New Car/Review

Dodge Dakota Quad Cab

The Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4 Pickup

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide

by Larry Weitzman

Four door pickups are not new to the market. Ford and GM make four door rigs or what are sometimes called crew cab pickups. Even Nissan surprised the truck world with a compact four door pickup with a four and a half foot bed.

But the Ford and GM units, even with the popular short 6.5 foot bed, are still big units with overall lengths pushing 20 feet. Now there is a new kid on the block that may be the right size. Not too big and not too small, the new Dodge Dakota quad Cab four door pickup.

Based on the award winning second generation Dakota platform, the new Quad Cab may be just the ticket. To create the Quad Cab, Dodge took the proven platform of the Dakota Club Cab, which provided limited, but doable rear seating, and extended the rear passenger compartment by about the 13 inches while shortening the pickup bed by a like amount. They added two full size doors that swing open an astounding 84 degrees, making access as easy as walking through the doors of the Lincoln Bedroom with a $100,000 check.

The result was a rig that is more than manageable than a full size unit with a bed that is still usable and practical. The wheelbase of 131 inches and length of 215 inches are identical for the Club Cab model. But the utility factor goes way up for use as a real family vehicle.

The new Dakota quad Cab follows in the footsteps of the Dodge Ram introduced in 1993 as a 1994 year model. That original 1994 Ram commenced one of the greatest sales stories in modern trucks, with a tripling of market share. Other manufacturers copied the styling and pickups became more than just dirt haulers, but family transportation. The design of the Dakota is sometimes called the son of Ram. The bold looked created by a raised, muscular hood section highlighted by Dodge's trademark cross section grille is present in the Dakota. It is more rounded and smoother, but it is distinctively Dodge Ram.

There's not much you can do with a pickup body, but Dodge actually created a sinewy look by sculpturing subtle flares in the fendersides and rocker panels to create a "coke-bottle" shape. It is a great look, some critics declaring it the best looking of all pickups.

But the Quad Cab is about a six passenger pickup in a reasonable size. They have succeeded. In the rear there is room for three in sedan comfort. The seats are comfortable with amenities like rear seat cupholders that hold big beverages and power windows that fully disappear into the door. There is underseat storage and plenty of leg, hip and shoulder room to keep three big bruisers from taking their aggressions out on the front seaters.

The rear seats also do a split "Stow and Go" routine, meaning they easily fold up against the rear wall opening up the rear area to double as a mini-warehouse. By splitting the seats it still gives five passenger (three in front and two in the rear) capacity with significant interior storage room.

Up front is a 40/20/40 seating arrangement with two very comfortable perches which at first will feel on the firm side. The cloth materials are thick and nearly luxurious. The driver's side was six-way power with manual recline, making finding a driving position as easy as buying a burger at McDonalds's. The center section is best left for non complainers. It's a place not fit for normal consumption, but is a legal, belted position. A jockey would fit fine. There are two airbags, so it may not be a good place for small kids with narrow posteriors.

The dash is serious business with an instrument binnacle containing all the necessary information including an equal size speedo and tach left and right with four smaller ancillary gauges reading out coolant temp, voltage, fuel and oil pressure in groups of twos and flanking the main gauges. The leather steering wheel has buttons for operating the cruise control.

To the right of the instrument binnacle are three easy to use vertically mounted rotary switches for the AC and further right is the superb sound system with single play CD. Below the radio are two power outlets.

The center console has two shallow storage trays and a single lever for operating the 4X4 system which in my test vehicle was a part time shift on the fly system. A full time system is available. At the rear of the console and built into the center section seat cushion is a large pull out dual cupholder. The seat back serves as an armrest and office storage.

Above the center console is an overhead console with room for sunglasses, electronic transmitter and an easy to use trip computer.

If anything could use some work that would be in the door paneling, but then again this is a truck.

Interior door panelling aside, the best mechanical feature of the Quad Cab is Chrysler's new sensational high tech 4.7L SOHC V-8 engine. Gone is the venerable 40 year old 5.2L design and welcome to the 21st century. Actually this engine is also used in the Grand Cherokee V-8. Even though it is a half liter smaller than the old 5.2, it puts out more power. Rated at 235 hp at 4,800 rpm and 295 pounds of torque at 3,200 rpm, it's only 15 horsepower shy of the mammoth 5.9L pushrod unit that is still available. But that's only half the story. What door paneling?

The real story is in the performance this sweetheart of a motor. And by performance, I am not just talking about 0-60 mph. This motor has a real visceral component. The sounds made are pure music to any motorhead. It is absolutely vibrationless with the feel of a turbine. It is willing, wanting to go to redline and beyond and making strong power everywhere in the powerband.

Accelerating from 0-60 will only require an average of 8.67 seconds, but there were three runs in the 8.20s. Pretty remarkable for a 4,500 pound 4X4 truck. In a 4X2 times may be in the sevens. Passing times were also satisfyingly quick with 50-70 taking only an average of 5.10 seconds and a steep grade only slowing that time to 8.05 seconds.

