I remember the first time I saw this truck. It was Thanksgiving Day 2008, and I was in my grandmother-in-law’s driveway putting new brake pads on my wife’s van, replacing pads that, with much drama, had disintegrated in a panic stop on the Interstate in the middle of Missouri . Sitting there with my father-in-law, trying to wrestle a caliper free, I heard something rumbling out of the garage and saw this truck back out. “Tom, Granny has a cooler truck than both of us”…which pretty much summarized it. I had no idea in two years it would be mine.
I also recall shortly after it becoming mine the first time I gave it the beans. Going through Council Bluffs, Iowa, and about 15 minutes into owning it, I went to pass someone on a city street and needed to get over– so I looked, and then put my foot to the floor doing about 20 mph. In my head, the result was something like this:
It made a fantastic noise as the rear tire let loose and catapulted me forward while shoving me back into my seat, and I stayed in it and let the motor sing. Said motor was the good V8 for that year from all I can tell: Chrysler’s 4.7 overhead cam V8 mated to the five-speed auto and a 3.55 rear gear. What resulted was a truck that definitely liked to go like none I’ve ever had. Dare I say, it’s probably one of the fastest vehicles I’ve ever owned due to a favorable power/weight ratio, lots of ratios, and the 3.55 rear. It just liked to go.
Grandma had moved back to Iowa from Arkansas to be closer to family, and quickly realized she didn’t need or want the truck anymore. I’d made some hints that if she ever wanted to get rid of it to let me know and I’ll buy it, as is ticked off so many boxes for me. It could fit the whole family in a pinch, it was a truck, it was four-wheel drive, it was newer, it was genuinely pampered, it was from a non-rust belt area, and I’ve always liked the look of that generation Dakota/Durango. Come Memorial Day weekend 2010, Granny had picked up a little Kia to get her around town and decided she didn’t need the Dakota, so the call was made to come get it. Sweet!
I immediately found it was a stellar choice, as it not only ticked off all the boxes, but it did so really well, and just plain looked and sounded cool in the process. When the kids were younger we did do a couple small trips to Iowa in it with the whole family, and being a newer vehicle it was quite nice to take on the highway. It wasn’t the rolling couch of comfort that was my last F-150, but it did pretty well. With low miles on the clock, it was also rock solid, quiet, and rode really well – no worn out 200,000-mile suspension here! It also ranks as the first vehicle I’d had with a warranty, having only 68,000 miles on the clock when I got it.
As a bicycle commuter who also lived within three miles of work, its in- town mileage didn’t really bother me. On the highway, it would get 18-22 mpg depending on the wind, but in the city I never consistently got over 11 mpg – it was mostly around 11.2 without A/C, and 10.6 in the winter or with A/C. While it sure liked gas, its counterpoint was it was an excellent in-town vehicle. Its smaller footprint made it the easiest-to-park pickup I’ve ever owned while also being able to move through traffic easily, and it handled surprisingly well. Dodge’s little V8 may have been thirsty, but it was easily able to spring through traffic, as it always seemed to be in its power band. It was a fantastic power train in that respect – I never once was left wishing it had more power.
Lacking a vehicle to tow the family boat and take the kids, our boat hadn’t gotten much use until the Dakota came around. We had a lot of fun over the summers taking the boat out, or just getting lost on country roads. While the Dakota wasn’t a Raptor or Pre-Runner, it handled the rural roads of Nebraska with aplomb and gave us many an adventure.
Speaking of adventure, it got a ton. In the four years I owned it I put 32,000 miles on it, which ranks as the most miles per year I’d put on a vehicle–particularly impressive considering most of the time it lived in the garage while I biked to work. More often that not, I’d take the kids out on some country roads to drive the “roller coasters” (we call the rolling gravel hills ‘rollers’, the kids just expand the name), or in the winter to check out the wonderland.
