- Powerful V-8 available
- Space-saving interior cargo management system
- Full-swing rear doors on extended cab
- Available MyGIG multimedia center
- Just-right dimensions
- Floats through turns
- Lack of standard ABS
- Poor quality is evident
If you need most of a full-size pickup's capabilities but want to be able to get into a parking space or carport, consider the 2009 Dodge Dakota with its available V-8.
To assemble a comprehensive review on the 2009 Dodge Dakota, truck fans here at TheCarConnection.com spent time researching the latest professional reviews from around the Web. TheCarConnection.com's experts also drove different 2009 Dodge Dakota models to publish driving impressions and detailed information.
The 2009 Dodge Dakota is marketed as a mid-size pickup, but its 131.3-inch wheelbase—longer than some full-size pickup trucks—makes it feels much like its full-size brethren. Blame American supersizing for the Dakota's growth spurt if you want, but at least you'll be able to haul quite a bit with that extra space.
For 2009, the Dodge Dakota comes in just two distinct body styles—Extended and Crew Cab—along with four trim levels (down from six last year). Available trims are ST, Big Horn (which sells as the Lone Star in Texas), TRX4, and Laramie. Bed length options are limited solely to a 6.6-foot carrier on extended cab models and a 5.3-foot bed on crew cab four-door trucks. Bed utility is increased on the 2009 Dodge Dakota thanks to built-in cargo boxes in the utility rails.
The mid-size Dodge Dakota, one of just two V-8-powered pickups in the mid-size class, is a rare breed. Dodge fits the Dakota with a 3.7-liter V-6 producing 210 horsepower as standard, but it can also be equipped with an optional 302-hp, 4.7-liter powerplant. The six-cylinder engine comes with a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic, while the 4.7-liter V-8 is mated exclusively to a five-speed auto. Fuel economy is typical for trucks of this size, if not a bit better than average, with both the V-6 and V-8 achieving EPA estimates of 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway in two-wheel-drive models.
With all of the emphasis placed on pumping some life into the engine compartment of the new Dodge Dakota, some basic safety features seem to have been completely overlooked. The engine receives fully modern tech to help it deliver a 7,000-pound tow rating, the its brakes decidedly old school: discs up front, drums at back and anti-lock brakes in the rear only. (Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are available as an option.) Handling is perhaps a bit better than you would expect, thanks to a quick-ratio rack-and-pinion steering setup, but the suspension is prone to excessive floating. However, given the truck's weight (more than 4,500 pounds), you can't expect it to handle like a sports sedan.
Coming off its significant refresh in 2008, the 2009 Dodge Dakota offers few changes. The latest Dodge Dakota still boasts a more angular Nitro-esque exterior that debuted last year that benefits from better gap management, while new fenders completely change the Daokta's profile, which now includes a rear spoiler—a genuine aerodynamic feature.
The 2009 Dodge Dakota also features full-swing rear access doors on Extended Cab versions, which open nearly 170 degrees to facilitate entry and exit, as well as cargo loading into the backseats. 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. Seating is comfortable, especially inside the Laramie and TRX4 models, which feature upgraded seats for 2009. Also increasing interior utility is Dodge's Crate 'N Go system, new for 2009, which features custom removable containers that fit under the rear seat, allowing gear to be organized and contained within the truck without rolling around.
The useful and space-efficient center console design, carried over unchanged from last year, 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. While Detroit automakers have tried to emphasize quality of late, the 2009 Dodge Dakota comes up well short of its competitors, both foreign and domestic, in this department.
2009 Dodge Dakota
The 2009 Dodge Dakota looks the part of a work-ready pickup, which unfortunately means it offers a rather drab interior.
The bold, aggressive Dodge Dakota returns for the 2009 model year sporting the same restyled exterior and upgraded interior, though the internals still draw criticism in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com.
The 2009 Dodge Dakota is a mid-size pickup that Cars.com calls "the perfect size for many truck consumers; it's not too small or too big." It also comes in four trim levels, according to ConsumerGuide, which comprise "base ST, mid-level Big Horn (Lone Star in Texas), off-road-ready TRX4, and top-end Laramie." Despite its mid-size marketing, the Dodge Dakota "looks nearly as big and tough as the full-size Dodge Ram," which is probably due to the fact that "it's the biggest pickup in the midsize class," as Automotive.com points out. Another explanation for the 2009 Dodge Dakota's bulked-up overall appearance is that "Dodge no longer offers a standard cab configuration for the Dakota," according to Edmunds, instead presenting only extended and crew cab models.
