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2006 Dodge Dakota

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San Francisco:  Dodge created the mid-size pickup class in the spring of 1986 when they introduced the 1987 Dakota. Up until then there were two choices if you wanted a pickup truck. A full size truck like the Dodge Ram, F-150, and Chevrolet / GMC half tons, or compact trucks like those from Toyota or Nissan, plus Dodge had the D Ram 50, which was a rebadged Mitsubishi.

The creation of the Dakota was a gamble at the time. Was there really a need for a mid-size pickup? Yes, and Dodge was on the money. The Dakota was a success right from the start, filling the gap for those that needed more carrying capacity than the mini-trucks provided, while still small enough to be easily maneuverable. In 1997 the Dakota was completely redesigned, and in 2005 the current design debuted.

Dodge wisely chose to incorporate a family resemblance in the new Dakota, which gives the mid-size truck a bigger, more aggressive look reminiscent of its full-sized sibling, the Dodge Ram Pickup Truck. There are three distinct Dakota models, the ST, SLT, and Laramie. Each is available with 4x2 or 4x4, Club Cab, or Quad Cab. In addition there are four trim packages available. Now there is a Dakota for just about everyone.

The TRX (on 4x2 models) has unique 5-spoke, 16-inch aluminum wheels, Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires, tow hooks, limited-slip differential, and a TRX decal on the cargo box.  TRX4 Off-Road is available on the SLT and Laramie 4x4 models, which adds painted shocks, increased ride height, skid plates, slush mats, heavy-duty service package, and adds a TRX4 Off-Road decal on the cargo box to the equipment of the TRX list.

The R/T Dakota is based on the SLT and comes with a 4.7-liter V8, 17-inch aluminum wheels, hood scope, sport appearance package, body color grille surround, chrome exhaust tip, and special R/T interior appointments. The Night Runner model is based on the SLT and comes with black chrome grille surround, 17-inch black chrome wheels, sport appearance package, and specific Night Runner touches.

I drove a Dakota SLT Quad Cab 4x2, equipped with the base 3.7-liter, SOHC, 12-valve V6, and four speed automatic transmission. The Dakota has a wheelbase of 131.3 inches and an overall length of 218.8 inches regardless of Club Cab or Quad Cab, or 4x2 or 4x4. The difference is in the length of the box, which on the Club Cab is 6.4 feet versus 5.3 feet on the Quad Cab. The Quad is the way to go if you regularly carry more than one passenger; it has seating for three in the back seat, two in total comfort, whereas the Club will seat three but there is less legroom.

The driversí area is comfortable and appeared logically laid out. The controls were where they should have been, and they were man-sized (or glove-sized). Trucks especially should have controls that are easy to use when wearing gloves.

The back seat is comfortable although the seat back is a bit too upright for me. I spent a fair amount of time riding in the back seat of my brother-in-lawís 2005 Dakota while on vacation and I would have like a slightly reclined seat back.

The V6 is adequate with 210 hp and 235 lb.-ft of torque. The V6 can be mated to either a 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. I drove the automatic. The plus side of the V6 is fuel economy, 17-city and 22-highway with the automatic, slightly lower with the manual. Load capacity varies depending on trim but figure around 1500 lbs. for a 4x2 model. Towing capacity with the V6 hits a high of 4,900 lbs. with an optional 3.92:1 rear axle ratio.

If you need more oomph there are two optional V8s available, the 230 hp, 4.7-liter; and the High Output, 260 hp 4.7-liter. The V8s are available with either the 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission.

The Dakota I drove was a pleasant enough pickup truck. One big advantage of mini- and mid-size trucks is that the box is an easy reach. For me this is not usually a problem, but for my dog jumping into some of the behemoths I drive itís hard and I have to help her. With the Dakotaís low 31.9-inch tailgate load height itís an easy jump. If you have ever loaded books of sheetrock into a four-foot high pickup bed, you know what I am talking about.

A lot of people buy pickup trucks instead of cars, people like my brother-in-law. They feel safer, because they sit up higher with a better view and command of the road, instead of being down low with everyone else.

The Dakota is a good choice for those who want a pickup truck but do not want to move up to the hard to park full-size trucks. You do not need a stepladder to get into the Dakota either, which is a blessing for those of us who are getting older.

Price is a big attraction for the Dakota too. The lowest price Dakota is a ST Club Cab 4x2 at just $18,790, while the highest price is the Laramie Quad Cab 4x4 at $29,510. You can drive the price up with options and special packages but these are very decent and very competitive prices to start with.

The 2006 Dodge Dakota pickup, a mid sized truck at a mid sized price.  By Bruce Hotchkiss   © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 Now there is a Dakota for just about everyone
 The 2006 Dodge Dakota Pickup Truck
Word Count:  
Photo Caption: 
 The 2006 Dodge Dakota Pickup Truck
Photo Credits:  
Dodge Internet Media
Series #:   2005 - 63

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