In the fall of 2012 my grandmother passed away and the Dakota took my sister, brother and me on a ten-hour road trip to Wisconsin. It was exceedingly capable at passing the hours on the Interstate, and even quite a bit of fun on rural Wisconsin back roads, stabbing the throttle around corners to make up distance, with tires howling. That’s what always just got me about it, that it always felt very solid–that’s about the best way I can put it. I’ve had some choice words about Chrysler products, but this one felt really well put together, and was amazing in that respect.
Really, with this truck there wasn’t a whole lot to improve on; however, there were some nagging annoyances here and there. First, despite its outward appearance–larger than a compact truck and packing a V8, inside it definitely was a compact pickup. There never was a lot of room in there. In fact, it was downright small. Second, I always wished it had a limited slip/locking rear diff so I wouldn’t have had to use four-wheel drive so much during the winter: The 4.7 had no problem almost constantly overwhelming grip on anything other than dry pavement (and sometimes even on dry roads). Third, while it had a awesome sliding bed cover, it took up more of what tiny space there was in the bed; the bed was almost comical in its lack of space. I could fit my bike back there only if I angled it <i>just right</i> and took the front wheel off. Finally, I’ve always wanted a sliding rear window on a pickup, as air tended to buffer around in every truck I’ve owned due to the small cab space, even the Quad Cab. Nothing major, just little things keeping it from perfection.
Did I point out that it did a lot of things, <i>brilliantly</i> though? One of those was winter traction in four-wheel drive–the thing was simply unstoppable. Every winter I’d wedge my gigantic snowblower in the back and go to my parents’ and sisters’ homes to snowplow them out without any worry of getting stuck. Heck, one February we got hit with a ton of wet, heavy snow. A huge branch from a big maple narrowly missed the wretched minivan, but needed to be removed from the driveway. Hello, Dakota!
In January of 2013 my uncle needed to move, so my brother, my Dad and I headed to go help him. Only one “gotcha” – he lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin (remember when I said January?). My youngest son came with us, and we had a nice long winter drive up to Green Bay. Snow Cat Dakota make short work of the Wisconsin winter. Even with a large trailer on the back, the Dakota backed up a steep hill in my uncle’s snow-covered front yard without any drama whatsoever. A few days later, it took us to the shores of Lake Michigan in Algoma, WI, so my youngest could see “the ocean” and we could stock up on fish.
When I started thinking of my COAL series, I thought for sure this would be my last entry. Ha–funny how things change! Early in 2014 my office moved from 2.5 to 8.5 miles away, taking my zero- (if by bike) to five-mile daily commute up to a 17-35 mile-per-day commute. What’s worse, by bike my commute was 8.5 miles, if I took busy city streets/sidewalks (which, honestly, I won’t do). If by bike path, which there is a direct route, it’s more like 15 miles each way. So I had to rely on driving again. With never over 11 mpg, and gas at $4/gallon, my weekly gas costs went from not even being on my radar to $12 per day. I know many have much higher costs, but that was a wake-up call to our budget.
In addition, by this point the Dakota needed new tires. It had Goodyear Wrangler RT/S tires on it when I got it and always heard how terrible they were, but I never really had much issue with them until they started getting pretty worn. Lots of flat tires, and some four-wheel drive sideways pucker moments the previous winter did it for me. I finally discovered during that last winter that for some odd reason, Dodge only put rear ABS on this truck. Chalk that up to another annoyance.
Come May 2014 my tags were up for renewal, as was my insurance. I quickly found that this truck had a rather oddly sized tire with a limited selection – all of them were very very expensive, even for truck tires. As a final blow, we had a substantial amount of medical bills at the time and some cash influx would be a good thing. So I figured I’d give it a shot – I’d put it on Craigslist at high retail book value with quite literally 100,011 miles on it.
Sure enough I did that late one Friday evening and the calls and texts came in rapid-fire. Honestly I was pretty surprised, with my last truck I had to bargain basement discount it to get rid of it, but now even at high book my demand was high. On Saturday morning I quickly took it to the wash, and by the time I got home the first couple to look at it was there. Long story short–they bought it for full price, admitting how hard it was to find a pickup for under $15,000 that wasn’t completely trashed. Apparently mine was not only really excellent mechanically, but several times they questioned whether had I even let the kids ride in it, as the interior was spotless.
