Dodge, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2009 Dodge Dakota TRX / SLT Crew Cab V-8 4X4 – Road Test

The fourth-generation Dodge Dakota continues along the same vein as previous models: bigger than a compact truck (Ford Ranger/Mazda B Series), but not quite as large as a full-size truck (Dodge Ram/Ford F-150 etc.).

With each succeeding generation, Dodge have made the Dakota better and better with more content, while at the same time resisting the urge to make it bigger and more luxurious. That’s not to say the Dakota is a stark, bare-bones pickup truck – far from it! Considering the best selling vehicles (up until the middle of 2008) in North America were the Chevy/GMC 1500 and the Ford F-150, one has to ask themselves: Do so many people work in construction or haul trailers that we really need so many large trucks on the road today?

When the vast majority of them have a driver as the lone occupant and the bed empty without so much as a paint scratch, I always wonder if I’m surrounded by a bunch of Urban Cowboys. Are they wanna-be macho men that really should be driving a Smart Fortwo because they certainly don’t use the truck for what it was designed and built? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen the need to have a pickup unless there was a purpose behind it.

First Impressions
So why did I spend a week driving around in a Dodge Dakota TRX / SLT with a Magnum V-8 engine under the hood? I can assure you I didn’t feel I needed a boost to my manhood – even though I’ve been inundated with emails asking me if I was happy with a certain part of my body! No, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was my turn to sit in the left lane with my blinker on – completely oblivious to everything around me! Actually though, that’s not true, I did have a spare week with nothing to haul from the home improvement store to the construction site, so what could be more perfect for a road test?

Getting into the Dakota was no more difficult than most SUV’s considering the test vehicle had the optional 18″ wheels and tires. It was certainly a lot easier for me than a full-size truck like the Toyota Tundra or Dodge Ram that I’d previously driven. Bearing in mind that I’m vertically-challenged at 5′ 7″, the Dakota was the perfect fit for me. Adjusting the power seat – simple enough, and I was glad it had lumbar adjustment (although it was a poor rendition), because I think it definitely needs it. One gripe I had was the seating position in relation to the steering wheel. The wheel tilts but doesn’t telescope. I always felt too close to the wheel, but when I moved the seat back I was too far away from the brake pedal. Power adjustable pedals are standard – or at least optional on most Chrysler vehicles so I’d look into that if I were to purchase or lease a Dakota.Paw Plunger - PTalk

The instrumentation is a pleasing silver colour – simple and very legible. Starting the Dakota, I was expecting the usual rumble from the Magnum V-8 that I’d experienced in the Charger SRT8, but it was actually very muted. Setting off onto the city streets I was shocked by how civilized the ride was. Usually you get a firm and bumpy ride with a 4×4 pickup, but the Dakota was more akin to an SUV. I was always anticipating the tail end to step out – typical of any pickup with an empty box – but only once did I get a little bit of a wiggle, and that was on a snow-covered road.

Entering the freeway, the power delivery was smooth – certainly not neck-breaking like I’d experienced in the Charger SRT8. Shifts from the 5-speed automatic were equally as smooth and uneventful. There is a sensation that your speed is much slower than you’re actually traveling. While traveling at speeds above the posted limit, the Dakota is very quiet and civilized even with the big tires.

The Dakota’s size is perfect for commuting and driving in city traffic. It’s much easier to maneuver in traffic jams than the much larger Ram pickup truck. One serious concern I had was the fuel gauge. You can almost see it move as you drive! The trip from Chrysler to my home is 40 miles [66kms] and the fuel gauge went from full to 3/4 in that short trip. Aghast at the rate that the Dakota was gulping fuel, I filled the tank to a tune of $23 (5.6 gallons /21.5 litres)!! After re-setting the trip computer I got 86 miles [144 kms] before the needle dropped back to the same 3/4 mark, so obviously the tank wasn’t full even though the gauge indicated it was! The original trip worked out to be a deplorable 7.5 mpg [32.5 L/100km], whereas the second almost identical mix of highway and city driving yielded a much better average of 14 mpg [16.4 L/100km].

The Dakota TRX/SXT comes with an AM/FM/Satellite radio/6-disc CD changer. The sound is quite good and the head unit offers the convenience of an auxiliary input for connecting an MP3 player. The centre console that divides the front bucket seats also has a pull-out compartment for holding said MP3 player or a mobile phone. Storage compartments abound throughout the Dakota. From the large center console with an upper and lower compartment area (the lower section is almost big enough to hold a laptop computer), along with an armrest, to the large door pockets in each of the four doors. The very small glovebox is basically useless if you leave the owner’s manual there because it fills it entirely.

