In Part 1 of the Dakota road test, I mentioned that this was a perfect work truck. Big enough to be effective, yet small enough to park in a normal spot. I must admit that in traditional short cab pick ups, the close proximity of the rear glass has always felt a tad confining for me. The extended cab Dakota eliminates this issue as the extra length in the back of the cab makes it feel much roomier for the driver and front seat passenger.
The back seat, obviously is just for little ones or small cargo. Our boys loved the small, forward facing jump seats. Our 7 year old had a bit of a tough time finding a handhold on the way up, but thought the seating position was fun. Likewise, our 9 year old couldn’t wait to show off the cool red truck to his buddies. Our 13 year old didn’t even try.
As much as I love driving a pick up, one of my main beefs is usability. If any pick up is going to see double duty use with the family, a hard tonneau or full cap is a must. We took the Dakota grocery shopping after a snow storm, so piling our weekly sustenance in the bed wasn’t an option. While the back seat fold up and out of the way, it was still a bit haphazard piling up a week’s groceries for a family of 5.
Long gone are the days when a work truck had a bench seat, painted steel floor with a rubber mat and an AM radio. Today’s truck buyer expects more creature comforts and rightly so when the truck is often their office and second home. Dodge has hit the nail on the head with a few interior features. First off, there are tons of storage cubbies, ledges and compartments. The front of the center armrest folds open to reveal a carrier for the ever present Blackberry, with a 12 volt outlet concealed below, inside the armrest to keep the wires out of sight.
Our tester had a convenience package which included a couple of must haves. The first thing I look for these days in a new vehicle is an input jack for today’s ever present mp3 player. These days, almost everyone has one and the technology is so simple that there is no reason for the absence of one. Fortunately, the Dodge boys have installed one in this Dakota. There is a convenient ledge to the right of the jack to hold the player without it sliding around or having to drape the wire over the console.
The other option I loved were seat heaters. Beneath the YES stain resistant fabric seats, were the absolute fastest seat heaters I’ve ever used. We had picked up the Dakota a couple of days before the first snow storm of the season and I was amazed at how quickly these grids worked. At 10 below, my buns started toasting within half a block! For you folks in the southern States, this may not seem like a big deal, but in snow country it’s a must! Fortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to test out Chrysler’s new fabric’s abilities.
Out back, the Dakota’s bed has a cool aluminum channel at the top that holds movable tie down blocks similar to the deck cleats you would see on a boat. These would make keeping awkward cargo in place a breeze.
Overall, the 2008 Dodge Dakota SXT extended cab would be a great machine for the weekend warrior or small contractor who occasionally hauls a couple of kids, but doesn’t want the gargantuan presence of a full size truck.