Once my happiness of selling it passed, panic set it. I realized it was Saturday and by Monday I’d need a new vehicle, since I had a killer week ahead and it would be next to impossible to take time off. Cycling would be really tough that week, and furthermore, I rapidly realized my main choice that I’d brainstormed before putting it on sale, a Subaru Outback, would be a terrible choice. Tales of woe involving head gaskets abounded, and I didn’t want to step into another maintenance nightmare. My fallback plan, a Honda Accord, wasn’t looking too good either, as they seemed to be either abused to the end of the earth or too much money.
I took my wife and kids to used car dealers to look, with zero luck, while rapidly browsing Craigslist on my iPhone as we played laser tag to alleviate my annoyance with the car lots. I found a Lexus ES300 that claimed to be perfect, but had a transmission that slipped on a test drive. Finally found a Outback with the H6 – apparently said motor didn’t have any of the issues of the others, but it had pretty high miles and leaked oil. In addition, it didn’t do that much better on gas than the Dakota did. I was beginning to think I’d be throwing a lot more miles on the bike for a week or two.
As I was seriously considering a ’94 Camaro Z28 (not as impractical as you might think), or using some money as a down payment, some texts started coming through and wouldn’t you know it? Exactly what I’ve always wanted fell right into my lap for the perfect price. As a quick spoiler – in 1999, if I could have ordered a new vehicle exactly how I wanted it, it would have been the one.
All that said, just as life intervened with the story on how this truck left, our family hauler did the same thing to me in February. So you’ll have one more week of old vehicles, then it will be on to our two current ones.
My father grew up on a farm and over the years he would occasionally buy a truck as a “second car” when he got some extra money. About 5 or 6 years ago he got a hankering for a truck and found a 1st gen Dakota V8 club cab with V8 and 4WD. One drive with that 5.9 V8 pushing that truck quickly down the road and he was hooked. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the drawbacks to that truck quite as quickly. Gas prices weren’t too bad back then but my father soon realized that the money he saved on this low mileage example was being wiped out at the gas pump. He also had trouble getting used to driving something so long. Before I could make it known that I might be interested in his truck, my father sold it and bought a Ranger regular cab with 4WD. As a long time Ford man, Dad was quite happy with this 4th Ranger….until he slid through a stop sign. My Mom must have convinced him he really didn’t need a second vehicle as the Ranger got sold off before I could say I was interested.
of the 3 Dakota generations, I like the truck pictured the best. Unfortunately, the “buzz” on the internet is that the various Dakota models are unreliable and sloppily built.
Thanks for sharing the story. The snowy scenes look fun. Bonus points for knowing when to move on and following through – I’ve not mastered that trick in 30 years of trying.
I drove a blue version of the above for 2 weeks while looking for a replacement to my Toyota. Plenty of room, but the mileage sucked (14.5 MPG). Another issue was the transmission would prematurely shift to 4 gear at 20-25 mph causing the engine to lug. I was forced to stomp the accelerator to engage 3rd or have the entire truck rattle and shake. This probably accounts for the crappy mileage.
The replacement (’05 Ford Escape 4WD) was a dream compared to the truck since I had been transferred to up-state NY from New Orleans. I’m waiting for a COAL on the Escape series.
This is also my favorite generation of Dakota. The subsequent generation just wasn’t the looker this one is.
Wow, the fuel mileage on that 4.7 is surprising, especially for how much of a swing it between city and highway. The few 4.7 engines I’ve driven in full-sized pickups were quite peppy and in a lighter Dakota it does sound like fun.
It sounds like you discovered and enjoyed the sheer versatility of a crew-cab pickup. Sure, fuel mileage isn’t the greatest, but everything has its downside. I’ll even go so far as to say crew-cab pickups are one of the most versatile vehicles on the market today. How many other vehicles offer the capability of hauling five people, with some items in the bed, while pulling a 6000 lb trailer? There are some and the situation is more prevalent than one might think.
