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The Dodge Dakota provided a solid place for Dodge in the American auto industry. The Dakota had a great blend of unique style, power, and affordability. More specifically, it was a great midsize truck for those who needed power but didn't need the full-sized priced tag and fuel consumption. The midsize pickup has seen its share of hard times but it is one of the most recognized trucks.
In 1987, Chrysler introduced a midsize pick-up that combined the quick handling and fuel economy of a compact pickup with the hauling capability of a full-sized pickup. They kicked off this adventure with the Dodge Dakota. The Dodge Dakota has always been sized above the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-10 but below the bigger full-sized pickups. It was designed with a body-on-frame construction which mounted the separate body to the rigid frame. The Dodge Dakota also used rack-and-pinion steering which was a first for work trucks.
The Dakota started off with a square, unadorned look but eventually transformed into a stylish pick up for the contemporary driver. One of the most out of the ordinary Dakota editions was the convertible model released in 1989 but sales did not reach high enough levels to continue production.
The Dodge Dakota was discontinued in 2011 due to decreasing popularity of small to midsize trucks in North America as well as declining sales. Dodge does not have any plans to reintroduce the Dakota or a similar model.
The most recent Dakota unveiled at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show. It received a new exterior and interior facelift including built-in cargo-box utility rails, heated bench seats and the largest standard bed and midsize truck cab in its class. The standard engine remained the 3.7-liter V-6 but there was an option of a new 4.7-liter, V-8 engine that produced 302 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque.
This midsize pickup truck had several options for engine size. The first option was a four-cylinder with single overhead camshafts (SOHC), a fuel injection fuel delivery system, and choice of either 2.2-liter or 2.5-liter. The 2.2-liter option produced approximately 97 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque while the 2.5-liter produced approximately 100 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque. There was a second, larger option that gave the owner a choice of a 3.9-liter V-6 that had an output of 125 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque.
In 1988 Dodge offered a Sport package Dakota that came in Black, Bright White or Graphic Red, two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, and the 3.9-liter V-6 engine with fuel injection. There were also several new luxury options such as a center armrest bench seat, color-keyed leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, dual remote control outside mirrors, and unique body side tape stripes among others.
The second generation came with a straight-four, V-6, or a 5.2-liter V-8 engine and a choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The V-8 engine had an output of 170 horsepower and was allowed to be an option because of a new grille and hood that extended the engine compartment. Also new to this generation was the six-bolt wheels which replaced the five-bolt in an attempt to differentiate the Dakota from competing manufacturers and the new Ram. An optional passenger side air bag was introduced in 1991 and made standard in 1994.
As with the grille and engine hood, the headlights also got revamped. The classic square sealed beam glass headlamps were replaced with the aerodynamic molded plastic headlamps. There was also a choice of either a six-foot or eight-foot bed. The 1994 model saw had a SLT PowerWagon option that came with a 242 V-6 Magnum engine capable of producing 245 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.
The third generation Dakota was built from 1997 until 2004 and had a major overhaul to its appearance despite staying relatively the same under the hood. The third generation still offered the 2.5-liter AMC or 425 OHV, 3.9-liter Magnum V-6 and 5.2-liter Magnum V-8. The R/T model was introduced in 1998 that featured the big 5.9L 250 horsepower Magnum V-8 engine. The four-door "Quad-Cab" models were introduced in 2000 and they came with a 63.1 inch bed but still used the Club Cab (two-door) wheel base of 130.9 inches. The 5.2-liter Magnum V-8 was replaced with a new 4.7-liter SOHC PowerTech V-8 that produced approximately 230 horsepower.
In 2001 the interior received an extensive redesign to the dash, door panels, and seats. In 2002 the four-cylinder, 2.5-liter engine was discontinued and in 2004 the only engines that were offered were the new 3.7-liter PowerTech V-6 or the 4.2-liter Powertech V-8.
The fourth generation was the last as the Dakota was discontinued in 2011. The redesigned 2005 Dakota shared its platform with the new Durango SUV. This model was 3.7 inches longer and 2.7 inches wider. The five lug wheels replaced the six lug design, the front and rear suspension was redesigned as well as the rack-and-pinion steering. The 3.7-liter PowerTech V-6 and the 4.2-liter Powertech V-8 engines were still offered but this generation also included a high output V-8 that gave 260 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.