Comparing the 2007 and 2009 versions of the Dodge Dakota, Automotive.com notices that, on the latter, "the hood, grille, front fascia, headlights, fenders and rear spoiler have been modified," and "built-in cargo box utility rails have been added." The exterior improvements are welcome, as Car and Driver claims that "the Dakota is one of the tougher entries—in both power and looks—in the compact pickup truck segment." Cars.com notes that the restyling has "hints of the Dodge Rampage concept truck," which gives the Dodge Dakota an "edgier" appearance than previous models. Car and Driver reviewers approve of the change, calling the 2009 Dodge Dakota's face "more fetching, more refined, and decidedly handsomer" than the previous model's.
Interior styling changes are definitely appreciated by reviewers, but this Dodge Dakota still can't compare with the latest imports in this regard. Car and Driver is disappointed to find "lots of hard plastic" dominating the interior, although ConsumerGuide gives the 2009 Dodge Dakota high marks for its controls, which are "logically placed and readily accessible," while the "large gauges are easy to read." Car and Driver is quick to point out some flaws, most notably that the "dreary gray atmosphere" is reminiscent of "Chrysler's recent interior atrocities," but moderating that criticism is the opinion of reviewers at Cars.com, who claim the "squarish and utilitarian" styling helps make "truck guys...feel at home."
2009 Dodge Dakota
V-8 power moves the 2009 Dodge Dakota with authority whether commuting on the highway or pulling heavy loads, but don't plan to zoom around corners.
Thanks to a more powerful V-8 option introduced last year, along with other perky V-6 and V-8 engines, the 2009 Dodge Dakota has impressive performance. However, the Dakota doesn't delight reviewers nearly as much in other aspects of its performance.
Reviewers at Edmunds report that the 2009 Dodge Dakota is available with either a "base 3.7-liter V6 with 210 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque" or an optional "4.7-liter V8 that generates 302 hp and 329 lb-ft of torque." ConsumerGuide attests that "V8 Dakotas have good power in around-town driving, and adequate highway passing reserves," although the V-6-powered Dodge Dakotas "are underpowered for anything but daily commuting and light loads." Automotive.com is a bit easier on the V-6, calling it "a bit light on power," but they add that "the optional V8 is worth every penny." Cars.com appreciates the V-8's power reserves, noting that "maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 7,050 pounds," which is at the top of the Dodge Dakota's class.
There are three possible transmissions for the 2009 Dodge Dakota, all of which fare well with reviewers. Edmunds says that "the V6 is coupled to a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while the V8 drives through a modern five-speed automatic." Cars.com reviewers claim that "the V-6 and manual transmission make a nice pair in the Dakota," and despite the "longish throws," the clutch "engages smoothly and is quickly mastered." Automotive.com adds that "the automatic transmission has perfectly spaced ratios for trucking, and works without complaint, roughness or harshness, even in high-rpm full-throttle upshifts." The only major powertrain change for 2009, according to ConsumerGuide, is that the Dodge Dakota "loses its all-wheel-drive option," leaving consumers with the choice of either four- or front-wheel-drive.
EPA estimates for trucks and SUVs are always a bit depressing, but the 2009 Dodge Dakota isn't the worst of the bunch. According to the EPA, a 2WD Dodge Dakota with the six-speed manual should get 16 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, while the four-speed auto returns a 15/20 mpg rating and the five-speed sits at 14/19 mpg.
As for handling, the Dakota feels marginally more responsive than a full-size crew cab truck. The rack-and-pinion steering has a quick-ratio setup and needs only 3.18 turns to go from lock to lock. This means that when you turn the wheel, there's action on the asphalt, but the suspension floats a lot, so you'll never mistake this for a Miata or a Corvette. Cars.com reports that the Dodge Dakota "steers with light effort thanks to the highly boosted steering system," but "there's not much feedback from the wheel." Car and Driver notes that, due to some chassis revisions, "the ride indeed has become fantastically plush, but as you might imagine, turning response has slowed in equal measure." ConsumerGuide agrees, praising the "smooth and composed" ride but knocking the Dodge Dakota for its "body lean." While the 2009 Dodge Dakota has some worthwhile attributes in the performance category, Car and Driver says that "braking performance leaves a lot to be desired."
2009 Dodge Dakota
Comfort & Quality
The 2009 Dodge Dakota offers storage aplenty but sacrifices quality on the way.
The 2009 Dodge Dakota offers more interior space than nearly all of its competitors, but it falls behind in terms of materials and construction quality.