I’ve like this generation Dakota (and Durango for that matter) since they came out. Definitely one of the best looking non-fullsize pickups ever. In terms of styling, Chrysler just kept releasing hit after hit from the LH sedans up until around the time of the Daimler takeover (although many designs were probably set before the merger).
After this point, all redesigns (including the Dakota, Durango, Ram, cloud cars, and minivans) were huge disappointments. They were blander overall and did away with the high amount of detail that went into the designs of ’90s Chryslers. Additionally, quality greatly suffered and interiors went to bargain-basement components.
I think a V8 around that size ( save for LA 5.2 such older designs ) would be rather fuel efficient in other situations. On a sedan/coupe with lower wind drag and overdrive, in city it would be around 16-19, and in highway it would be 24 at least. But for a truck, it’s heavy and high drag makes it nearly impossible. ( just wait and see how they will deal with it in newer models ) and it has truck tires ( sedan tires always have better chance of being low friction and often narrower, further improving mpg )
There is a ’91 Corvette I drive occasionally in countryside. The digital screen says average MPG is 23. I think lightweight helps a lot on this one. ( and driven as gently as a LeSabre )
My ’07 F-150 crew cab 4×4 has a 4.6 liter, so it’s got even more wind resistance than this Dakota. When I purchased it in ’12 it still had factory type tires on it and I got around 18 mpg on the highway.
Oddly, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the drop in fuel economy since replacing the tires. With Cooper Discoverer AT/3 tires, my best fuel economy has been around 16.5 to 17. They are still the factory size but with a more truck-ish tread.
I agree fully with what you say about engines. I had another 4.6 in a ’96 Thunderbird that easily knocked down 24 mpg.
Technology can make a little improvement here and there, like aerodynamic design. But a pickup is always having more drag than a sedan from the same era. However a newer pickup could have not that much drag comparing to an older sedan without drag coefficient in mind during designing at all.
Tire and ground makes quite a difference. Cruising on interstate at 73ish, my Mark VIII returns around 27 MPG on smoother road, but drops to 23-24 on some rougher surfaces in some neighboring counties with less so nice roads.
Very true. My Mark VIII would return 27-28 MPG with the cruise set at 75 and good road conditions on the highway; best mileage I’ve ever seen from a V8 car. But it probably helped that the car was very aerodynamic, plus the lowering at speed helps wind resistance. Also the non-LSC models had rather conservative 3.07 rear gearing.
My Marauder, with the exact same engine (though 6 years apart) but with more wind resistance, slightly more weight, wider tires and 3.55 gears, never got above 23 MPG highway and it was usually closer to 21.
yeah, I had basically the same truck (2003 Dakota Supercab Sport, 4.7 liter 4×4) and I averaged about 16 mpg with it. Not the greatest, but it should be doing a lot better than 11.
I’m guessing an all city commute. My wifes 4.7 Durango knocks down 16-18 highway commuting. Most of the time she doesn’t leave our side of town and averages around 12mpg
I have an 03 Durango that I bought new and is now pushing 150K miles. No repairs except for maintenance items (3rd set of ball joints) but its been rock solid and water proof and Im saving it for my daughter for when she gets her license next year. The air conditioner isn’t the best, the dual zone system just never worked right in mine.
Those 4.7s are little powerhouses in the Dakotas and Durangos and I matched the 18-22 highway mpg. I also agree the tire selection is challenging, I even considered aftermarket 17″ wheels to make the tire selection easier but with 6 lugs (!), that also becomes a challenge.
Great little trucks they were, the 2004 redesign just became too big and expensive so there was really not much of a reason to get a Dakota instead of a Ram anymore.
Yep, same with my ’02 Durango. Second set of ball joints last fall at 85K. AC has never been the strong point but given just a little time it has always been comfortable in even the hottest weather.
My daughter is driving mine and absolutely loves it.
I had excellent luck with the original Goodyear Wrangler RT/S tires, and replaced them with the exact same tires with no trouble a few years ago at about 65K.
Nice write up and a pretty truck……but!
