Dodge's Four-mula for Success

Road Test: 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab
by PUTC Staff

The 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab has staked a claim all its own as the only midsize four door pickup truck in town. Though Dodge officially classifies the Dakota as a compact it's 131-inch wheelbase is closer in size to the 138-inch wheelbase of the 2001 Ford F-150 SuperCrew than the 116-inch wheelbase of the 2000 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab. This provides Dodge with bragging rights over the rest of the compact trucks but easily places it outside the territory of the full-sizes. The Dakota is large enough to comfortably seat 5 adults, a tight fit in the Frontier, yet maneuverable enough to easily parallel park, a challenge in the SuperCrew.

If you like attention the Dakota Quad Cab is your truck. The Dakota quickly became known among the PUTC staff as the 'Killer Bee'. Our 4x4 Sport Edition of the Quad Cab garnered looks wherever we went - probably as much for the four full size doors as its screaming Solar Yellow paint job and Son-of-Ram fascia. One gentleman in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, traveling the opposite way in San Francisco traffic, was about to make his first 4x4 foray and cross the median to get a better look at the Dakota after gesturing wildly in our direction to his passengers (no exaggeration).

Clearly Dodge is positioning the Dakota Sport Quad Cab towards those with a an active lifestyle. Its 4x4 abilities and large size let you load up lots of gear - even in the abbreviated 5' 1/4" bed - to go almost anywhere.

To test out its versatility, load hauling and cargo carrying capabilities some of the staff took the Dakota out for a day of dirt biking in Hollister Hills State Park in Hollister, California. Prior to leaving for the park our biggest question was, are we going to be able to fit three dirt bikes in the bed of the Quad Cab? There was only one way to find out! As it turns out we had no problems fitting all three bikes in the bed of the truck with the tailgate down, extending the bed to just over 6 1/2-feet, and there was still room to spare for extra equipment. We were even able to load all three bikes facing forward which takes a little more room than having the middle bike facing backwards (it is easier to tie down the middle bike if it faces forward). We had no problems securing the bikes using the anchors inside the cargo box and along the front of the bed between the cargo box and the cab.

Shuttling three people in one truck to go dirt biking was no problem in the Dakota. It's 4x4 capabilities and 5.9L engine had no problems with the load and inclement weather.

The ride from San Francisco to Hollister Hills takes about an hour and a half and it was a pleasure in the Quad Cab. The truck handled well, the ride was smooth and the interior of the cab was very comfortable. The truck's 5.9L V8 engine provided more power than we needed to haul our load for the day. The back seat of the Quad Cab provided more than enough room for passengers to sit comfortably with plenty of available leg room. The only sad part of the story is that the trails accessible to 4x4 trucks were closed because of poor conditions so we had to settle for two wheels and a rain suit!"

Inside & Out

With the cabin stretched some 15 inches over what you would normally find in a Dodge Club Cab the Quad Cab makes some substantial strides in driver and passenger comfort.

A roof console provides more space for the driver to store miscellaneous items. Mandatory holders for sunglasses and garage door opener were present. For additional convenience and information the console includes a trip computer that displayed data on outside temperature, direction of travel, average mileage per gallon, real-time mileage per gallon and total trip distance.

The dash in the Dodge Dakota is very carlike in appearance. A well arranged group of instruments lets you quickly monitor all standard functions with nice, large white on black gauges for the tach and speedometer. The HVAC controls are among the easiest to use we have seen. Three dials allow you to quickly and intuitively adjust the fan and temperature. Buttons mounted on the leather wrapped steering wheel let you easily adjust the cruise control on the highway and a 12-volt power port allows you to plug in your cell phone or laptop. The glove box had a moderate amount of space even though it was mounted under the passenger SRS. Dash materials were good quality and had a nice tactile feel.

The only real issue about the dash was the positioning and controls on the Infinity stereo. In a strange ergonomic twist of fate the radio seems to face very slightly toward the passenger seat and takes some getting used to when initially changing stations. The stereo also came with an in-dash single CD player, nice for the occasional CD user but a 6-disc player would have been preferred. The balance and fade controls on the stereo are controlled by a single miniature 'joystick' that you have to be particularly careful about aligning or you'll quickly find your music coming out the left rear or another speaker.