The two different cab styles of the 2009 Dodge Dakota bring two different seating capacities—according to ConsumerGuide, Extended Cabs "seat up to five," while "three-abreast rear seating" in Crew Cabs helps them "seat up to six." Edmunds reports that the "Dakota's cabin is quite roomy, but even so we strongly recommend moving up to the Quad Cab if you regularly carry four or more adults." ConsumerGuide agrees, noting that "only two adults will fit comfortably" in the back, where "headroom and legroom is adequate for adults under 6 ft, but taller riders will want more legroom."
In terms of utility, the 2009 Dodge Dakota is a true standout. The interior is packed with storage goodies, including Dodge's "under-seat Crate 'N Go storage," according to Cars.com. Edmunds reviewers love the "handy new storage bin over the glovebox," which is perfect for storing electronics, while MyRide.com points out that the Dodge Dakota offers "a plethora of cubbies and nooks." Out back, the utility is diminished somewhat, warns Edmunds, by the fact that the Quad Cab "has a short 5-foot, 4-inch bed and Dodge offers neither a longer bed length nor a factory bed extender."
Aside from inflexible bed length arrangements, another downside to the Dodge Dakota is poor overall quality. ConsumerGuide says that the "interior materials look and feel budget grade," especially the "hard, shiny plastic [that] covers most surfaces." Car and Driver similarly disparages the "hard plastic inside the cabin," while Edmunds reports that "quality remains unimpressive when compared to the segment leaders."
On the positive side, Dodge has managed to craft a surprisingly quiet cabin for the 2009 Dodge Dakota. ConsumerGuide reviewers claim that "road noise is impressively hushed," and Cars.com adds that "the roomy cab is arguably quieter on the road than other compact trucks."
2009 Dodge Dakota
The combination of optional ABS, a lack of electronic stability control, and some low crash-test scores raises some safety concerns for the 2009 Dodge Dakota.
It's rare for TheCarConnection.com to discover serious discrepancies in a vehicle's crash-test ratings, but such is the case with the 2009 Dodge Dakota, which lags in a few other safety departments as well.
In NHTSA tests, the 2009 Dodge Dakota performs about as well as any truck could, earning perfect five-star ratings in both the front and side impact categories. However, the Dodge Dakota also garners some very disappointing marks from the IIHS. The IIHS employs a more stringent safety test, and while their scores usually match up with NHTSA ratings, occasionally a vehicle comes along that aces one test and fails the other. In IIHS testing, the 2009 Dodge Dakota earns an "acceptable" rating for frontal offset impacts, but a "marginal" side impact rating, the second-worst score possible. Perhaps the IIHS was punishing the Dodge Dakota for the fact that it's missing some crucial 21st-century safety gear.
Cars.com reports that the Dodge Dakota "is behind the curve in offering advanced [safety] features," noting that "side curtain airbags are available but not standard," and "four-wheel antilock brakes are optional, not standard." Edmunds does point out that "rear-wheel antilock brakes are standard on the Dodge Dakota," but Cars.com says that "electronic stability control is not available."
Lastly, J.D. Power notes that since the Dodge Dakota 2009 has "the driver sitting high" in the front seat, there is "good outward visibility."
2009 Dodge Dakota
If you're willing to spend some extra dough, you can make your 2009 Dodge Dakota pretty tricked out. And with the available MyGIG system, it's a lot easier to take music on the road.
The 2009 Dodge Dakota is offered in a wide range of trim packages, which vary from utilitarian to downright luxurious.
Standard features on the 2009 Dodge Dakota aren't very noteworthy at the lower levels. Edmunds lists "cloth seats, air-conditioning, a CD player and folding 60/40-split rear seats" among the Dodge Dakota ST's most exciting features. Moving up to the Big Horn brings a bit more in the way of creature comforts, including full power accessories, "cruise control, center console, [and] rear jump seats," according to ConsumerGuide. The TRX4 gets a bit of bodywork, in keeping with its off-road aspirations, while Edmunds says that the Laramie gets "automatic headlights, chrome exterior trim, leather-trimmed bucket seats and premium audio."
When it comes to the Dodge Dakota's features, the options list is where to find the action. Cars.com says that an "Alpine 276-watt, six-CD audio system" is available on the TRX4 and Big Horn, while "Sirius Satellite Radio [is] standard in Laramie and TRX4, available in" Big Horn models. ConsumerGuide adds that the "uconnect multimedia suite," which features Dodge's MyGIG navigation system, is available and includes "traffic information, [an] iPod adapter," Bluetooth wireless cell phone integration, and a hard drive.