Nearly everyone of these I spot on the road have terminal body cancer; with either paint bubbled severely or further on into the disease, with complete rust through and bubbling on the fringes of the holes; this, above the rear wheel wheels.
Don’t believe me, take a look for yourselves and note this condition on every Dakota that you encounter. I wonder what an owner would have to do when faced with that inevitable body cancer, for it appears it’s in every Dakota’s DNA, here in the South Jersey area…. I believe it looks like a question of not IF it get’s that terminal rust, but WHEN!
Chrysler rusts first among big three ( except Ford Transit connect such models seemingly forget about rust-proof ) and it’s more obvious on truck/SUV those popular winter models.
In addition to the Dakota’s terminal cancer and paint bubbling above the center of the wheel wells, you make a good point about the Mopars overall.
I can pretty much count on the big Dodge Ram pickups from the early-mid 90’s (the Peterbilt-restyle) to have body cancer issues on a big scale on the lower door sill running aft.
One has to ask about metal technology, about the paint used on truck frames, be it any manufacturer. These vehicles should not have the kind of terminal rust they show in such a short period of time.
In Michigan especially around southern Michigan metropolitan areas where they dump salt as if the truck tips over, rust shows up amazingly fast. But faster than Dodge, the sprinter by Mercedes as new as 07-10 is becoming cheese like. Ford Transit Connect is seen with rocker panel shot with phone size holes in northern Michigan ( then the neighbor got it patched this month ) Two out of three major Japanese companies seem like they still didn’t figure out how to deal with road salt, and the only one having some knowledge about it doesn’t make real trucks ( Honda ) and many domestic cars still fare poorly against rust ( all LeSabre, all Taurus, uni-body Lincoln, Dodge Neon ) but those quite rust resistance cars have other problems ( Caprice is very durable on salty road, but they didn’t sell good in retail. Rust resistance is maybe the only advantage of N-Body Malibu. Second generation Oldsmobile Aurora is quite rust resistance but the days were numbered )
I live in the land of “White Death” and have had very little rust trouble with mine over 13 years. Keep it washed (underneath too) and waxed and they last.
The first time I saw a Dodge Dakota, I remember saying that Dodge had finally gone and shrunk the Ram truck. It did indeed look like a shrunken Ram. What the the truck needed, and sadly never got, not even as an option, was a smaller diesel engine.
A bit of googling learned that in the late nineties the Dakota was also assembled in Brazil and that it was available there with a 114 hp 2.5 liter 4 cylinder VM Motori diesel engine.
Very logical, since Mopar and VM Motori go back a long way, many years before the other and more recent Italian (Fiat) connection. Other Mopars with that engine were the Jeeps Cherokee and Grand Cherokee and the Chrysler Voyager.
Dodge pickups (Ram & Dakota) and the Durango have never been officially imported here. Yet I see Ram pickups quite regularly; older models, recent models and brand new ones. Grey imports, all of them.
Is the farm with the red barn yours? Gorgeous property either way.
And the Subaru HG issue is overblown. Even if you do have to do them, you give a mechanic $1,500 and a week and it’s fixed for good. If you’re mechanically inclined, my mechanic laughed at how easy they are to do on this car. My 97 Outback has the worst of the worst head gaskets, statistically. I could see in the my oil at about 140k miles that mine were leaking, never stranded me or anything. Had them replaced, and that’s been it for 6 years now. Even at now over 200k miles, I trust my Subaru to get me there safely before my 3 other cars.
You know, for all the criticism Subaru’s gotten for its head gaskets, I’ve only had one self-inflicted issue with them over the three Subarus I’ve owned over the however many tens of thousands of miles I’ve driven them. It seems overblown to me, especially when I think about how good mine have been for me. They’ve been so good that my next car will be a Subaru, too. They’re a lot less cheaply made than the Mazda Premacy I’m driving now.
EDIT: That’s a nice truck in this COAL, though. This is the best-looking version of the Dakota.
