For 2012, expect the unexpected from the Dodge Dakota. Upon its launch in 1987, Dodge's small pickup was larger than the Mitsubishi Ram 50, the Chevy S-10 and the trend-setting Ford Ranger. Back then, Dakota came with either a four-cylinder engine or a special V6 fashioned from the 318 V8. The 1997 redesign by Chrysler led to the popular Dakota model that was produced from 1997 to 2004. The replacement to that model was larger and stronger but heavy on the wallet and painful at the gas pump. Consumers could buy a full-sized Ram 1500 for nearly the same price.
The 2012 Dakota is coming back as a "lifestyle truck." Expectations are that the newly redesigned Dakota will more closely resemble the earlier model in size but the cargo area and towing capacity will both be lessened considerably. This switch from a body-on-frame design to a unibody truck comes from Dodge's belief that small truck owners don't expect extraordinary power from the Dakota. They just want to own a small truck that can haul light loads and act like a truck, without being too big or too hard to drive.
The new Dakota will handle like a car, be thrifty on gas and appeal to the casual truck user. This would make the Dakota more city-friendly, in keeping with the 2006 Dodge Rampage concept. The new Dakota will be built at the minivan assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario. With DCT transmission and the new Pentastar V6, the new Dakota could leap-frog over competition like the Honda Ridgeline. Though the new Dakota will not remind many of the old Dakota, Dodge claims it will be its "spiritual successor."
Standard features on the new 2012 Dodge Dakota include an entertainment package with a 276 watt AM/FM radio, six-disc CD changer, six Alpine speakers, steering wheel mounted controls, an MP3 player and Sirius satellite radio. Also standard are dual front map lights, a tilt steering column, power rack and pinion steering, air conditioning, reclining front split-bench leather seats, rear split folding-bench leather seats and a universal garage door opener.
The new Dakota has plenty of safety features like a front passenger air bag with an on/off switch, power anchors with upper tether anchors for child seats, four-wheel disc brakes with rear wheel ABS and electronic variable brake proportioning, sentry key engine immobilization, cruise control, front driver side manual lumbar support, halogen headlights, power door locks, front fog lights and illuminated entry.
The 2012 Dodge Dakota is a radical departure from its three previous incarnations. Dodge is betting that their lifestyle truck will catch on with the truck-buying public.