- Available V-8 power
- Full-swing rear doors (extended cab)
- Interior cargo management system
- Electronics integration
- Exterior size
- Mushy handling
- Four-wheel ABS optional
- Quality issues
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 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.
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.