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Discussion Starter #1
Well, with the Stratus getting it's 60k service and having a weird harmonic sound inspected by the dealer, I got a complimentary rental vehicle from Enterprise. This was a very small Enterprise in a strip mall they are dealing with, and as such they have a limited supply of vehicles. So, the rental I got is a 2007 Dakota SLT Quad Cab 4x4. It has a 4.7L V8 capable of running on E85 mated to a 5 speed automatic. The engine is rated for 235 HP at 4800 RPM, and 300 lb/ft of torque at 3200 RPM.

Let me first say I have never owned a pickup. I have never really had the desire to own a pickup either. It never seemed relevant since there really hasn't been a job the Voyager couldn't do, up until I hauled an arbor home from a little custom woodworking shop last year. But, if I had the need for a pickup, I'd give the Dakota some serious consideration.

Now to the actual review. On the way home from the dealer, I got about 21.8 MPG according to the overhead trip computer (yes, I reset it as soon as I got in). Most of that driving was highway... I'd say about 80%. It is rated at 15/20, so the 2007 EPA numbers are even a little conservative to my right foot. I've since driven it around town a little more and am coming up with around 19 MPG average. Very, very respectable for a large pickup such as this latest generation Dakota. I should note that I have had it locked in 2wd for all of the driving I have done. The knob to adjust it is under the radio kind of concealed by an overhang on the dashboard... kind of like this particular control was an afterthought. It does have manual HVAC controls which were easy to use and within reach to adjust while driving. The cab is very roomy and could easily seat 4 adults. Theoretically, it can seat 5, but I wouldn't try it.

When I say large, I mean large. Like, Dodge Ram large. I pulled up to a mid-90's Silverado earlier this evening and the Dakota was easily at least as long as the Silverado was. It almost doesn't fit into our garage, and all we have in front of the truck is a couple of vacuum cleaners. That's one serious knock against it, in my opinion. Clearly pickup trucks have grown along the same order as minivans have, at least as far as Dodge is concerned. This is without a doubt the largest vehicle I have ever driven.

I have the power driver's seat, and it's a breeze to adjust it to a comfortable seating position. I'm still not fond of Chrysler's choice of upholstery, but I think it works a little better in a pickup than it does in a minivan or passenger car. The radio is a non-NAV equipped model which can support satellite radio, but I haven't had any success tuning in any stations, so I assume Enterprise didn't spring for that. It was very easy to connect my iPod to the radio and get it playing through the head unit. Very intuitive user interface. I also appreciate the use of a seperate equalizer and balance/fader controls. I have seen many head units that don't do this anymore, they just have preset levels for different kinds of music (and in my estimation, most of those EQ presets suck). I am having some trouble adjusting to the different lighting controls from my Stratus, the wiper/washer controls are very different. I like the seating position, I can easily rest my elbows on either side of me- the center console and door arm rest are very well designed as to allow this.

As we all know, Chrysler has been switching all of their vehicles over to that ABS plastic nonsense for their interiors, and this generation Dakota was not spared from that cruel bit of cost-cutting. There were somewhat soft surfaces on areas you'd be likely to touch, like the steering wheel and the door grab handles. The rest of the dash was hard plastic, though. I do have to say that in spite of the cheap looking and feeling dash and door panels, they are actually very well put together and are holding up to the typical rental abuse well (this truck has over 30,000 rental miles on it). As far as fit and finish goes; the "fit" seems fine, even though the "finish" part of it may be a little lacking.

The driving experience: The 4.7L V8 moves this thing. If you hit the gas, it goes RIGHT NOW. I only have to get it up to about 2000 RPMs to have a modest acceleration, much higher than that and it really flies. I only got it up to about 3200 RPM on a freeway onramp, mainly because that's all that I needed to merge with traffic. The 5 speed automatic took a few miles to adjust to my driving. Now that it has, it seems to be doing quite well. I've put about 60 miles on it since I picked it up this afternoon and now the shifts are barely noticeable. I do think it tends to move out of second a tad early, though I'm sure that's more for fuel economy when you're not really trying to move the truck fast. It has a very quiet ride and handles road imperfections pretty well. Really bumpy roads will move you around a bit in the cab, but it's a much better ride than I ever would have expected from a pickup.

Despite the sheer size of this thing and the interior materials, I think if I ever needed to buy a pickup for whatever reason, this one would be it. It can almost make you forget you're driving a pickup for awhile. I do think that Dodge would be better served by downsizing this thing a little, however.
 

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Pickups aren't necessarily the fuel-eating pigs that they're typically called. And the refinement of a good pickup is pretty impressive. My '97 Dakota feels much stouter and comfortable compared with my '95 Nissan. The Dakota is a larger truck, of course, but it was also tuned to be as comfortable as it was workable. I really missed my Nissan truck when I sold it, and I'm really glad to have a pickup again. The van doesn't haul mulch and straw bales very well (not cleanly anyway). I really enjoy having a pickup bed for that kind of stuff. And I really enjoy having a pushrod V-8 engine. Unlike in the van, I can drive all day long and never crest 2000 RPM in the truck. It gets about the same fuel mileage as the van in town...maybe slightly less (about 16).

