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2005 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab

Expectations Exceeded

Dodge’s new Dakota Quad Cab 4 x 4 Laramie delivers a lot more than you expect.

For years we had been hoping that Dodge would use the 4.7-liter V-8 that first appeared in the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2000 in its Durango SUV and Dakota pickup. Well, now that Dodge has done just that, we not only have very little to complain about, but we also found a lot to like about the Dakota Quad Cab.

Let’s start with the engine. It’s a 4.7-liter single-overhead cam V-8 that produces 230 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 290 pound-feet of torque. The mill is smooth, responsive, and yielded 15 mpg during our weeklong test. This engine, which replaces the old 5.9-liter V-8 whose origins date back to the 1960s, is what this truck has deserved for years. Now that the truck has the 4.7, Dodge wrapped an entirely new chassis and body around it and tucked an available five-speed automatic in behind it. The result is a truck that’s just a few inches bigger in length and width, but feels much bigger inside.

“Dodge Dakota defined the midsize segment with more room, more comfort and more power than the competition,” said Eric Ridenour, Chrysler’s executive vice president for product development in a news release. “The all-new 2005 Dodge Dakota repeats that success and injects some Dodge Ram DNA into the design and feel of the new Dakota. Dodge buyers like the “right size” of the current Dodge Dakota, which is more fuel efficient and maneuverable than a full-size pickup, but can still get the big jobs done. The new Dakota gives them  exactly what they want: full-size pickup capability in a mid-size package.”

Well, there are limitations to the Dakota when compared with full-size trucks, but for some buyers, maybe not enough to keep them from driving one home.

For example, Dodge touts a tow rating of 7,000 pounds, which is a decent amount of weight considering the truck’s size. We pulled a 23-foot Nordic powerboat, which weighs 6,500 pounds and a 27-foot Formula powerboat, which weighs about 8,000 pounds on a trailer. Yes, the Formula did exceed its rating, but the overburdened Dakota exceeded our expectations and pulled it well.

For instance, the front end didn’t feel light and disconnected while towing, something that can happen if a truck is laboring under too much tongue weight. The rear of the truck sagged noticeably, but it didn’t seem to hamper the way the truck drove. It was affected by crosswinds a bit more, but in their absence, the Dakota “towed the line,” as it were.

On the highway, the Dakota cruised at 60 mph at 2,000 rpm with the tow/haul button switched on. According to Dodge literature, tow/haul mode improves “vehicle performance and fuel economy while minimizing engine noise during trailer towing or heavy-load hauling.”

When traveling uphill, the 4.7-liter did feel a little overmatched—for obvious reasons. The engine’s 300 pound-feet of torque wasn’t up to par with Dodge’s Hemi, GM’s Vortec or Ford’s Triton V-8s. Then again, the engine only measures 287 cubic inches, so 295 foot-pounds is pretty respectable for the displacement.

That becomes more apparent when you leave the trailer at home. The Dakota boogied to 60 mph in under 10 seconds—not mind-blowing, but ample. Part of what made throttle response feel better than its 230-horsepower rating was Dodge’s five-speed 5-45RFE transmission, also lifted from the Grand Cherokee. Shifts were perceptible, but smooth and quick with no lag between gears.

In fact, the truck was actually fun to drive, which is uncommon in full-size trucks. We tossed the Dakota around canyons and some nifty banked curves. We were surprised to find how hard it could be pushed before it began to understeer. It’s rack-and-pinion steering was nicely weighted, with just the right amount of assist, and believe it or not, the ride was downright nice for a four-by-four.

Off-road, the four-wheel drive system was a snap to operate: put it in park and twist a knob to either high or low range. We actually needed to use it at low tide at the boat ramp, which was slick with algae and other assorted slimy stuff. We don’t often suggest four-wheel drive for tow vehicles, but in this case the option would be good to have because it’s largely unnoticeable when it’s turned off.
Brakes were decent, nothing special, but certainly appropriate for what this truck would be used for. Feel was respectable for a rear-drum setup and power was good. Antilocks engaged smoothly and quietly, a bit sooner than we expected, but they still allowed for course corrections while standing on the pedal.

Dimensions overall have increased, but not by much. The Dakota is 3.7-inches longer, primarily ahead of the front wheels for added crush space during collisions and 2.7-inches wider. Even so, the truck is easy to maneuver in close quarters and slip into perpendicular parking spaces, and its bed is comparable to the average full-size pickup at 6 feet, 6 inches in length.

Inside, the Dakota delivers a comfortable place to sit for front passengers and decent accommodations in the rear, which is best left for children or recalcitrant mothers-in-law. The requisite self-behind-self test proved a little tight. The rear seat cushions split 60/40 and flip up, and back with light effort. The floor beneath them is fitted with recesses for gear and two cupholders.

The redesigned Dakota now incorporates dual-stage front air bags and an occupant-sensing system at the right-front spot. Optional side-curtain air bags include coverage for both rows of seats on Club and Quad cabs. At $495, the option seems like an easy choice to make.
In fact, if we needed a truck to pull anywhere from 5,000 to 6,500 pounds of boat, but didn’t want the often-cumbersome dimensions of a full-size truck, the Dakota Quad Cab also would be an easy choice. It exceeded our expectations in a number of ways, most notably its real-world ride comfort, maneuverability and a fun factor that’s virtually nonexistent in full-size trucks.

SPECIFICATIONS

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates
City... 15 mpg
Highway... 20 mpg

ACCELERATION
0-60 towing... 24.75 seconds
40-60 towing... 13.81 seconds
0-60 non-towing... 9.77 seconds
40-60 non-towing... 5.85 seconds

POWERTRAIN
Engine... 4.7-liter SOHC V-8
Horsepower... 230 at 4,600 rpm
Torque... 295 pound-feet at 3,600 rpm
Compression ratio...  9:1
Transmission... 5-45RFE five speed automatic

CHASSIS
Axle ratio... 3.92:1
Fuel capacity... 22 gallons
Tire size... P265-70R-16
Brakes... Front disc, rear drum with antilock
Suspension... Front: dual A-arm with coil-over shocks; Rear: live axle with five-leaf springs

WEIGHTS
Curb weight... 4 ,758 pounds
Tow rating... 7,000 pounds
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating... 6,010 pounds
Gross Combined Weight Rating... 11,500 pounds

DIMENSIONS
Overall length... 218.8"
Maximum width... 71.7"
Wheelbase... 131.3"

Base price...$28,679
Price as tested... $33,284

TRAILER TOWED
Formula 271 FAS3Tech
8,000 pounds

INFORMATION
Customer service... 800-423-6943
Web site... www.dodge.com

 

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