When it comes to searching for the perfect combination of light-duty hauling capability and carlike ride and handling, Dodge has been in a unique position since the company introduced the first midsize Dakota pickup back in 1987. All-new and totally redesigned for 2005, the current Dakota has three strong engine options and aggressive styling that ensures all your neighbors will know you drive a Dodge truck.
A hydroformed fully boxed frame provides eight times more torsional rigidity than the previous design, and an all-new coil-over front suspension and power rack and pinion steering lend the platform a nimble, carlike feel. A hydroformed fully boxed frame provides eight times more torsional rigidity than the previous design, and a coil-over front suspension and rack and pinion steering lend the platform a nimble, carlike feel.
The standard engine is a 3.7-liter V6 that pumps out a respectable 210 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque. The 2006 Dodge Dakota can also be had with 4.7-liter V8 for those who need more pulling power. Two versions of the V8 are available. The first puts out 230 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque while the optional high-output version is capable of 260 hp and 310 lb-ft. Transmission choices include a four-speed automatic, a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. Dodge also gives potential buyers two distinctly different four-wheel-drive options, either a traditional part-time 4x4 transfer case with high and low range, or optional first-in-class full-time four-wheel drive that ensures traction in just about any situation.
The standard club cab comes equipped with four doors, forward-facing rear seats and a 6-foot-6 bed, while the quad cab model utilizes four full-size doors and a 5-foot-4 bed. A large crosshair grille is prominently affixed to the front of the truck, followed by the familiar dropped-fender look popularized by the previous-generation Ram and Dakota. The lines of the Dodge truck are kept sharp for a more aggressive look, and extensive wind-tunnel development makes this one of the most aerodynamically efficient pickups ever built.
The refinement continues inside, where form is emphasized just as heavily as function. Both cab configurations offer the most interior space in their class, and the rear seats flip up to reveal built-in storage trays for added convenience. The interior was designed for comfort, and options like heated cloth or leather seats, steering wheel audio controls and satellite radio make the Dodge Dakota more carlike than ever.
The Dakota is not without fault. A long bed isn't offered, for instance, and the truck's interior has an overabundance of cheap plastics. In addition, we've found that in real-world usage the base V8 is actually outclassed by the big V6s offered by the competition. This puts it at a disadvantage overall when compared to the refined Tacoma or the feature-packed Frontier. But overall, the 2006 Dodge Dakota is a solid midsize truck that's easy to drive on a daily basis. It's perfect for American truck fans who need four doors and the room of a sedan in addition to a pickup bed to haul gear around.
The midsize 2006 Dodge Dakota is available in two body styles. The extended cab (called Club Cab) has rear-opening access doors and a 6-foot-6 bed, while the more spacious crew cab (called Quad Cab) has four full-size doors and a 5-foot-4 bed. There are three trim levels: ST, SLT and Laramie. The ST comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, a CD player and a cloth interior. The SLT adds alloy wheels, chrome bumpers, a split-fold feature for the rear bench seat and power windows, mirrors and door locks. The high-line Laramie adds automatic headlights, leather seating and steering wheel audio controls. Option groups include the TRX package, which provides off-road tires, monotube shocks and tow hooks; 4WD models also get a taller ride height, limited-slip differential, shorter rear axle ratio and skid plates. The R/T package includes 17-inch chrome wheels, a hood scoop and various exterior detailing. The Night Runner package features a blacked-out exterior color theme.
Inside, the driving position feels much more carlike than you'd expect, with simple, easy-to-reach controls. Aluminum trim and white-faced gauges give the cabin some style, but materials quality is unimpressive next to the refined Tacoma. Cabins are spacious, but the Crew Cab is a must if you're carrying four adults.
Three engine options are available on the Dodge Dakota: a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, a 4.7-liter V8 that produces 230 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque, and a high-output 4.7 that cranks out 260 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The V6 takes either a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic, while V8 models are available with the manual or a five-speed automatic. A first-in-class full-time four-wheel-drive system is also offered in addition to the usual 2WD and part-time 4WD configurations. Towing capacity is 7,150 pounds with the high-output V8.
The 2006 Dodge Dakota is very quiet inside at any speed, with plenty of insulation from wind and road noise. The exhaust emits just a hint of a grumble, which turns into a throaty roar when you stomp on the go-pedal in V8-equipped Dakotas. Both V8s are suitable for towing and hauling, although the V6s from Nissan and Toyota are just as strong. The chassis feels very stable, and while the ride is a bit taut, it soaks up ruts and bumps with ease. The Dakota is also tight and responsive in the corners.
Rear-wheel ABS is standard on the Dakota truck; four-wheel ABS is optional. Passive safety features include standard multistage front airbags, optional side curtain airbags and an electronic accident response system. In NHTSA crash testing, the 2006 Dodge Dakota received 5 stars for driver and four stars for front passenger protection in frontal impacts.
Only a year after a complete redesign, the 2006 Dodge Dakota has undergone a number of changes. Among the updates are a new optional sunroof, upgraded audio systems with a jack for portable music players, extended-cab rear doors that open nearly 180 degrees and a revised four-speed automatic transmission that improves fuel economy on V6 models. New packages this year include the TRX with unique wheels and off-road tires, the R/T with a high-output V8 and appearance package, and the Night Runner that features unique blacked-out paint treatment.