"This is my second 5.2L V8 Dakota. The 5 speed has more torque and is more fun to drive. It'll run against a Mustang capably. I'm not a big fan of the 3.9L V6 engine. The Dakotas have similar handling characteristics of a car yet you can still haul a fair amount of weight. The standard cab p/u is very nimble for a truck. The towing capacity of the 5 speed standard cab is @ 6500 pounds. You can pull alot of weight easily but the truck doesn't have enough mass to slow down a loaded trailer quickly and efficiently. I still own both of my Dakotas and enjoy both of them. I prefer the standard cab 5 speed to the club cab automatic 9 times out of 10.
Cons: fuel level sensor faulty on many of these trucks. The radiator water jackets will clog up easily, use distilled water only. Clean the throttle body once a year to prevent rough idle. Interior amenities as well as fit and finish are somewhat behind the times but that's kind of typical of CDP/Mopar. Their trucks have always been known for their utilitarianism.
Between the size of a tiny ranger or a huge truck the Dakota balances performance, maneuverability, payload capacity, fuel consumption, durability, dependability, and is a pleasure to drive. Until the 1997 Dakota body style was introduced this truck was in a class all its own. I find it a happy medium between a cramped, under-powered pickup wannabe and a cavernous, lumbering gas guzzler full size pickup. At 5' 10" I can reach into my truck toolbox from the ground instead of needing to climb into the bed of the truck to grab what I need. In my opinion, these trucks are good, Tonkatough, reliable work horses during the day and comfortable, spacious, and powerful enough for the evenings, weekends, and roadtrips. After 16 years of driving Dakotas I'm still smiling.
I've looked for an R/T Dakota with low miles, great service records, and an adult driver who kept it out of the ditches (not an easy vehicle to find just anywhere) but I'm not always convinced that the insurance increase would be offset by the fun. Now, the SRT 10, on the other hand...
The Dakota is a versatile, capable, dependable truck that I know will get the job done and in short order. Once the job is done you can expect a comfortable, enjoyable drive to your next destination. It's simple, straightforward, and economical to maintain. There's plenty of room to work in the engine compartment. I have no complaints, and for me, that's rare. Happy motoring."
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