With the attention the “New Chrysler’s” Ram Brand has gotten with its more-refined 1500 and Heavy Duty trucks, the smaller Dodge Dakota has been out of the spotlight. Dodge’s 2011 Dakota Crew Cab merits a close look, too.
“Smaller” is relative in this case, because the 2011 Dakota Crew Cab, with a $26,680 starting price, is a hefty midsizer with bulk and power to handle demanding work situations. It’s a solid truck, built on a strong ladder-type frame with fully boxed hydroformed main rails.
The Crew Cab’s interior offers a generous 37.1 cubic feet of interior space for toting cargo and comfortably seating up to five passengers. For hauling and towing grunt work, the Dakota’s beefy frame teams with the choice of V-6 or V-8 powerplants.
Standard muscle is provided by a 3.7-liter Magnum V-6, delivering 210 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque. Its transmission mate is a five-speed automatic. Towing capacity for V-6-powered Crew Cabs is 4,800 pounds and the payload max in its 5-foot-4-inch-long cargo box is 1,660 pounds (4×2 with 3.92 axle ratio). Estimated fuel economy is 15 miles per gallon city and 20 mpg highway.
The test Dakota Crew Cab packs big-truck power with an optional 4.7-liter V-8 engine (part of a $1,060 package), which cranks out 302 horsepower and 329 lb.-ft. of torque. Technology used to boost its output includes two spark plugs per cylinder, which helps increase compression ratio, and boost cylinder-head port flow and combustion. Electronic throttle control also contributes to its efficiency.
Paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, the 4×2 Dakota Crew Cab can tow up to 7,050 pounds and haul a 1,510-pound maximum payload (3.92 axle ratio, packaged with anti-spin differential). Estimated fuel economy, at 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, is only 1 mpg city/highway less than the V-6’s.
The Crew Cab version of the base ST (extended-cab availability only) and TRX4-Off Road model have been deleted from the lineup, but both are still available as 2010 models.
Ride quality is excellent, in both 4×2 and 4×4 versions, thanks to the stiff frame, which helps in finer tuning of the suspension that was upgraded for the 2010 model year.
Dakotas have a muscular body, punctuated with a signature cross-hair grille with angular frame.