Strange, but most Dodge trucks I ever see in my area have paint and/or clear coat peeling but not rear wheel well rust through. On a recent trip to my folk’s home in northern Pa EVERY large pickup I saw had rust bubbles and/or holes…it didn’t seem to matter which brand.
Nice story about a truck that served you well and that couple is right, it is hard to find a cheap truck in decent condition.
I am curious about this statement:
“As I was seriously considering a ’94 Camaro Z28 (not as impractical as you might think)”
As an owner of of a 93-02 F Body, I am curious about the not impractical comment. I find the thing to be very impractical for everything. As bloated as it is(it is much longer and wider then my next door neighbors 1998 Civic but has less room)
Here is a pic of the car when I stored it at my folks house while I was doing work to the garage at my home earlier this winter. It is parked next to a CRV and it is wider and longer then that vehicle
My roomate had a 97 Trans Am, and I definitely agree. Maybe the “practicality” is coming from it’s surprisingly large cargo area.
But yeah, in every other way they’re, uh… interesting. I could never get over the ridiculous driving position. A professional bobsledder or luge rider would feel more at home than an average driver, it feels like you’re just peeking over your toes driving it. Any parking requires leaning forward and looking all around to see where the edges of the behemoth are at.
All that being said, they are an unbeatable amount of go-fast for the money, and damn near unbreakable.
The driving position is really uncomfortable. A bulge on right floor takes a bit room further. That’s the reason to get a bigger coupe than a sports-orientated car, candidates like Riviera is more comfortable retaining some aspect of the power.
It depends on the definition of being practical. My former roommate has a ’00 Camaro, and I drove it few times. The part of the car being impractical to me is the riding quality, it’s too unfortable for 220-mile cruising on a weekly basis, and the build quality is rather cheaper than acceptable for me ( reminds me of my miserable 5-day $500 tempo, a big no ) size wise, it’s barely acceptable inside but exterior isn’t really big enough to be a headache. My coupe is slightly longer and wider than that and comes with V8 and rear wheel drive. As a college student, it’s capable enough except in winter ( LeSabre with cold out steps in ).
But for a family more than two, it’s not really enough. A Plymouth Fury could be better than that.
Actually it is a pain in the @$$ to drive it 50 miles a week. Driving it feels like your in a bathtub and steering with your knees.
But the biggest issue i have with it is the seatbelt. It is very uncomfortable and no matter how you sit or have the seat adjusted to the seatbelt seems to rub my collar bone raw. I tried one of those foam pads and it does no good. The last time I drove it(in December before the snow and the rock salt started coming) the seatbelt was so uncomfortable that 5 miles before I reached my home, I took off the belt and drove without a seatbelt. Yes I invited a possible ticket and courted the possibility of going though the windshield in a crash but the pain that belt caused was so bad that it was more dangerous with it on and being distracted on the road.
When it gets warm, I will unbolt the seatbelt from the car and remove it from that plastic ring that it passes through that is attached to the seat(so that the belt sits on top of the ring adding about 2 inches more to the belt height) and see if that will change anything.
My Lesabre is also in that pic and I tell you it is the most comfortable car i have driven. It is my daily driver.
Yes, I forgot the seat belts. I’m very slim and fairly short so it’s not that bad to me but the owner of that camaro complained about the comfort level ( he didn’t complain until driving my $700 New Yorker Fifth Avenue and realized something wrong about his )
That face lifted LeSabre has a minior drawback, it’s the head gasket. There was a pristine ( no spot of rust underneath unlike my ’95, with few spots. And rim is spotless ) ’99 LeSabre just next to the ’95 in the dealership $1000 more expensive. But the check engine light confirmed my fear, my mechanics told me it was the cylinder pressure. It only had 50k miles. I think that explains why it was traded by the previous owner.
Your F-body comments are confirming what I have finally realized about mine – a 1997 T/A convertible (auto trans, unfortunately) that I picked up cheap needing a head gasket.
