The Dodge Dakota is classified as a mid-size pickup truck that was first produced in 1986 from Chrysler’s Ram division. Starting in 2009 though, this truck was marketed entirely by Dodge. The Dakota was unveiled at the same time as the Dodge Ram 50 and even received a nomination for North American Truck of the Year in 2000 for its innovative design and superb performance. This truck has always been larger than some of its competitors, including the Ford Ranger as well as the Chevrolet S-10, but not quite as large as some of the full-sized pickups offered by Dodge Ram. Part of what makes the Dakota so unique is that it was the first mid-size pickup to be offered with an optional V8 engine.
The Dakota has a rather conventional design which includes body-on-frame construction as well as a leaf spring/live axle rear end. This truck has been used by police along with fire departments in the past as well as off-road vehicles and patrol trucks. The Dodge Dakota came out from Chrysler as a way to combine the subtle handling of some of their previous models with the fuel economy of a compact pickup while still retaining a large cargo capacity. The plant that the Dakota was manufactured in was shared with that of the other Chrysler vehicles, including the full-sized Dodge D-Model.
The very first generation Dakota was manufactured in 1987 until 1990. The following year this truck received some fairly major updated, including a Straight-4 and V6 engine which was offered with a 50-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. Another feature which also became available was 4-wheel drive, but only with the V6 models. The six and eight foot beds were both offered with these models. Even though fuel injection was also added to the 3.9 liter V6 in1988, the output did not change at all.
1988 brought some changes for the Dakota, including a variety of new features and different exterior colors. Some of the changes that were made to this vehicle in 1988 include the floor carpet, deluxe wipers, gauge package, sliding rear window, dual remote control outside mirrors, and a 3.9 liter V6 engine, all of which was available on the Sport model. The third generation Dakota was completely redesigned in 2005, though it still shared a platform with the Dodge Durango. This model truck was a total of 3.7” longer than 2.7” wider than the Durango, but featured a new front and rear suspension as well as rack-and-pinion steering.
New V6 and V8 engines also became available with the third generation Dakota. The standard engine that came with this vehicle included the 3.7 liter PowerTech V6, the two 4.7 liter V8 engines, and the V8 High Output or HO. The 3.7 V6 engine is able to produce up to 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. The standard output for the 4.7 liter V8 is 230 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
The Dodge Dakota’s facelift was finally revealed at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show and it received even more improvements and upgrades to the interior as well as some upgrades to the built-in cargo box utility and some new features like heated bench seats. The new 4.7 liter V8 is capable of producing up to 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. In 2010, the Dakota became part of the Ram lineup, though the “Dodge” emblem is still on the tailgate. The third generation of this vehicle was ultimately discontinued in 2011 and the very last unit produced was on August 23, 2011. This truck had a 25-year production run and despite declining sales it was one of the more popular vehicles Dodge ever produced.