The 4-spoke steering wheel is easy to grip. At speed the steering sometimes
felt over-assisted but it was certainly easy to move in tight parking
situations. And you will be moving the wheel quite often as the Dakota
4x4 Quad Cab has a rather wide 44-foot turning diameter. That’s
almost three feet wider than the previous Dakota.
the only midsize truck that offers a V8. Standard in the base Dakota is
a 3.7-liter V6 but the Laramie Quad Cab comes with a 4.7-liter V8 rated
at 230 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of peak torque. A high-output V8 became
available in the Dakota in late winter 2005. It’s rated at 260 horsepower
with peak torque of 310 lb-ft. The Nissan 4.0-liter V6 remains the horsepower
leader in the midsize market with 265 ponies and follows with 284 lb-ft
of peak torque. For those playing the numbers game, Toyota’s 4.0-liter
engine is rated at 245 horsepower with 282 lb-ft of peak torque. The HO
engine finds the extra horsepower through new valve springs to accommodate
a meaner camshaft, revised combustion chamber shape and higher compression
ratio (9.7:1 vs. 9:1). It’s also beefed up with a forged steel crankshaft.
The HO engine will also help set Dakota apart from the new Mitsubishi
Raider, which shares all the rest of the Dakota mechanicals.
Our Dakota with the 230-horsepower engine was spirited on road and playful
off road. Passing on 2-lane roads was easy with the 5-speed transmission
that offers two Second-gear ratios. First gear is 3.00:1 and the upshift
Second is 1.67:1 while the downshift is 1.50:1. The slightly taller gear
reduces the gap between Third, which is 1:1, and downshift Second for
less of a jolt to the senses when downshifting. It’s also more useful
Stopping for pictures near an abandoned rest stop on Route 66 that is
now a canvas for graffiti artists, I could take a good look at the Dakota
styling. In the previous Dakota platform, I was more a fan of the Durango
than the Dakota. I felt the extra bulk of the cab section complemented
the signature front end better than the pickup bed. But now I like the
Dakota better than the Durango. The sharp edges of the front end are crisp
and match up well with the defined angles of the fenders, especially the
rear. I still it’s a busy design and I would rip off some chrome
if I had my way, especially the door-guard spears on the side and the
front bumper insert. The chrome grille would look much better not having
to compete with the shiny bumper insert. But there’s enough composure
to the overall look, and the jeweled headlights and afterburner taillights
add a little excitement.
I got just
over 16 mpg over the weekend, but my foot was in the throttle pretty hard,
and I was stuck in Friday getaway traffic leaving Los Angeles for a couple
hours. The truck is rated at 14 city, 19 highway. Overall performance
of the Dakota will fit the needs of any midsize shopper. With the exception
of the Ford Ranger, all the midsize 4-door pickups offer enough power
and features that they now compete with fullsize trucks for customers.
It’s difficult to pick a truck that is clearly superior to the others.
Dakota still has the size. Its 6010 GVWR and 6800-pound towing capacity
(for the Quad Cab 4x4) is higher than the competition. The 65-inch long
bed is bigger than any other, except for the optional long-bed Tacoma
model. Each truck has its advantages. That’s the beauty of competition
in today’s midsize truck market.