The Dakota had available 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist plus a mechanical rear locking differential. When the truck hit black ice, the Dakota quickly corrected itself before any real loss of vehicle control was detected. And unlike the Frontier, the Dakota's rack-and-pinion steering was smooth and with an infinitely better turning radius. It was a relief to have that kind of control and navigation for expected (and unexpected) turns and tight spaces.
A part-time electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case came standard on my Dakota, but a full-time transfer case is offered. The available Multi-Speed Overdrive Automatic transmission is a 5-speed automatic with a slightly bigger axle ratio of 3.92 for off-road adventure and price tag of $1,210. There is also the standard 6-speed manual and available 4-speed automatic with the V6. The standard 3.7-liter Magnum V6 itself offers 210-horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque with a gas estimation of 15-city/20-highway.
But I thought I was missing something when I pushed the acceleration to its limits: I wasn't feeling an extraordinary amount of surging V8 power. It was consistent up steep and long grades with slightly noticeable shifting from the Multi-Speed Overdrive transmission, but the Nissan's V6, and the V6s of many other compact trucks and SUVs, had netted the same response and delivery. It's moment to shine fell a little flat climbing hills.
For off-road capability, the standard part-time 4-wheel drive on my model had 4LOCK and 4LO modes. If under a full-time transfer case, four positions are available. The TRX4 Off-Road Group features with the Multi-Speed automatic transmission (but at that extra cost), 16-inch cast aluminum wheels with standard P265/70R16 OWL On-/Off-Road tires, front and rear rubber floor mats, and of courses, the fancy decals. An under-the-rail box bedliner is an additional $245.
Although sufficient on snow and easy to use, I felt the off-road package lacked real dazzle. With the V8, the computer read an average approximation of 16.5-mpg during my trip.
The Dakota still offers two body styles, the Extended Cab and Crew Cab; no regular cab is becoming commonplace with this segment. There are 6 trim levels to choose: ST, SXT, SLT, TRX4, Sport and Laramie.
Cruise controls are at the wheel, along with hidden audio system switches located behind instead of in front. The white-faced electroluminescent gauges turn blue at night. There are no automatic headlights lights, but there is an overhead trip computer with a compass and outside thermometer.My ride did not have Dodge's MyGIG navigation system with the 20-gigabyte hard drive, but it did have the Premium Sound Group for $1,010 that included a 6-disc DVD/MP3 player, remote start system, 6 Alpine speakers, and the steering wheel mounted controls.