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There's a lot to recommend on the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4[Symbol Not Transcribed] [times]4. Sure, it's officially rated a compact pickup, but that's someone's idea of a joke. The Dakota Quad Cab looks, feels, and certainly sounds like a full-size truck. Fitted - as our tester was - with the optional 4.7-litre Magnum V8, the Dakota also accelerates and passes like the big boys, with the 230-hp/290 lb-ft more than doing the job (the 5.9-litre Magnum has been discontinued for 2004, and was in any case redundant).
Starting with living space, the front of the cab has none of the claustrophobic feel of earlier compact trucks. We had the SLT Plus version with leather seats, and like larger trucks, ours had a large centre console with plenty of open and concealed storage, as well as an overhead console (temperature, HomeLink, trip computer, map lights, etc.) and roomy door pockets.
In the back, you don't have the gaping space found in today's full-size crew cabs, but there was more than room enough for three kids. Dodge bills the Dakota Quad Cab as the roomiest interior in its class, and certainly two good size adults would be comfy for a long haul. Getting in and out is a breeze thanks to four full-size doors.
Unless you take advantage of the 60/40 folding rear seats, there is no real interior cargo space, which is not surprising. Fortunately, our bed was lined and protected with a soft tonneau cover, and thus stored all our family gear (including two bikes) for a weekend away.
Of course, the SLT Plus was loaded with almost every option you could ask for in a truck, large or small, including 6-CD player with eight very loud Infinity speakers (not just the exhaust note sounds like a big truck), power seats, remote entry, cruise/tilt, full electric package, AC, fog lamps, etc. Icing the cake is the fact that the Dakota Quad Cab is a good-looking truck.
Throw in the towing package - and you'll want to since the Dakota can tow up to 6 600 lb (6 100 for the Quad Cab) - and our top-of-the-line tester priced out at just over $41 000, or similar to a base full-size model. The price range has something for everyone, however, from around $22 000 for a regular cab 4[Symbol Not Transcribed] [times]2, to under $30 000 for the Quad Cab 4[Symbol Not Transcribed] [times]4 that would be the standard forestry model. Certainly you can get a nicely dressed Quad Cab 4[Symbol Not Transcribed] [times]4 V8 model in the mid 30s.
The Quad Cab rides smoothly both in town and on the highway - not quite as stable as its big brother, but smoother than many SUV's on the market, and more relaxing to drive around town than full-size pick-ups. Its stability and handling also inspire more confidence at higher speeds than many SUV's out there, and visibility is superb. Acceleration with the V8 is good, and for 2004 even the standard V6 has been given a big lift - new models sport a 210-hp Magnum V6 vs. 175 ponies in 2003.
Our tester had Dodge's new dash-mounted 4[Symbol Not Transcribed] [times]4 shift control knob, which is a vast improvement over the cumbersome floor shifter. It quickly moves between N, 4LO, 4HI, and AWD, and unlike some other reviewers, we did not find low-speed handling adversely affected by riding in AWD. In fact the rack-and-pinion steering was quick, responsive, and the turning radius was tight given the fact that this is a Quad Cab after all. Off-road you should be able to take this any place you take your Ram 1500 4[Symbol Not Transcribed] [times]4, and perhaps with even fewer complications given its relatively nimble handling. An anti-spin rear differential and skid plates are available, as is an array of warranty-covered Mopar accessories, like light racks and bush bars.
The only two drawbacks in what is otherwise an excellent, versatile, and relatively affordable truck involve stopping. Braking, at least in our tester, was just adequate, although the ABS worked well. And you will be braking often - at least as far as gas stations are concerned. Our V8 averaged 16.4 litres per 100 km over some 1 700 km of test driving, which is close to a full-size thirst. Given the 91-litre tank in the Quad Cab, that makes a safe range of just over 500 km, which might not be enough for some readers.
While I brought the Dakota back to Dodge thinking it was just about perfect for my, and many reader's needs, the 2004 models have seen more improvements. The V6 has significantly more juice, as mentioned, and according to Dodge, the 2004 Dakota now offers best-in-class power, payload and towing, and can offer seating for up to six (front bench with folding console), with the Quad Cab boasting the category's largest interior (and it shows). Bucket seats are now standard in Quad Cab models.
Loggers' Commute is a regular feature in CFI Magazine, testing 4[Symbol Not Transcribed] [times]4 vehicles with the logging industry in mind. Reviews & photos by Scott Jamieson, editor.
Copyright JCFT Forest Communications Nov/Dec 2003
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