If you haven't heard by now, there's a midsize-pickup eruption going on. There used to be a choice of either compact or full-size pickup trucks. Then along came the Dodge Dakota--clearly bigger than the Toyotas, Nissans, S-10s, and Rangers, but without the elbow room of the Silverado, F-150, or Rams. Turns out quite a few people didn't need a full-size, and since the introduction of the midsize, just about every manufacturer is trying to make its compacts bigger. Even though the Toyota Tacoma is slated for its bigger/better redesign for 2005 (see "News"), the new Dakota and Frontier are out first. We thought it might be interesting to look at these two side by side; while not technically comparing them in a head-to-head road test, showing them together might provide some benefits.
Quite a departure from previous...
Quite a departure from previous models, Dodge has gone upscale with the new Dakota gauge cluster and center stack. Almost too stylish?
For 2005, the Dakota continues to be the only vehicle in its class to offer a V-8 engine, the result of which is class-leading towing and carrying capacity. The 4.7-liter SOHC engine is a good engine and is also used in the full-size Ram and Grand Cherokee. The Dakota's standard engine is the versatile 3.7-liter 12-valve V-6, rated at 210 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 235 pound-feet of torque at 3600. Many of the same development and design technologies on this year's new Dodge Durango also have made their way into the new Dakota. A stiffer and stronger hydroformed and welded steel frame acts as the foundation for a lengthened, widened pickup. The result is a more muscular midsize capable of towing 7000 pounds and offering an 11,500 pound Gross Combined Weight Rating--the best in its class to date.
Nissan goes in a different...
Nissan goes in a different direction, attempting to perfect the "too many gauges in too small a space" philosophy.
The new Frontier will offer a punched-out Nissan 350Z motor, now at 4.0 liters. The 24-valve DOHC V-6 will likely make more than 250 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. The base engine for King Cab Frontiers will be a 2.5-liter 16-valve I-4 with over 160 horsepower. As to hauling power, utilizing basically the same frame as the Titan (with a few modifications to reduce its size), the result is an exceptionally stiff, rigid frame that allows Nissan to comfortably increase the truck's wheelbase by 10 inches, but at the same time increase by a significant margin towing and payload capacity. Although numbers haven't been finalized, we expect the truck's competence to be limited by a V-6 powerplant, rather than the capacities of the frame. We figure maximum towing to rate around 6000, with the combined (loaded truck + max trailer = GCWR) number being in the 10,000-pound range.