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2008 4x4 Of The Year Contestants

Drivers Side View
Fred Williams
| Brand Manager, Petersen’s 4Wheel & Off Road
Posted February 1, 2008
Contributors: Rick Péwé

The Dodge Dakota has a new 4.7L V-8 dropping just over 300 horses and 320 lb-ft of torque, and a redesigned styling that really makes it an appealing midsize truck. Of course it's hard to argue that a small truck with a V-8 isn't alluring, and Dodge has built a truck that on paper looks very good. The frame is fully box and hydroformed, it is available with either an extended cab or crew-cab, and it uses a 9.25-inch ring gear in the rear axle.

Since we were testing the TRX4 off-road package, it was outfitted with a rear limited-slip differential, some basic skidplates, a shift-on-the-fly part-time transfer case, and a stainproof interior with cloth seats. One of the really neat features now offered is a small tab on the inside of the tailgate bed jamb that allows you to lock the tailgate half-open so that it sits at about 45 degrees and offers more room to haul long items like lumber, yet keeps the object tilted so it will stay in the truck.

Unfortunately, staying in the truck was not a priority for our judges; most found the interior ultra basic and uncomfortable. Street and highway driving felt like the engine could easily move the truck, and having the controls on the steering wheel for items like cruise was a bonus for one judge, but the overall appeal of the interior was low amongst our drivers. One redeeming trait of the Dakota was its useful storage room. The back seats fold to reveal little folding crates for storing items and carrying stuff from the truck. Plus interior space has cubbies and places for cell phones while the bed has a liner and tie-downs perfect for hauling tons of gear.

Once we headed off road the Dakota earned itself a solid Fair in the ratings of Poor, Fair, or Impressive. The long, low body made it hard to impossible for rockcrawling, the hillclimb required some momentum, and the trail obstacles were possible but not confidence-inspiring. The V-8 engine was capable in the high-speed sections and sand, but didn't impress as much when compared to the two fullsize trucks on the test. Plus, the suspension was rough riding and the lightweight rearend allowed it to oversteer and send the tail out sideways.

Again we found ourselves testing a fine truck, but not the most capable 4x4. If you need a truck for hauling light stuff, then you should definitely look at the Dakota. But if you are looking for a 4x4 pickup for small trails, this is not the best option.

* V-8 power in a small truck
* New styling
* * Cubbies and tie-downs

* Carlike clearance and off-road performance
* Too much wheelbase
* Not enough skidplates

* Too long and low for off-road yet nice power for hauling


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Manufacturer Dodge
Model Dakota TRX4
Base Price $29,745
Price as Tested $33,050
Options as Tested Customer Preferred
Package 26T (Trailer Tow Group, Premium Sound Group, multispeed overdrive automatic transmission, 4.7L V-8, under-the-rail box bedliner)
Type V-8 SOHC 16-valve, Dual Plug
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 4.7/287
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.66x3.40
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel
  injection, electronic throttle control (ETC)
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.)
  87 or E85/22
SAE Peak Horsepower 302 @ 5,650 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 329 @ 3,950 rpm
Type Five-speed automatic
Model 545 RFE
Ratios First: 3.00:1; Second: 1.67:1
Third: 1.00:1; Fourth: 0.75:1; Fifth: 0.67:1; Reverse: 3.00:1
Type Two-speed, part-time
  electronic shift-on-the-fly
Model NV233
Low-range Ratio 2.72:1
Front Type Independent, 205 mm
Rear Type Solid, 9.25 in, Anti-Spin
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.92:1
Front Independent, coilover shock
Rear Leaf spring
Type Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3/17.3:1
Turning Circle (feet) 43.3
Size (inches) 16x8.0
Material Cast-aluminum
Size P265/70R16
Brand BFGoodrich Rugged Trail TA
Front Disc
Rear Drum
60-0 (feet) 170.76
Standing 1/4-mile  
(seconds @ mph) 16.79 @ 83.28
WEIGHT (pounds)  
Curb Weight 4,770
Advertised GVWR 6,010
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 14/19
As Tested (mpg) 14.2
Wheelbase 131.5
Overall Length 219
Overall Width 86.75
Overall Height 68.5
Front/Rear Track 63.25/63
Front/Rear Overhang 39.5/50.5
Min. Front Ground Clearance 7.5
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