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Fuel economy is unchangedCars.com »
The Dakota's biggest asset is its freshened SOHC 4.7-liter V-8Car and Driver »
Steering has a direct feel and lacks typical truck sloppinessConsumerGuide »
Dakota has some substantial improvements to its mechanical layoutAutomobile »
PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Fuel economy is unchanged
The Dakota's biggest asset is its freshened SOHC 4.7-liter V-8
Car and Driver
Steering has a direct feel and lacks typical truck sloppiness
Dakota has some substantial improvements to its mechanical layout
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."
The 2008 Dodge Dakota has a smooth ride and good power with the V-8, but fuel economy and handling are trucklike.