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2002 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab

Passenger Front Side View
Craig Perronne
| Brand Manager, Dirt Sports & Off Road
Posted June 1, 2002

Meet Mr. Versatility

Step By Step

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  • Stuffed between the framerails of our Dakota Quad Cab tester was the optional 4.7L V-8. Producing 235 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, it was more than capable of moving the Dakota at a rapid pace.

  • The Dakota we tested came shod with P265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler RT/S tires on 16x8 aluminum wheels. On the highway they are quiet and provide good grip, while on the trail their performance is adequate.

  • Of some annoyance in the dirt was the Dakota’s low height. Here you can see how close this small mound gets to contacting the frame.

  • We were glad to see that the Dakota has front and rear tie-down points. However, they are hidden underneath a plastic cover (not pictured) that we found out the hard way takes a screwdriver to remove. Another lesson that we learned the hard way is that they are too small to fit a tie-down hook into. This dilemma left us trying to figure out how to secure our motorcycles in the bed.

  • The Dakota received an all-new interior in the ’01 model year. A flatter dash and a new instrument cluster freshen up its look.

  • Specs.

Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to trucks. People want to be able to tow, haul, and have enough room for their friends and gear, all in one truck. As manufacturers began to realize that the more versatile a truck is the better it sells, they began to reinvent the pickup to suit the ever-growing needs of the consumer. One of the latest evolutions of the old standard-cab truck is the compact four-door pickup. One of the most versatile we have come across in this newer class is the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab.

So what makes this truck so versatile? A major part of the Dakota’s ability to multi-task is what is found underhood. Powerplant options include a 3.9L V-6, a 4.7L V-8, or a 5.9L V-8. The option of the two bigger engines makes the Dakota the only compact pickup available with a V-8.

Powering our Patriot Blue tester was the 4.7L V-8 that puts out 235 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm. Besides giving the Dakota the ability to tow up to 5,800 pounds, it also makes the Dakota a blast to drive by providing superb acceleration. Power comes on hard and the 4.7L is more than capable of scooting the Dakota along at a rapid pace. We found ourselves looking for, and enjoying, every opportunity to demonstrate the Dakota’s muscle.

Coupled to the 4.7L V-8 in our test unit was the NV3500 five-speed manual transmission that allowed every ounce of power to reach the wheels. While this box doesn’t shift as smoothly as a trans you might find in a sports car, it still allowed us to bang through the gears quickly enough to take advantage of the 4.7L V-8’s ample power. Better yet is that it allowed us to take the 4.7L mill all the way up to 6,000 rpm before the rev limiter kicked in to ruin our fun. A powerful engine combined with a five-speed in a compact truck definitely makes for an exciting driving experience.

Another key part of the Dakota Quad Cab’s versatility is its interior. While the Dakota Quad Cab’s main competition can be found in the compact pickup class, it really is more of a midsize pickup. This extra bit of size shows up in the interior of the Quad Cab, giving the inside of the Dakota plenty of room. Four fullsize adults can actually fit comfortably into the Quad Cab, unlike many of the four-door compact pickups we have tested. Besides being roomy, the seats are comfortable and ergonomics are correct. Another nice feature of the Dodge interior is that there are plenty of storage areas to stow all those loose odds and ends.

>Out on the highway, the Dakota provides a nice, smooth ride. With its suspension a bit on the soft side, the Dakota is able to gobble up all the small ripples, potholes, and other irregularities one normally sees on paved surfaces, without jarring the passengers. While the smooth ride of the Quad Cab is a pleasure, the amount of wind noise that crept into the cab was a bit of an annoyance. At speeds around 60 mph it wasn’t much of an issue but the closer the speedometer crept towards 80 mph, the worse the wind noise became.

The Dakota’s ability to carve through paved mountain roads was a pleasant surprise. Its handling was breathtaking for a truck, as it could be pushed hard through the corners at speeds almost higher than we dared. Aiding the Dakota was the aforementioned ample horsepower and torque, along with its precise and quick rack-and-pinion steering system. Detracting from this so-far impressive driving experience was the marginal performance of its brakes. Standard equipment on the Dakota is rear ABS, which produced some long 60-0 mph stops at the track. Modulating the brakes knocked some feet off of the 60-0 mph distances, but the numbers were still marginal. We would gladly pony up the extra dough for the optional four-wheel ABS system in the hope of producing shorter stopping distances. Once off the pavement and onto dirt roads, on quicker surfaces the Dakota’s soft suspension did a good job of absorbing small bumps, but proved to be too soft to handle bigger impacts. On rougher and much slower trails, the soft suspension is a benefit and did provide a nice ride. Also aiding the Dakota on rough trails is the 4.02:1 First-gear ratio of the NV3500 five-speed manual. The low First gear helped to make for a 38.9:1 crawl ratio, giving the Dakota the ability to creep around.

While the transmission and suspension do a decent job on the trail, there are some sore points. The first one is the Dakota’s relative lack of clearance. This caused the Quad Cab to drag its belly in a lot of places. Smacking the front crossmember is also common, as the Dakota is just too low for exploring the rougher stuff. Another gripe is the lack of any kind of traction aid. This meant that the Dakota is often left hopelessly spinning its tires. The Dakota Quad Cab is not a perfect pickup, but it is one of the most versatile trucks we have come across. The power of the 4.7L V-8 gives it the ability to tow, and it provides gobs of acceleration. Coupling that with a roomy interior and a decent-sized bed makes it a good choice for someone looking for a do-all truck.

Check It Out If:
You want a truck that can perform a wide variety of tasks.
Avoid It If:
You expect the abilities of a fullsize.