Review: 2006 Dodge Dakota

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The Manufacturer

The Dakota has come a long way since its debut for the 1987 model year, but it still holds true to its mission as a just-right alternative to traditional compact and full-size pickups. As it has done with the Caravan and Grand Caravan, Dodge has burned the midnight oil to give the Dakota an edge in the marketplace. Options like V-8 power and full-time four-wheel drive make it an ideal choice for the buyer with greater towing and hauling needs, but for whom the brute force of a Ram 1500 would be overkill.

The Dakota has additional appeal for large drivers who don't want a full-size vehicle. Adding further appeal is a seven-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, among the industry's best on a pickup. As with all pickup truck families, there's some variance in the ownership cost value based on body and powertrain combinations, so be sure to research the trends identified by IntelliChoice to assist in your final purchase decision. Shoppers should test drive a Toyota Tacoma, as well, also redesigned for 2005. Slightly smaller, the Tacoma offers similar variations, a bit more refinement throughout the line, and a higher IntelliChoice Ownership Cost Value Rating.

With big-truck power and utility combined with a small-truck sticker price, the Dakota stands tall amid other recently revitalized compact trucks that have grown close in scale and ability.

What's Hot

  • New model variants
  • More frugal, nimble than a full-size truck
  • Two V-8s and full-time 4WD; 7,150-lb towing

    What's Not

  • 4.7L performance trails others' V-6
  • High-output V-8 requires premium fuel
  • Material, assembly quality could be better

    Four new performance models expand the Dakota range for 2006, both on road and off: TRX, TRX4 Off-Road, R/T, and Night Runner. The big noise for the interior comes from new sound systems with an auxiliary input and an available sunroof.

    Depending on trim level and cab style, Dakota buyers can opt for such creature comforts as 16-inch aluminum wheels, heated leather seating surfaces, and the subscription-based Sirius satellite radio. On the safety front, two-row side-curtain airbags are available, as is an anti-slip rear differential and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Option packages include a skid-plate group for those with serious off-road intentions and a Class IV towing package, which includes hitch, wiring harness, heavy-duty engine cooling, auxiliary transmission cooler, and a power steering cooler, as well as dual 6x9-inch folding heated mirrors.

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