I’ve had it over a year already with no free time in sight to fix it. Every time I get in it to move it around (it still runs/drives, for no more than 10 minutes at a time), I can’t figure out why I own it. It’s huge on the outside and not that big inside. It’s clunky with typical 1990s GM build quality. It does nothing for me when I drive it around the neighborhood. It is really, really hard to tell where the front of the car is as well.
Here’s the thing: I absolutely love the IDEA of owning this car – having a convertible, a muscle car, that awesome V-8 rumble – it ticks off all the boxes for me (and in a land of late-model high-end Japanese and German sports cars and SUVs, it really stands out as well).
I’m thinking of selling it soon, just to get another unfinished project off of my list. Plus, I don’t have indoor storage for it, and that is really bad for a convertible in the PNW.
The irony though, through my anocdotal observations with the CUV segment, is there’s a substantial chance(50/50) that the Pilot is only piloted by one person on any given day carrying about as much luggage at one time as a cartoon hobo does on a stick. Practicality is in the eye of the beholder.
Nice truck!. I always found these attractive, and will confess that I always had the hots for a Durango of that generation. Chrysler absolutely nailed the styling on these. The version of both the Dakota and Durango that followed were all on Daimler, which had taken over Chrysler by 1999.
My Ranger came shod with Wrangler RT/S tires. What incredible pieces of junk. useless on wet pavement, worthless on snow. Fortunately they wear out fast.
It seems like Mopars have had “Bi-Polar” build quality since the late 1950!
Either you got a very good one….or a very bad one.
My family (Mom, Dad, me, my brothers) have had various Mopars since 1960.
Luckily for us, the very bad quality control ones were few and far between. Other people who bought ’em (on Dad’s and my recommendation) were not so lucky.
I have a 02 Durango, love that truck, aptly named “The Beast”. Having the pleasure (or misfortune) of living in the middle of the canadian prairies, the 4×4 is a welcome feature; save for twice planting it in a ditch during snow storms, it’s never really truly gotten stuck. The 4.7 hauls when you plant the throttle. It’s at 320,000km (200,000mi) and still pulls strong. I’ll have to agree with you on the mileage, high teens average is the best I can get.
An uncle has an 03 Dakota, looks equally as sharp as the rest.
Syke’s Sutlering ran on Dakotas. First a ’91 four cylinder, five speed with short bed and no A/C; later a ’94 long bed 4×4, V-6, auto, power pretty much everything. Loved them both. Unfortunately, by the time I was ready for a replacement, the wife wanted something smaller, so we bought an S-10 instead of the third generation that I really wanted. The fourth generation models didn’t turn me on in the slightest (bigger? uglier?), so the S-10 eventually got traded for the current Ranger.
Just the same, those Dakotas convinced me that Dodge makes the best pickups.
My short bed, 4 cyl, 5 speed 2002 Ranger was the “Falcon of trucks”, reliable, s-l-o-w and dull.
Is the newer 4.7 engine or the older 5.2 (318) engine better?
Handily the 4.7. The 318 dated back to the early 1960’s and the 4.7 was Chrysler’s first new V-8 in almost that long. Better HP, better mileage, probably better torque. Quiet and smooth engine that got great reviews when it was introduced and has proven to be very reliable with good care.
My ’96 Ram 1500 with the 318 gets a consistent 15-17 mpg on the road or in town. It is a manual shift truck. It is very “truck like” versus the F150 I had previously. Much more torque and hp than the 302 Ford. Hard to believe the engines are of the same era and of similar displacement.
Other than the cheap and fragile plastic interior and the thin sheet metal and thin gauge bumpers that are prone to small dents, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 150k miles and it is still just getting broken in. Must not have been a Monday morning or Friday afternoon build.
The 5.9 is a descendent of the 360, isn’t it? Or is it related to the 4.7 instead?
It’s a distant upgrade from LA engine.
Thanks for practically writing the COAL for my 2002 Durango SLT 4.7. I agree with all the technical specs and experiences you’ve indicated. I live probably 50 miles away from you so the life story isn’t that far off as well. Simply the most winter invincible vehicle I’ve ever driven.