The Dakota’s fit and finish is very good with quality plastics used throughout the interior. Even though black dominated the interior, it never felt dull or claustrophobic. Entry and exit is very easy thanks to the large grab handles on the A-pillars. However, entry to the rear is an entirely different matter. With no grab bar/handles of any kind (what was Dodge thinking?), you have to use the front seat headrest to help you get in. Although the rear door opens 170 degrees, the narrow footwells and bolstered seats make it far more complicated than is necessary. Without a doubt – get step bars for your rear passengers if you get one of these trucks! Exiting the rear is much easier – just swing your legs out and drop to the ground.

Sitting in the rear seat, I found it very upright with a firm but comfortable seat cushion. There is virtually no foot space under the front seats because of the power seat motor. Knee room is acceptable as long as the driver is on the short side. Anyone sitting behind a 6-foot plus driver might best be advised to sit in the truck bed!! Although billed as a 5-seater, the rear is best suited to just two passengers. For transporting cargo inside the cab, the Dakota has the convenience of a flip up seat cushion that splits 60/40 so that items don’t have to sit on the seat. Used this way, the Dakota has plenty of room inside for cargo.

Safety and Standard Equipment:
Front Air bags, Rear Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Anti-theft Engine Immobilizer, Tire Pressure Warning, Air Conditioning, Engine Block Heater, Fog Lamps, Front stabilizer Bar, Full-size Spare, Pre-wired Towing Harness.

The Conclusion
The size of the Dakota is perfect for those that don’t need a full-size pickup. Being larger than a compact pickup is a huge bonus and let’s not forget the optional V-8 engine. No one else offers a V-8 unless it’s a full-size truck. Towing capacity is on par with full-size trucks. I still don’t get the obsession with people buying these trucks – or any truck for that matter unless it is being used for actual work or towing. There is no real advantage over full-size when it comes to fuel economy and the compact trucks are the same if not worse than full-size trucks in that department. For those that will use the Dakota to its fullest potential – it’s a terrific truck.

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Basic 3 years/36,000 miles [60,000 kms] plus a Lifetime Powertrain warranty – Canada gets a 5 year /100,000 kms Powertrain warranty. 3 years 24 hour Road Side Assistance is also included.
Towing capacity 7,050 lbs

Pricing for the 2009 Dodge Dakota TRX/SLT 4X4:
As tested: $33,140 [$41,490 Cdn]
Base Price: $27,590 [$36,896 Cdn].
Destination & Delivery: USA – $690 / Canada – $1,499

Fuel Consumption: [Premium Fuel – 91 Octane]
The 4.6 Litre Flex Fuel V-8 is rated at 15.6 mpg City [15.6 L/100 kms] and 22.5 mpg Highway [10.8 L/100 kms]. I averaged 14.8 mpg [16.4 L/100 kms]

Just the right size
Very quiet and comfortable
Good towing vehicle, especially with the segment-only V-8.
There are probably good deals out there right now

If you order the moon roof you lose the side curtain airbags
Is a V-8 really necessary?
Very poor turning radius – on par with a school bus
No audio controls on the steering wheel at this price
List price is a bit steep

Back Seat Driver Test: 4 out of 10
Difficult entry because of the narrow foot well and lack of help handles. Everyone that tried it hated it.

Immediate Competition:
The Crew Cab V-8 doesn’t have any completion. The closest it has is the 5-cylinder Chevy Canyon /GMC whatever.
The Ford Ranger and Mazda B Series are compact and don’t offer 4 doors. Toyota and Nissan have 4-door compact versions but top out at V-6 engines.

By The Numbers…
2009 Dodge Dakota TRX/SLT 4X4
Powertrain: 4.7 Litre Flex Fuel (E-85 Compatible) Magnum V-8 engine; 5-speed automatic transmission, 4WD.
Horsepower: 302 @ 5,650 rpm
Torque: 329 @ 3,950 rpm

10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
8 – Special Features (Heated Seats/ Sunroof etc)

10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
9 – Front Roominess
6 – Rear Roominess
8 – Driving Position/Controls

6 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
9 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
7 – Bang for the $$
7 – Fuel Economy

Total 115 / 150

Copyright © 2008 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland & Dodge

Also Published at: PaddockTalk

This entry was posted in: Dodge, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles


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