2008 Dodge Dakota Review

Consumer Reviews
0 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 23, 2008

Especially with the improved V-8, the 2008 Dodge Dakota can do most of what a full-size truck can while consuming fewer resources in the process.

The truck fans at TheCarConnection.com studied reviews from across the Web to write this comprehensive review of the new 2008 Dodge Dakota. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove several different 2008 Dodge Dakota models, including the extended- and crew-cab styles, to provide you with more detailed information and driving impressions. This review also compares the 2008 Dodge Dakota with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews have differing opinions.

The 2008 Dodge Dakota is supposed to be a mid-size truck. With a wheelbase of 131.3 inches--longer than some current full-size regular cab pickups--however, it doesn't feel much different from a full-size truck. The supersizing of America is certainly at play here.

The 2008 Dakota comes in two body styles (Extended Cab and Crew Cab), plus six trim levels (ST, SXT, SLT, TRX/TRX4, Sport, and Laramie). Two- and four-wheel-drive models are offered. Bed lengths are 6.6 feet for the extended cab, and a shorter 5.3 feet for the four-door crew cab (both ride on the same 131.3-inch wheelbase). Built-in cargo box utility rails make managing cargo or installing box options easier.

Outside, inside, and under the hood, every model shows significant changes for 2008, but it's not an all-new truck. The first thing you'll notice is the more angular Nitro-ish exterior that features better fit and gap management. The new fenders dramatically change the truck's profile, which now includes a rear spoiler--a genuine aero feature.

Review continues below

Inside the 2008 Dodge Dakota is a new instrument panel, center console, and accent finishes. Access is improved now that the Extended Cab's Full Swing rear access doors open nearly 170 degrees--almost flat against the bed. Seating for five is standard, and with the rear seats folded, there's up to 30 cubic feet of storage space. The larger Crew Cab offers even more room: another 7.5 cubic feet. Besides delivering extra legroom thanks to the additional cab length, Dodge designed a new storage system under the rear seat so that gear can be organized and contained in the truck (without rolling around) and then taken anywhere in custom-fit removable containers.

A new center console incorporates cup holders with modular inserts and a pull-out bin specifically designed to hold electronics such as an MP3 player (which may be plugged into any of the Dodge Dakota's audio systems), cell phone, or PDA. The instrument panel is also new, and the materials look good but still can't match the fit, finish, and quality feel of today's best trucks, such as a full-size GM or Ford.

Power is one of the reasons that full-size trucks outsell everything that's not full-size. While a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 is standard, the Dakota is one of only two V-8-powered mid-size models available in all the land. The 2008 Dakota's optional V-8 is a fully modern 302-horsepower, 4.7-liter engine. A five-speed automatic is the only trans to back this engine. Fuel economy is up about 5 percent compared to 2007, coming in at 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway for two-wheel-drive models. (There's no economy gain for staying with the V-6.)

While the engine benefits from fully modern technology (and delivers up to 7,000-pound towing capabilities), the brakes are pure old school: discs in front, drums in the rear with rear-wheel-only anti-lock brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock control is optional. As for handling, the Dakota certainly feels more responsive than a full-size crew cab truck. The rack-and-pinion steering is a quick-ratio, and needs only 3.18 turns to go from lock to lock. This means that when you turn the wheel, things happen at the asphalt, but the suspension floats a lot, so you'll never mistake this for a Miata or a Corvette. After all, a Dakota like our tester tips the scales at a full-size truck weight of 4,500 pounds.

7

2008 Dodge Dakota

Styling

The 2008 Dodge Dakota has been improved on the outside, though the interior still needs work.

The 2008 Dodge Dakota turns up its bullish nose at higher gas prices, with a sharpened style that’s even more aggressive than last year’s version.

It’s supposed to be a mid-size truck, but with a wheelbase of 131.3 inches--longer than some current full-size regular cab pickups--the 2008 Dakota doesn't look much different from a full-size truck. The supersizing of America is certainly at play here. Two body styles are offered: extended and crew cab. “Dodge no longer offers a standard cab configuration for the Dakota,” Edmunds points out.

Outside, inside, and under the hood, every model shows significant changes for 2008, but it's not an all-new truck. The first thing you'll notice is the more angular Nitro-ish exterior that features better fit and gap management. The new fenders dramatically change the truck's profile, which now includes a rear spoiler--a genuine aero feature.

