Four-door, personal-use pickups are one of this year's Big Things. And it makes sense: Some people need the cabin space of a sport/utility, with the cargo box of a pickup. While three-quarter and one-ton crew cabs (those with four full front-hinged doors) have been around for decades, this new breed of four-door truck is aimed squarely at the family and recreational user. Dodge's new Dakota Quad Cab now delivers the concept in a midsize package.
The formula was simple: Razor about 13 inches out of the bed, and splice it into the passenger compartment. Wheelbase and overall length (215.1 and 131.0 inches, respectively) remain the same as those of a Dakota Club Cab with a standard 6.5-foot bed. So have no fear that this rig is too long to comfortably manage. The other big Dakota news for 2000 is the availability of DaimlerChrysler's 4.7-liter/235-horse SOHC V-8, which debuted last year in the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. It replaces, and handily outpowers, the previous 5.2-liter; the 5.9-liter V-8 is still optional.
In practice, this is an outstanding package. Depending upon seating configuration, there's room for up to six, and back-seat passengers won't feel like they're spending time in the Penalty Box, as is often the case in most extended cab trucks. It's also nice that the rear windows roll all the way down. At 5 feet, 3 inches, the bed won't hold everything a standard pickup will, but it's still larger than just about any trunk or SUV cargo area. Dodge rates the payload capacity at 1450 pounds, and you're good to tow up to a 6200 pound trailer. We've always liked the Dakota's size and packaging: smaller, easier to get in and out of and maneuver than a full-size truck, yet with engine options and cab comfort not offered by a compact.
The new V-8 feels particularly punchy, and outdrags previous 5.2- and 5.9-liter Dakotas and Durangos we've tested. It's backed by a unique four-speed automatic transmission that packs two different second-gear ratios, and selects the most appropriate one for downshifts, depending upon power needs. This drivetrain package offers crisp around-town performance, 295 pound-feet of towing torque, and better fuel economy than the old 5.2. The Quad Cab's longer wheelbase means it delivers a smoother ride, with less freeway hop and chop, than many standard cab trucks.
If you're considering a sport/utility, but haul the type of cargo that really mandates a pickup, the Dakota Quad Cab makes tons of sense. What a concept.