Dodge had high hopes when it redesigned the Dakota in 2005. The new truck had more muscular squared lines that gave it a rougher, tougher look, one we liked a lot--enough to bring the midsize truck on board for (at least) a year of testing, on-road and off.

Since that time, our long-term Dakota has been on numerous adventures. One such trip took an editor and his family to Lake Tahoe, where they got to spend more than a few hours in a rainstorm that turned into a blizzard. The AWD performed perfectly in the rain, and 4WD-high was used in the snow, keeping them out of any white-knuckle experiences. While the Highway Patrol turned most drivers away, they saw our Dakota and waved us through.

Another trip landed us in Big Bear, California, where we really put the Dakota to the test. Loaded with about 500 pounds in the bed and towing a 4000-pound trailer (we added our own trailer brakes), the exterior temperature gauge read 100 degrees, and we drove at a final altitude of over 5000 feet. Our Dakota never skipped a beat.

We went through two scheduled services with this Dodge, both times there were particular issues we wanted looked at as well. During the first service, the dealer checked out a clunk that came at slow, parking lot speeds. They test-drove the vehicle and determined the transmission was working properly, having been unable to produce the same clunk. With no other transmission issues, we suspect the noise was backlash from the AWD drivetrain.

While in for the second service, the dealer inspected the brake system--we'd felt brake pulsation when going downhill and heard a brake squeak that seemed to happen everywhere. Turned out the Dakota had defective brake shoes and hardware; the service department replaced both and machined the drums and front rotors. This fixed the issues, and our Dakota never had to go back to the dealer.

As well as this truck worked, there were a few complaints from our editors. The V-8 engine was an ongoing topic of discussion, most being disappointed by its lack of pep. Many also noted the transmission's indecisiveness and slow kickdown when going to pass. Interior comfort was seen as a bit tight by some of our bigger, taller staffers, while the debate was split on the interior build materials. Some found them too hard, while others felt function was better than flash in this case. But we were pleasantly surprised at how well the interior held up to constant use and abuse.

Once the brake system was repaired, there were no other issues with the Dakota throughout our long-term testing--it was always up to the task. Whether as a photo/video chase vehicle or as a long-weekend family hauler, our Dakota never let us down.

But wait, there's more: Dodge will be introducing a new Dakota in 2008 with a new engine producing more power and an all-new exterior along with a redesigned interior offering improved comfort and utility.

2006 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4x4 Laramie
Base price $29,190
Price as tested $34,935
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 4-door, 5-pass
Engine 4.7L Magnum V-8
SAE net hp @ rpm 230 @ 4600
SAE net torque @ rpm 290 @ 3600
Transmission 5-speed automatic
0-60 mph, sec 9.1
EPA, city/hwy 12-17 (V-8); 18/23 (V-6)
Total mileage 14,661
Average test mpg 13.6
Observed worst mpg 8.3
Observed best mpg 17.5
Average distance per fill-up, miles 194
Average cost per fill-up $41.11
Average cost per gallon $2.93
Number of services 2
Overall service cost $101.56
Problem areas None