ConsumerGuide says that the 2008 Dodge Dakota sports a "freshened interior and exterior styling." Automedia reports, “Redesigning of the Dakota for 2008 gives the pickup a restyled hood, grille, front fascia, headlights, and fenders, as well as a tailgate-mounted rear spoiler.” Car and Driver observes, “As good-looking nose jobs go, this one's right up there with Ashlee Simpson's and Cher's.” Although the Dodge Dakota is considered a large pickup, it is 31 inches shorter than the company’s full-size Ram, states Cars.com; the restyling has "hints of the Dodge Rampage concept truck," they contend, deeming it "edgier" than previous models. Car and Driver highlights the upgrade, noting the "front end is where the dramatic transformation has taken place." They add, "Gone is the choppy, flattened nose" of older models and in its place is "a more fetching, more refined, and decidedly handsomer mug."

Moving on, Car and Driver also notices changes inside this Dodge Dakota 2008 model, though they are not as impressive or dramatic as the exterior modifications. They note "the instrument panel, the center console, and the accent finishes are new," but the "box-in-box-in-box design" and the "dreary gray atmosphere" is reminiscent of "Chrysler's recent interior atrocities." Cars.com is a bit more upbeat, saying that "the Dakota's dashboard has been mildly revised," but the styling is still "squarish and utilitarian," making "truck guys...feel at home." ConsumerGuide points out, "Large gauges are easy to read," plus the "controls are logically placed and readily accessible."

7

2008 Dodge Dakota

Performance

The 2008 Dodge Dakota has a smooth ride and good power with the V-8, but fuel economy and handling are trucklike.

Power is one of the reasons that full-size trucks outsell everything that's not full-size. While a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 is standard, the Dakota is one of only two V-8-powered mid-size models available in all the land. The 2008 Dakota's optional V-8 is a fully modern 302-horsepower, 4.7-liter engine. A five-speed automatic is the only trans to back this engine.

The 2008 Dodge Dakota has undergone significant changes compared to its predecessors. "The 4.7-liter [V-8 engine] is now pumping out 31-percent more ponies, with 302 horsepower at 4600 rpm and 13-percent more torque--329 pounds-feet at 3600 rpm" says Car and Driver, calling it a "Texas-size power upgrade." There is also a V-6 available, notes Edmunds, with a 210-horsepowerer 3.7-liter engine. The former is more cost-effective, but the latter is "better suited for towing."

ConsumerGuide adds that "the V8 comes only with automatic transmission," so anyone looking for a manual V-8 is out of luck. This "five-speed automatic" is "a little rough through its shifts," adds Autoblog. However, the V-6 in this Dodge Dakota 2008 comes with either manual or automatic, says ConsumerGuide. You also have the option of choosing between "rear-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive."

Fuel economy is up about 5 percent compared to 2007, coming in at 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway for the most efficient two-wheel-drive models and at 14/18 mpg for V-8 models with four-wheel drive. (There's no economy gain for staying with the V-6.) Cars.com says "at today's fuel prices this truck just laughs at $20."

As for handling, the Dakota certainly feels more responsive than a full-size crew cab truck. The rack-and-pinion steering is a quick-ratio, and needs only 3.18 turns to go from lock to lock. This means that when you turn the wheel, things happen at the asphalt, but the suspension floats a lot, so you'll never mistake this for a Miata or a Corvette. Car and Driver points out that the Dodge Dakota 2008 does not hold much of an advantage over some of its competitors. Revisions have been made to the springs and shock tuning. The anti-roll bar has also been removed. "As a result, the ride indeed has become fantastically plush, but as you might imagine, turning response has slowed in equal measure." Body roll is obvious. It is also noted that the steering has become dangerously spongy. ConsumerGuide agrees, stating that the body lean is quite obvious when turning corners. However, it is well controlled for a pickup truck. Overall, the ride in the Dodge Dakota 2008 is "smooth and composed in any configuration," though "Some choppiness is apparent over broken surfaces." Even so, "steering has a direct feel and lacks typical truck sloppiness."

While the V-8 engine benefits from fully modern technology (and delivers up to 7,000-pound towing capabilities), the brakes are pure old school: discs in front, drums in the rear with rear-wheel-only anti-lock brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock control is optional. "Braking is solid," adds Cars.com, "with vented discs up front and drums in back, including an anti-lock system."

7

2008 Dodge Dakota

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Dodge Dakota has more storage than most compact trucks and comfortable seating, but its materials lack a high-quality feel.

