Dakota was terrible. Interior materials like fabric and plastic looked and felt average — better than GM pickups but not as nicely executed as those found in the Ford Ranger/Mazda B-Series twins."

Along with its mediocre interior materials, the Dakota received some criticism given that the Club Cab didn't feature a third rear door for easy access to the backseat. Sales were strong, though, and Dodge shipped 131,961 Dakotas during '97 — a scant 96 less than the '92 record.

There were few changes to the basic Dakota for 1998 as Dodge concentrated on launching the Durango SUV, which was based on the Dakota. However, there was one exciting addition to the line for '98: the Dakota R/T that was powered by the big 5.9-liter, OHV Magnum V8 from the Ram. With 250 hp aboard, Truck Trend magazine had a regular cab R/T (a Club Cab was also available) ripping to 60 mph in seven seconds flat and through the quarter-mile in just 15.4 seconds at 89 mph. That's despite the fact that all R/Ts carried a mandatory four-speed automatic transmission. The R/T was, by far, the quickest Dakota yet and, thanks to big P255/55R17 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires and scrupulous suspension tweaking (which did nothing to improve the ride), the best-handling, too.

The addition of the R/T model and a generally strong truck market made '98 the best year yet for the Dakota, as sales reached 152,629 — a 15.3-percent leap up from the already strong '97 year.

With no reason to mess with success, changes to the 1999 Dakota range were minimal. There was a new paint color (a blinding "Solar Yellow"), and a new headliner-mounted console and redundant audio controls for the steering wheel were new options, but everything else was much as it had been before. The result was another 144,148 Dakotas on America's highways.

Of all the good ideas incorporated into the Dakota, none was bigger or better than the four-door Quad Cab body that appeared for the 2000 model year. "Our Dodge Dakota won a whole truckload of fans during its weeklong tenure here at the office," we reported after our first encounter with the Dakota Quad Cab, "inexorably due to the remarkable resemblance between the ride quality of this big truck and a comfortable car. That's the whole point of the Dakota, to blur the lines between the utility of a truck and the convenience of a car; as the ad campaign says, 'Cowboys have friends, too.'"

The Quad Cab rode on the same 130.9-inch wheelbase of the Club Cab, grabbing its additional 14.8 inches of cab length from the bed itself. While compact crew cab pickups had been popular in South America for decades, the Dakota Quad Cab was only the second one to make it up north following the smaller (and less accommodating) Nissan Frontier by a few months. With its big doors and roomy rear seat, the Quad Cab was a revelation: a compact truck that, in addition to being an OK truck, was actually a viable alternative to a midsize sedan. The one drawback to the Quad Cab was that its shortened bed length (just 63.1 inches) limited its usefulness when it came time to haul stuff.

Along with the new Quad Cab body, Dodge also replaced the ancient 5.2-liter OHV V8 with the smoother, more fuel-efficient 4.7-liter, SOHC, 16-valve V8. Rated at 235 hp, the 4.7 was an all-new design first used in the '99 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and its far more modern architecture made for a much better everyday companion than the 5.2. The 4.7 was available with either a five-speed manual transmission or the four-speed automatic.

With the Quad Cab now in the lineup, Dakota sales soared during '00 (up about 25 percent), so Dodge barely touched the vehicle for 2001. Still, the Dakota was strong enough to dominate our comparison test of compact 4x4 crew cabs that were suddenly flooding the market.

"Of all of the vehicles in this test," wrote then-Senior Editor Brent Romans, "only the Dodge Quad Cab was able to connect to my inner id. The Toyota, Sport Trac, S-10 and Frontier? Mere conveyances designed to be as practical and compromised as possible. But the Dakota? The Dakota had personality. I wanted to drive it. I wanted to mash the throttle to hear the rumbling V8. Make these silly cars in front of me on the freeway get out of the way. Full speed ahead. Grr! Fuel mileage? I don't care about stinkin' fuel mileage!

"Well, let me qualify that. I don't care about it when I don't have to pay for it, which is the case when we conduct these tests. If I were considering a compact crew cab purchase, fuel consumption would play a bigger factor. Regardless, the Dakota would still be very high on my list.

"This was the biggest truck in the test, but it didn't feel that way. The suspension amazed me in the way it could provide a nice ride quality on city streets, hustle the truck through corners and yet be flexible enough to hop over rocks and dirt. I also liked the Dakota's tough and aggressive exterior styling, big wheels and tires and the leather-trimmed interior."

How quick was the unladen Dakota Quad Cab? Our 4x4 with the 4.7 and automatic cruised to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds (best in the test). With 800 pounds of payload in the bed, it did the same trick in 10.4 seconds (again best in the test — by almost a full second).

With Dakota sales steady and the redesign of the Ram looming, Dodge barely touched the Dakota during 2002 or 2003 with the most notable change being the merciful excision of the four-cylinder engine from the line for '03. And in 2004, Chrysler finally ran out of the ancient 3.9-liter OHV V6s and began installing the Jeep Liberty's 210-hp, 3.7-liter SOHC 12-valve V6 (derived from the 4.7-liter V8) in the Dakota. But the company ran out the 5.9-liter V8s, too, and that meant the powerful but thirsty R/T went away. Pity. Oh well, it's time for a new Dakota anyhow.

Third-Generation Dakota: 2005-Present

The 2005 version of the Dodge Dakota sported styling that, with its big grille and flared fenders, was obviously inspired by its bigger brother, the Ram series pickup. Backing up the macho styling was a tougher platform with a fully boxed frame, a coil-over front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and three solid engine choices. The latter included a new 3.7-liter, overhead cam V6 with 210 hp and a pair of V8s; a 4.7-liter rated for 230 hp and a high-output version of the 4.7 rated at 250 hp. Buyers could choose between four- and five-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmissions. In addition to the typical 2WD and 4WD options, full-time all-wheel drive became available for this year. The standard cab was history due to its low take rate, leaving the club cab (extended cab) and the quad cab (crew cab). There were three trim levels: base ST, nicely equipped SLT and luxury-themed Laramie.

A few luxury features debuted for 2006, including a sunroof and upgraded audio systems. Making it easier to load passengers and cargo, the club cab's rear doors now opened wider (nearly 180 degrees). There was also a trio of new packages available. The TRX package offered off-road tires and wheels while the R/T package had street-focused attitude with a high-output V8 and appearance package. Lastly, the aptly named Night Runner featured unique blacked-out paint treatment.

Not much changed for 2007, except for newly optional remote start, a dual-position tailgate and flex-fuel capability for the 4.7-liter V8 engine.

A big increase in power was the big news for 2008 as the optional 4.7-liter V8 was pumped up to 302 hp. Revised front end styling, a new instrument panel, more storage compartments, available heated seats and the MyGIG multimedia system (which entailed a hard-drive-based navigation system that could also store music) also came online this year as did built-in cargo box utility rails and a new trim level dubbed Big Horn (called the Lone Star in Texas). The latter's highlights included color-keyed bumpers and grille, full power features and a pair of jump seats for the club cab.

Trim levels were revised and streamlined for 2009, with the new lineup consisting of base ST, midlevel Big Horn, off-road-oriented TRX4 and luxury Laramie.

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