INTERACTIVE EDITOR DALE JEWETT: This thing left the factory in full Darth Vader mode--black paint job, wheels and interior trim. The only exceptions are the gray-colored headliner and the silver-painted plastic in the center of the instrument panel. So this Dakota’s got that menacing, stealthy look on the outside.
But it’s what’s on the inside that counts for the younger generation. My 14-year-old son proclaimed the Dakota “awesome” after just a couple of minutes in the shotgun seat. Why? Because the big black box jutting from the back of the center console into the rear of the cab is actually a giant subwoofer--the key part of the optional 508-watt premium audio system. That subwoofer chews up a healthy chunk of the limited space behind the front seats, especially since our particular test truck was just an extended-cab model and not a pile-everybody-in crew cab. But it will send shock waves through everyone who does get inside and the folks in the car the next lane over, too. Best moment: stumbling onto Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” on the classic-vinyl satellite radio channel and cranking the volume up to unsafe levels.
The 4.7-liter V8 is stout, and the five-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but there’s nothing here that urges you to give the right pedal a strenuous workout. And if you do, this truck’s combination of rear drive, front weight bias and lack of any kind of traction control means you’ll want to do that only when the road ahead is dry and runs straight. The ride is standard pickup, bumpy on the Detroit area’s chunked-up roads.
The bucket seats are comfortable, but the Chrysler bean counters thought they’d save a few cents by taking some inches off the seatbelt webbing, which makes finding a comfortable driving position or reaching the glovebox a real challenge. The jump seats in back are best left in the stowed position, because even small children are going to feel cramped back there.
2008 Dodge Dakota Sport Extended Cab 4x2 IN FLEET: Dec. 5-19