The 2008 Dodge Dakota has a more spacious interior than many compact trucks, but materials and poor fit and finish aren’t as good as those on some competitors.

"Crew cabs offer three-abreast rear seating, but only two adults will fit comfortably," says ConsumerGuide about the 2008 Dodge Dakota. "Headroom and legroom is adequate for adults under 6 ft, but taller riders will want more legroom," they add, noting that forward-facing jump seats are really targeted toward "those under 5-ft-3 because legroom is scarce." They comment, however, that entering these cramped quarters is made easier by the doors that swing open to a 170-degree angle. “All Dakotas offer comfortable seating and simple controls,” Edmunds states, while Autoblog notes the Dakota’s "comfortable, well-bolstered bucket seats."

Storage inside the 2008 Dodge Dakota and in its bed is ample. “The Quad Cab is the way to go if your truck will serve as a family vehicle, but unfortunately, it has a short 5-foot, 4-inch bed and Dodge offers neither a longer bed length nor a factory bed extender,” Edmunds writes. “Club Cabs have 6-foot, 6-inch beds.” Cars.com calls the Dodge Dakota 2008 model's storage space "average," but ConsumerGuide says the Dodge Dakota has "ample center-console and door-pocket storage." Automobile appreciates the "expanded passenger compartment" and "storage cubbies," while Car and Driver points out the Dakota has "an additional (open) storage bin above the glove box."

The Dakota’s interior wins no awards for fit and finish. “Despite the interior update for 2008, plastics remain low in quality,” Edmunds reports. Autoblog mentions that the dash, center console, and doors are made of "cheap plastic." Car and Driver agrees, saying the Dodge Dakota contains "cheap, hard plastics" and that it is hard to distinguish from old and new models in this regard. ConsumerGuide adds "some controls lack a quality feel" and the "interior materials look and feel budget grade."

However, ConsumerGuide also notes, "road noise is impressively hushed." And while "Some windrush is apparent at highway speeds," Car and Driver agrees that "road and tire noises are kept far from one's ears."

8

2008 Dodge Dakota

Safety

The 2008 Dodge Dakota picks up good crash-test scores from the feds, but private test scores are lower, and many safety features are optional on some models.

Good crash-test results and an adequate number of standard and optional safety features make the 2008 Dodge Dakota one of the safer pickups reviewed by TheCarConnection.com--but there's still room for improvement.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the 2008 Dodge Dakota five out of five stars for frontal and side-impact crashes. In regard to rollover resistance, the Dakota garners four out of five stars. However, the more stringent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Dodge Dakota 2008 only a score of "acceptable" for frontal crashes and "marginal" for side impacts.

Standard safety features on the Dodge Dakota include "antilock brakes" and "curtain side airbags." Optional features for the Dodge Dakota, according to Cars.com, include "four wheel ABS, side impact air bags upfront and curtains front and rear for $640."

Lastly, J.D. Power notes that since the Dodge Dakota 2008 has "the driver sitting high" in the front seat, there is "good outward visibility."

8

2008 Dodge Dakota

Features

The 2008 Dodge Dakota has some innovative features not often found on pickup trucks.

The 2008 Dodge Dakota comes in lightly equipped work versions and plusher luxury versions, as well as with selections from a wide range of cabs and drivetrains.

Kelley Blue Book says the Dakota comes in SLT, TRX, Sport, ST, SXT, and Laramie trims. The variances here are really between transmission type, engine type, and two- or four-wheel drive.

Automedia reports “rough-and-ready TRX editions get new fender flares, bodyside moldings, an accent grille, tow hooks, and black headlight bezels. Sport models are upgraded with unique two-tone fabric seats and chrome textures. Red/black-upholstered seats in the Sport model are particularly striking, flaunting a sporty flair.”

Every Dakota comes standard with cruise control, tilt steering, "CD player, MP3 capability and satellite radio as standard equipment," Cars.com states.

Car and Driver notes additional features, including "stain-resistant fabrics and the MyGIG infotainment system."

Automedia points out useful features, such as the “removable cupholders in the console have modular inserts and a pullout bin for electronic gadgets (including an MP3 player, which can be plugged into the Dakota's audio systems) or a cell phone. Chrysler's UConnect hands-free operation is available, too.”

Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
USED PRICE RANGE
$5,998 - $18,986
Browse Used Listings
in your area
7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
Compare the 2008 Dodge Dakota against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Dodge Dakota?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used