Dodge Dakota

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The Dodge Dakota is a mid-size pickup truck that Chrysler first sold in the 1987 model year. In three generations of production, the Dakota has been an also-ran in a class where the Toyota Tacoma is a perennial best-seller, and where the current Nissan Frontier is our choice as the best in class.

The Dakota gave Chrysler a unique pickup truck to market against the compact Ford Ranger, Chevy S-10 and the Toyota and Nissan pickups when it was introduced in 1987. From 1987 to 1996, it was the largest small truck offered in the U.S. if a bit confusing, that meant owners could haul more and tow more without moving into a full-size, quarter-ton truck. The first-generation Dakota came with a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines, rear- or four-wheel drive, and a single cab configuration--though a unique convertible model was sold from 1989 to 1991. Midway through this model life, Dodge added a longer-cab model that still only had two doors, a halfway solution to the Dakota's competition and their four-door models. V-8 engines were added as well, and the Dakota gained a driver-side airbag as standard equipment before its final model run in 1996.

The second-generation Dakota could be spotted easily in showrooms: it adopted some of the fender flares of the bigger Ram pickup, and became the best-looking pickup in its class. Mostly a reskin of the existing truck, the Dakota's new look was joined by some uprated powertrains. A four-cylinder engine borrowed from Jeep had carried over to the new model; the truck's outdated V-6 and V-8 engines were replaced in 2000 with new versions still in production in some form today. The 4.7-liter and 5.7-liter V-8s were coupled to four-speed automatics, while other engines could be had with a five-speed manual transmission. The big news came with the addition of a Quad Cab model, a true four-door, in the 2000 model year. A new interior arrived in 2001; the four-cylinder's last year was in 2002. The final year of this body style came in 2004. During this generation, Chrysler also introduced the Dodge Durango, a mid-size SUV that shared much of the Dakota's platform.

In its third generation, the Dakota stepped back from its curvy influences and took on more straight-edged styling. Still riding on the same platform and offering the same V-6 and V-8 engines, the Dakota grew a few inches longer and received a new suspension design. Engines included a 3.7-liter V-6 and a pair of 4.7-liter V-8s, one with 230 horsepower and one with 260 hp. A six-speed manual is offered on the six-cylinder, and for a time could be ordered on the lower-output V-8. Otherwise, Dodge offered four- and five-speed automatics. Body styles included only an extended-cab two-door and a four-door Club Cab Dakota.

The same truck received more V-8 power, some interior upgrades and an optional package of flexibility features for its pickup bed in the 2008 model year.  power rose to a maximum of 302 hp, and towing capacity grew to more than 7000 pounds.

Dodge ended production of the Dakota in the 2011 model year. Chrysler has proposed building a smaller unibody pickup truck in the past, but the future of any project and of a continuation of the Dakota name is in limbo.

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