Fuel consumption is rated 14 mpg city and 19 highway. I averaged 14.2 mpg during my test period which included a mix of El Dorado County driving and some highway time. The trip computer indicated 18-19 mpg at a steady 70 mph and 17 mpg at a steady 75 mph. In normal driving expect 15-16 mpg in El Dorado County driving. Needless to say, my exuberance may have something to do with my lower side average fuel mileage.

The multispeed electronically controlled automatic was near seamless with positive downshifts. By multispeed, this unit has five gears, with two second gears. Upshifting the tranny uses a lower second good to about 70 mph. In down shifting the tranny will pick a higher second, good to about 80 mph. It allows the engine to keep in the boil going through the gears and gives a longer passing gear. Not many vehicles sound better during accelerations with the radio off. First to second shifts feel more like a close ratio five-speed manual.

The chassis is conventional independent front suspension with upper and lower "a" arms, torsion bars and heavy duty gas-charged shocks with a stabilizer bar. In the rear is a live axle with two stage leaf springs and more heavy duty gas shocks.

On Ponderosa Road, the Quad Cab wasn't a Chrysler LHS and its heavy duty 4X4 suspension wasn't going to fool anyone this was a limo and not a 4X4 truck. It did a reasonable of keeping my fillings in place. The bigger the bump, the better the ride. In the two tight 90 degree bump laded corners, the Quad Cab tracked better than expected.

Steering feel has just right power assist with near perfect on center feel. Turning circle is a tight 41.0 feet, meaning that u-turns won't require the space of the Arco Arena parking lot

Smooth pavement twisties allowed the balanced suspension to really strut its stuff. With 31X10.5RX15 tires which put more rubber on the road than a deflated Goodyear Blimp, it made Green Valley, Latrobe, or the roads of Apple Hill fun. The Quad Cab could be driven deep into the apexes and powered out with some real moxie. This thing is a real blast. It's all enhanced by the wonderful sounds coming from that jewel of a V-8.

The weather wouldn't comply to test the 4X4 system, i.e, no snow or rain, but in the dirt, the limited slip rear axle was the only thing required to keep the Quad Cab moving in the desired direction. This 4X4 should be able to go places beyond my nerve. My Quad Cab had full ABS, a worthwhile $495 option, which provided excellent control during simulated panic stops. The front disc, rear drum system had linear and easily modulated pedal feel.

On the highway, the ride is quiet and with its long 131 inch wheelbase, smooth for a 4X4. It is firm and well controlled and kept most road irregs where they belong, on the road and not in the truck. The engine spins a low 2,300 rpm at 70 mph and unfortunately for fortunately (depending on your point of view) is inaudible. It can only be felt by not heard.

My continuous talk about the aural qualities must make one think that I like the muted "noises" coming from certain V-8's. They are important and this is one of those motors. It's no different than your favorite tune. You want to listen to it over and over again. If you want quiet, just relax the throttle and you'll also save some gas.

The bottom line for the Quad Cab 4X4 SLT is $21,895 plus $520 for destination. There were no less than 16 listed options which brought the final total to $28,845. It had everything but hot and cold running water. A 4X2 runs about $2,500 less.

Options that should be considered mandatory are the 4.7L V-8 for $590 (the 5.9L is $600 more and a waste of money and fuel), Multispeed automatic for $975, Group 26G for $1120, ABS for $495, Limited slip axle for $285, and SLT Plus Package for $1,035. In other words, a nicely equipped Quad Cab will set you back about $27,000. If you buy a good looking shell, the result will be a super utility sport ute for less than $28,000.

SPECIFICATIONS: 

Price                   $19,770 to about $29,000

Engines                 4.7L SHOC V-8
                        235 hp @ 4,800 rpm
                        295 lbs-ft of torque @ 3,200 rpm

                        3.9L OHV V-6
                        175 hp @ 4.800 rpm
                        225 lbs-ft of torque @ 3,200 rpm

                        5.9L OHV V-8
                        250 hp @ 4,400 rpm
                        345 lbs-ft of torque @ 3,200 rpm

Transmissions           Five speed manual

                        Multispeed electronically
                        controlled automatic (4.7L engine)

                        Four speed electronically
                        controlled automatic (3.9L and
                        5.9L engines

Configuration           Longitudinal front engine,
                        rear wheel drive, four wheel drive

Dimensions: (Quad Cab)
Wheelbase               131.0  inches
Length                  215.1  inches
Height                   68.8  inches (4X4)
Width                    71.6  inches
Weight                  4,391  pounds
GVWR                    5,950  pounds
Tow Capacity            5,800  pounds	
Fuel Capacity              24  gallons
Track (f/r)         60.8/61.5  inches
Turning Circle           41.0  feet

Performance:
0-60                     8.67  seconds
50-70                    5.10  seconds
50-70 uphill             8.05  seconds
Top Speed               Plenty fast
Fuel Economy            EPA rated 14/19 mpg
                        city/highway.  El Dorado County
                        should yield 15-16 mpg with near
                        20 mpg on the highway.



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