By KBB.com Editors
With aggressive new styling, the mid-size 2008 Dodge Dakota can no longer be mistaken for just a small Ram. Dakota buyers disdain today's bulked-up full-sized pickups and demand a leaner exterior. With little compromise in interior room or workhorse ability, the Dakota delivers a trimmer package that makes it easier to negotiate congested city traffic and crowded parking lots. Yet the Dakota remains roomier and more potent than its smaller-than-full-size competitors. The Dakota comes in six distinct trim levels. Each is available with either aft-hinged rear doorscalled Extended Cabor the four conventional doors of the Crew Cab. All are available with either rear-, conventional four-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive. Standard is a capable 210-horsepower V6, while an impressive 302-horsepower V8 is available.You'll Like This Car If...
Of less-than-full-size pickups the 2008 Dodge Dakota offers the most power and the largest interior. Its optional V8 makes 302 horsepower and gets better fuel mileage than last year's V8. Real truck folks will love the new removable storage bins that stow under the Crew Cab's rear seat.You May Not Like This Car If...
The Dakota is not a "little" pickup. It's about as big as some full-sized pickups once were. Unlike some other smaller pickups, the Dakota does not offer a budget version with a four-cylinder engine and a single-row cab.What's Significant About This Car?
A completely restyled front end, a more functional and attractive interior and radical improvements to its optional 4.7-liter V8 highlight changes for the 2008 Dodge Dakota.Driving It Driving Impressions
In comparing the 2008 Dodge Dakota to a typical sedan, a sophisticated driver may notice a small amount of rear-axle ride harshness over uneven pavement. Others may feel the Dakota rides as well as most cars. And, with a few hundred pounds loaded in the cargo box, there will be little difference between a current sedan and the Dakota. Steering and braking are predictable in response and feel, and the Dakota owner will likely have no complaints about how it rides smoothly down the road and handles responsively around corners. The optional V8 makes easy the sometimes challenging task of passing slow-moving traffic on rural two-lane highways.Favorite Features
Available V8 Engine
We really like the Dakota's 302-horsepower V8. But most will be more than satisfied with the standard and more practical 210-horsepower V6.
Ride and Handling
The Dakota's ride comfort, even when it's unloaded, is more than capable for a truck and, perhaps surprisingly, essentially as good as many cars.
If you're moving from, say, a fairly recent sedan to a pickup, you'll be hard pressed to find deficiencies in the Dakota. The black-on-white instrument panel is easy to read and the ample storage areas are so numerous that you might find yourself trying to find uses for all of them.Exterior
No longer will the observant confuse a Dakota with a Ram. Forward of the front-door hinge, the 2008 Dodge Dakota is completely different than either its predecessor or its bigger sibling. While maintaining the aggressive styling that has become a Dodge trademark, the 2008 Dakota is angular where its previous generation was rounded. If you'd like people to think you are driving a Ram, the 2008 Dodge Dakota is not for you.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2008 Dodge Dakota is available in six trim levels and two body styles: The Extended Cab, which has rear-hinged aft doors, and the Crew Cab, which has four conventional doors. Each is available in rear- or four-wheel drive. The ST comes standard with a 210-horsepower V6 coupled to a six-speed manual transmission. SXT standard equipment includes aluminum wheels, cruise control and power windows. The SLT has SIRIUS Satellite Radio standard, while the potent V8 is an option. Under-body skid plates on the off-road-tuned TRX and TRX4 protect the oil pan and transmission from rocks and stumps. The Sport version boasts 18-inch wheels and special interior trim, and the luxury Laramie has a chromed grille and rear bumper.Notable Optional Equipment
The top option on the 2008 Dodge Dakota is the V8 engine. Two versions of four-wheel-drive are available: The first is a more-traditional system with high- and low-range gear ratios. The other offers full-time four-wheel drive, making the Dakota the only smaller pickup to offer this option. The available MyGIG Multimedia system features, among many other things, a voice-activated navigation system and a 20-gigabyte hard drive to which you can load music, photos and movies (the latter won't play while the truck is moving.). The available cargo box rail with movable tie-down cleats will come in handy when friends need help moving.Under the Hood
Just to put the 2008 Dodge Dakota's optional 302-horspower 4.7-liter V8 in perspective, compared to last year's V8 (which was also 4.7-liters) it turns out almost a third more horsepower and, with 329 lb.-ft., 13 percent more torque. On top of that, the new V8 gets better fuel mileage and will operate on E85 ethanol-based fuel. The V8 comes fitted only with a five-speed automatic. While it's easy to become infatuated with the Dakota's optional V8, the standard 3.7-liter V6 will provide a rewarding, long-term relationship for most. With 210 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque, it should easily deal with most light-to-moderate trailer-towing and load-hauling duty.
210 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
235 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/20 (manual, 2WD), 15/20 (automatic, 2WD), 15/19 (manual, 4WD), 14/18 (automatic, 4WD)
302 horsepower @ 4600 rpm
329 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (2WD), 15/21 (4WD)
The lowest-priced Dakota, the ST Extended Cab with rear-wheel drive and a 210-horsepower V6, has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $20,000, and the ST Crew Cab starts at almost $23,000. Each of the other five Dakota trim levelsSXT, SLT, the off-road-oriented TRX, the Sport and the Laramieincreases in steady increments. A fully-optioned Laramie Crew Cab, complete with the 302-horsepower V8, tops out around $33,000. Despite its larger size, the Dakota compares very favorably to similarly-equipped versions of the Toyota Tacoma, its nearest competitor. A rear-drive V6 Tacoma Access Cab starts at about $24,500. Be sure to check Fair Purchase Prices to see what buyers are actually paying in your area.