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2008 Dodge Dakota Crew Cab TRX4 V-8 Review - First Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on January 1, 2008
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Photographers: Courtesy Chrysler Corp.

The midsize Dodge Dakota was introduced in 1987, and its "real truck" body-on-frame design, ground-breaking size, and work-ready specifications made it an instant runaway hit with the truck-loving public. Apparently it was such a good vehicle that buyers were willing to overlook its underpowered engines like the ultra-lethargic 125hp carbureted 3.9L six-cylinder engine found in the four-wheel-drive model. Things quickly got better in the power department, though, and over the next several years the Dakota evolved nicely. As a matter of fact, the Dakota earned our Pickup Truck of the Year award in 1992 and 1997.

For 2008, the Dakota continues its evolution with a variety of changes. Dodge trotted out the new Dakota at a press event in Durham, North Carolina, alongside the '08 Viper. This was perfect because the majority of the other Sparco and GForce-wearing journalists made a beeline to the fleet of 600hp Vipers, leaving us truck junkies with an entire fleet of new Dakotas and a contingent of Dakota engineers all to ourselves. Naturally, we spent most of our time with the 4.7L V-8-powered TRX4-equipped Dakota. The TRX4 package includes functional goodies like slush mats, an engine/transmission/transfer-case skidplate, a fuel-tank skidplate, dual front tow hooks, 3.92:1 axle gears, an antispin rear differential, heavy-duty engine cooling, an auxiliary transmission cooler, a power-steering cooler, a 750cca battery, and 16x8 aluminum wheels. So read on for the highlights of the new '08 Dakota, and look for even more information in the March '08 issue when it competes in this year's Pickup Truck of the Year competition.

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Vehicle/model: 2008 Dodge Dakota TRX4
Base price: $30,390
Engine: 4.7L SOHC 16-valve SMPI V-8
Max hp & torque (lb-ft): 302/329
Transmission(s): 5-45RFE five-speed automatic
Transfer case(s): NV233HD (part time), NV244HD (full-time)
Low range ratio: 2.72:1
Frame type: Ladder
Suspension f/r: Independent, upper and lower A-arms, coil springs over gas-pressure shock absorbers, link-type stabilizer bar/Live axle, multileaf two-stage longitudinal springs, staggered gas-pressure shock absorbers
Ring-and-pinion: 3.92:1
Max crawl ratio: 32:1
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion
Brakes f/r: 12.3x1.1 vented rotor, dual-piston sliding caliper/11.6x2.28 drum
Wheels: 16x8 aluminum
Tires: P265/70R16 OWL Rugged Trail
Wheelbase (in): 131.3
Length (in): 218.5
Height (in): 68.7
Base curb weight (lb): 4,782
Approach/departure angles (deg): 21.9/22.6
Minimum ground clearance (in): 7.9
GVWR (lb): 6,010
Max cargo volume (cu. ft.): 37.1 (with rear seat folded)
Max towing capacity (lb): 6,750
EPA mileage figures, city/hwy (mpg): 15/21
Fuel capacity (gal): 22

What's Hot:
New styling, TRX4 package, good fuel mileage, decent power, ample interior space, great capacities, no electronic traction control, competitive price.

What's Not:
Approach angle, ground clearance, slow downshifts, weird transfer-case shift-knob placement.

Our Take:If we had our way, the TRX4 would come with 1-inch-larger tires and a 1-inch suspension lift. This would improve its off-highway capabilities right out of the box. As it stands, the new Dakota has lost almost one degree of approach angle compared to the '07 model, and that model wasn't that great at 22.8 degrees. When compared to the Dakota that won our Pickup Truck of the Year crown in 1997, it has lost almost 10 degrees in approach angle. That aside, there's a lot to like in the new Dakota.

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