First Test: 2003 Modified Dodge Dakota R/T Regular Cab

Dodge is putting its Dakota R/T out to pasture

Scott MortaraJun 8, 2004
An early pioneer of the sport-truck genre, Dodge is putting its Dakota R/T out to pasture, but not without one last ride: the company created the Modified Dakota R/T.

The first Dakota rolled off the assembly line in 1986, leading its class in power and hauling capability. In 1998, Dodge introduced the limited-edition Dakota R/T by shoe-horning a 5.9-liter/250-horsepower Magnum V-8 with a free-flow exhaust into its stock Dakota. Along with the engine upgrades, Dodge added firmer shocks and springs, lowered the R/T one inch, and put front and rear stabilizer bars on to improve handling. The R/T was equipped with a four-speed transmission and 255/55x17-inch meats to help keep the R/T hooked up. The base R/T got to 60 in 7.4 seconds while cruising the quarter mile in 15.4 at 88.8 mph.
To commemorate the Dakota R/T's last year, Dodge took this already potent performance truck and bolted on a few final go-fast goodies. It added a Magnum MPI single-plane intake manifold ($364), cast-aluminum valve covers ($172), Magnum R/T cylinder-head assemblies ($766 each), a high-performance cam and lifter set ($450), a low-restriction cat-back exhaust system ($335), and a cold-air intake ($372). Dodge estimates the $3225 in modifications increased the power output to 300 horsepower.
This is very likely the baddest Dakota to date. In fact, this truck ran even better numbers than the 345-horsepower Hemi Ram 1500. With that said, there are a few things that still need some improvement. The tranny is indecisive and yearns for one last shift. Interior comfort is at a minimum, especially to people over six feet; adding a few more inches would be heaven. Otherwise, the truck defines pure and simple quality, just what we've come to expect from Dodge.
The reason for retiring the R/T is clear: Dodge will no longer produce the 5.9-liter engine. Also, sources say the Dakota Stampede will be replacing the R/T. Similar in appearance to the Dakota, the Stampede will have all the muscle-truck parts the R/T had, with one exception: Instead of the 5.9-liter powerplant Dodge used in the past, the company will replace it with a 4.7-liter with slightly less muscle, at 235 horses.
Even with the drop in power, we're confident those Dodge boys will continue the tradition they helped create. We're thinking supercharger.

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