Mounted on the floor was the transfer case shifter for the part-time four wheel drive. During the rainy weather in San Francisco it was quite easy to reach down and shift on the fly into four wheel high and back again but a dash mounted control would have been preferred so you didn't have to look down for the shifter first. Shifts into four wheel drive were flawless and imperceptible to the driver except for the slight change in the handling of the truck.

Up front the seating choice was optional 40/20/40 high back cloth bucket seats. The front driver seat was 6-way electric adjustable but lacking a lumbar control - something some of us missed on longer trips but were comfortable nonetheless.

In the rear of the cab was a 40/60 folding split bench. From the photographs you can see how the seat bottoms fold up to provide plenty of additional storage room for those items that might not be able to tolerate the elements if left in the bed of the Dakota. With the rear seat folded up it was like have a super-sized Club Cab.

The rear seats were quite comfortable to sit in and the backs angled toward the bed slightly to make long trips quite tolerable for rear seat passengers. The small headrests could be made slightly larger and an additional one added for the middle passenger. During sudden stops the middle passenger quickly noticed the lack of a headrest. A built in upholder provides a place for two drinks but because it comes out of the middle of the rear seat it could not be used with three passengers.

On the outside the first thing we noticed on the Dakota was its high, 4x4 stance. It's a solid, good looking truck particularly if you like the Ram-like front end treatment. The color keyed fender flares filled out the truck's appearance and beefy aluminum 5 spoke wheels wrapped in 31X10.5R15 all-season tires only added to the sturdy looks. The bed and cab proportions looked quite natural and well thought out, particularly where the bed 'wrapped' around the cab to accommodate the angled back rear seats. When parked next to a Toyota Tundra it was even a little hard to tell the difference in size.

The bed came with a Mopar Liner which was made of heavy, durable plastic. It easily took the punishment of loading the dirt bikes in and out of the truck.

On the Road

The Dakota Quad Cab comes with the only optional V8s available in the compact / midsize truck segment. As much as we would have liked and enjoyed test driving the new Next-Generation 4.7L Magnum (235 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque) our Dakota Quad Cab instead came with the

venerable heavy-duty 5.9L which produced 250 horsepower and 345 lb.-ft. of torque. We had plenty of power and torque at all times with this engine which had no problems even when it had three dirt bikes in the back of the truck. The only issue we had with the engine was the gas mileage which averaged a lowly 13mpg during both highway and surface travel. The 24 gallon tank helped with extending the range.

Handling was excellent for a truck. Though you could still 'chirp' the tires when starting from a stand still, the truck always held the road tightly at highway and moderate speeds. A live rear axle with gas charged shock absorbers and optional stabilizer bar kept the rear from bouncing around when the truck was unweighted, even in wet weather.

Summing it Up

The 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab has received numerous awards and recognition for its unique position in the pickup truck marketplace. Four Wheeler Magazine voted it as their Pickup Truck of the Year and the Dakota was the highest ranked compact pickup truck in initial quality as awarded by J.D. Power & Associates new customer survey. We certainly won't debate those awards. The Dodge Dakota Quad Cab proved quite capable and up to any of our demands during our road test period.

If you have an active lifestyle and are looking for a truck to keep up with some heavy lifting demands in a midsize package, the Dakota Quad Cab is waiting for you and its four doors and ample interior will keep all your passengers happy. Just don't forget we warned you about the gas mileage.

2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab

Base Price: $21,615 Price as Tested: $29,270

Price as Tested Includes: High Back Bucket Seats ($200); Heavy Duty Service Group ($180); Sport Plus Group ($1320); Trailer Tow Group ($275); Deluxe Convenience Group ($390); Power Overhead Convenience Group ($930); 4-wheel Anti-Lock Brakes ($495); Floor Mats ($50); Automatic Transmission ($975); 3.92 Axle Ratio ($40); Anti-Spin Differential ($285); 5.9L Magnum Engine ($1125); Rear Window Defroster and Power Heated Mirrors ($370); 6-Way Power Driver Seat ($320); AM/FM Stereo with Compact Disc Player ($480); Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel ($50); Sport Plus Group Discount (-$350)