Just looked at the pic: wow, you really did get a long one. Not only is it the Quad Cab, but it appears to have the long bed on it. Most Quad Cabs had a 5' bed.
 

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i have been a fan of the dakota for a while. infact i have been looking for a 97-00 for a while (looking for a deal and a manual trans, don't tell my wife)

my favorite styles are the 97-04 and the 2008 styling. i didn't particularily care for the 05-07 styling. but that is opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Well, the weird harmonic I heard on the Stratus turned out to be transfer gear whine. I was told it was normal, and that a new part may make the same whine, but considering this is a new sound I insisted on a replacement for the Stratus. I won't get the Stratus back until at least Tuesday, since that is the earliest the new parts will be in. So, I (begrudgingly) brought the Dakota back so they could return it to Enterprise, and they gave me their body shop loaner, a beautiful Modern Blue 2007 Dodge Caravan SXT with 10k miles on it. Short wheelbase, the way I like 'em. It has quad buckets, dual zone temp control, and a good interior with nice upholstery. My old favorite dealer merged with this dealer so they could carry all three Chrysler brands, and I was giving them a test run. I'm glad they're taking care of me so well, what with giving me this second loaner.

However... there's a little part of me that misses that Dakota.
 

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Minivan Beater
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My 95 GMC Sierra, with it's TBI 305 and 5-speed gets 20mpg city, I can go 500 miles on a tank (30gal) and all i've done is an open air cleaner and dual exhaust.

My van on the other hand struggles to get 12mpg and it has no a/c and the heavy rear seats removed, plus free flowing Thrush Turbo muffler. Yes I know it must have a problem somewhere, I can't figure out what it could be since besides the tranny shifting hard, it runs perfect, just dumps gas.

And getting back to the topic, i've always wanted to try out a V8 Dakota and see how quick it is, at least the 97-05 or whatever years that body style was, those were just barely bigger then the compact Ranger/S10 trucks so I always thought with a 318/360 or 289 it must really move, especially with a 5-speed.
 

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The 318 moves my durango decently. Its a 2000 so basically the same as the style of Dakota you're talking about, just heavier.

They came with 230hp and 300ftlbs from the factory and I'm sure mine has worn down over its 175k miles, plus it has an automatic. It still tows our 7000+ pound boat a few times per year with no problems. Just the past few years we have limited the towing to state highways of 60mph or under, no more expressways for it. I think the fact that 300ftlbs can move over 12000lbs is not a bad thing. The 5.2 is a tough little engine.
 

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I wouldn't call anything over 300 C.I. a little engine, considering my van is 100 C.I. smaller than that, and I owned a Metro with a whopping 61 C.I so 318 is pretty big, biggest engine I ever owned is a 350, biggest I have right now is my 305.
 

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I've never driven a Dakota but everytime someone rides in the '97 Ram with me I usually get a compliment about how well and smooth it rides....it doesn't feel like a truck yet I can hit a dip in my neighborhood at 45MPH smoothly and with control that most cars/suvs struggle with at 20MPH....like my van or the Crapsplorer (explorer). My van makes a "harmonic whine" and so does the RAM in 1st gear up to the 2nd gear shift. The van makes it around 40-45 but not under or over. I remember our Acclaim doing this and the '94 Town and Country. I've been told several times by my uncle and grandpa that if a transmission hums like that, it's a good thing. I do remember my grandma's '91 Grand Caravan 3.3 didn't do it until it got rebuilt at 94k miles.
 

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I wouldn't call anything over 300 C.I. a little engine, considering my van is 100 C.I. smaller than that, and I owned a Metro with a whopping 61 C.I so 318 is pretty big, biggest engine I ever owned is a 350, biggest I have right now is my 305.
I think the 400 in my GTO is only a medium sized engine. Hitting 500+ cubes is getting to the big boys.

My family has 9 engines between our vehicles and boat. The smallest engine is the 3.8 in my van, then the 4.0 in my sisters mustang. After that the 5.0's in the boat and keep getting bigger from there. We are not a very gas/environmentally friendly family.:biggrin:
 

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I've never driven a Dakota but everytime someone rides in the '97 Ram with me I usually get a compliment about how well and smooth it rides....it doesn't feel like a truck yet I can hit a dip in my neighborhood at 45MPH smoothly and with control that most cars/suvs struggle with at 20MPH....like my van or the Crapsplorer (explorer). My van makes a "harmonic whine" and so does the RAM in 1st gear up to the 2nd gear shift. The van makes it around 40-45 but not under or over. I remember our Acclaim doing this and the '94 Town and Country. I've been told several times by my uncle and grandpa that if a transmission hums like that, it's a good thing. I do remember my grandma's '91 Grand Caravan 3.3 didn't do it until it got rebuilt at 94k miles.
Our durango rides very much like a car for being an SUV. That is the main reason my dad preferred it when he was in the market. He didn't want to be pounded around by a truck ride all year, but needed something that could tow our boat when called upon. I'm hoping soon that I can talk my dad into buying my mom a newer car so I can buy the durango off him.
 
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