I’m convinced that the Second Gen Dakota / First Gen Durango are qualified for Cockroach of the Road (TM) designation. They are everywhere, several are in my subdivision, some in the hands of original owners, like mine, many in the hands of young people that flock to them.
The simple bold trip computer on the ceiling is one of this vehicle’s joys, but that gas mileage display in city driving is not meant for children’s eyes. I once joked with my daughter that “You didn’t see that” when I flashed through the numbers one time. The poor city mileage may be one reason so many of these are still around, my Durango has always had a better mileage garage mate and it was typically reserved for big events, vacations, and towing. My 2012 F-150 is now the lead vehicle, my kids mostly drive the Durango these days.
Here’s my ‘Rango as my kids call it at Pawnee SRA in 2011. We’ve possibly passed each other there a few times.
What a great looking rig, both the car and the trailer + boat. I really like that generation of Durangos.
That kind of SUVs has become the most common -because very capable- towing vehicle, usually these have a towing capacity of 3,500 kg (7,700 lbs).
Cars like a Toyota Land Cruiser 150-series, Mitsubishi Pajero, Mercedes ML, Land Rover Discovery and Volkswagen Touareg.
The picture of your kids in the boat is such a total classic!! From that picture alone, I can get a very real sense of each of their personalities, as well as their collective persona. Just perfect!!
and, boy, have they grown!
I used to like these, but my anectdotal evidence suggests the only advantage they have over a full size is price. I have a buddy with one who has never managed to get more than 16-17 MPG with it.
It is nicely sized though and now that I’m done with rear-facing car seats I’d consider a mid-size again. The new GMs are a disappointment though, not enough economy and too many compromises. The magazines love them, but they don’t tend to actually use them as trucks.
You are spot on with resale, I had a heck of a time finding a 3-4 year old truck for a decent price that wasn’t beat to heck. Hard to buy, easy to sell. My current F-150 has had the best resale of any vehicle I’ve ever owned. Of course, $5 gas would change that in a hurry I’m sure.
Out of curiosity I looked up the new Colorado specs. Compared to my ’06 F-150 Crew, a Colorado Crew Longbox is:
The same length 224″.
4″ narrower at 74″.
The box is 7″ longer and 6″ narrower.
Yet the interior is much smaller as well as its cargo hauling ability. It’s essentially a narrow mid-sized cab with a bulbous body with near full size dimensions. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Dodge has been the only manufacturer to get the mid-size formula right IMO. Except the mileage.
My uncle had one just like that until recently. Last year while coming back from cape cod, one of the wheels fell off and it had been sitting in the driveway since then. It was also a lot rustier, with both sides of the bed rusted through, he repaired it with some silver aluminum looking stuff.
I have a 2002 Dakota, V6 4 door and love it. It gets 24 on the highway (depending on the gas) and 18 around town. The tires are a bit pricey, but less than the ones on my
Avenger. It hauls stuff as needed, the family as needed, handles well, but is a bit sluggish. I am considering putting a newer Hemi in it with the drop out cylinders to get better gas mileage as the full sized truck that I rented got 29 mpg and it had lots of pep.
Always liked the styling of this generation Dakota. Seemed to get the formula just right, looking smaller and sleeker than the Ram while obviously being cut from the same cloth. And the Durango wore the look equally well. Night and day difference from the ugly things that were the following generation…
My cousin owned a 2001 Durango for quite some time, probably 2005 to 2013. I know it was a V8, not sure if it was the 4.7 or the 5.9. Either way, he was fond of the power and of the utility in general, but did complain quite a bit about the poor fuel economy. I seem to recall him having problems with electrical gremlins, but the drivetrain and body were quite solid and it ran well when he sold it with well over 100K miles.
I’ve always though these were good looking trucks, the prior “boxy” gen however were really ugly IMO, I think some of these looking so good is that they appear to be styled by the same people/studio/styling “language” as the Ram of the same gen, also a nice looking pickup.
All the late 90s-early 00s pickups were attractive though. To me these and the S-10/Sonoma pickups look a good bit larger than the Rangers, is that the case or is it just a styling illusion?