1998 Dodge Dakota Reviews and Ratings


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1998 Dodge Dakota
Don Fuller

The full-size Dodge Ram brought big-rig styling and a host of innovative features and design details to the

pickup truck market; its popularity is now a matter of record. Last year, Dodge applied the Ram look and feel to

its mid-size pickup, the Dakota, and it was another instant success.

For many buyers, the Dakota is a uniquely nifty size, bigger than the compact pickups, such as the Ford Ranger

and Chevy Sonoma, smaller than the full-size models, such as the Ram and Ford F-150. Really, there's nothing else

quite like it, and that puts the Dakota in a favorable spot.

The Dodge Dakota offers more room inside than the smaller compact trucks, increasing comfort for passengers,

but it isn't so big on the outside that it's cumbersome or awkward to drive around town or fit into parking slots.

For many buyers, that adds up to the ideal size.

Dodge completely redesigned the Dakota last year, so there isn't much new for 1998. New colors have been

added to this year's palette. The optional keyless remote entry system now features a panic alarm, forged alloy

wheels are available for the SLT trim level, and the four-cylinder engine is available in a wider range of models. Walkaround
The Dakota comes with a choice of four powerplants. At the entry level is a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder

that makes 120 horsepower and 145 foot-pounds (lb.-ft.) of torque. It's most appropriate for a delivery truck

for the local auto parts store.

Next up is an optional 3.9-liter V6 that generates a very useful 175 hp and 225 lb.-ft. of torque. This is the

logical engine of choice for most buyers, particularly those whose lifestyles don't include trailer hitches.

Then there's a powerful 5.2-liter V8, with 220 hp and 300 lb.-ft. of torque. It's stronger than any other engine

available in any truck that's anywhere near the Dakota's size. Depending upon specific configuration and

drivetrain, the 5.2-liter gives the Dakota a towing capability of 6700 pounds, a level the imports and compacts

just can't match.

Finally, Dodge is introducing the Dakota R/T this spring with a 5.9-liter V8 that makes 250 hp and a crushing 345

lb.-ft. of torque. It just won't take no for an answer.

From the outside, the Dakota looks and feels like a slightly smaller near-clone of the Ram. Based on reactions

from people on the street, its big-rig look has turned out to be very popular.

The Dakota offers buyers a lot of choices. In addition to the four engines, there are two transmissions

available, a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. The body comes in a regular cab or extended Club Cab with cargo

box lengths of either 6.5 or 8.0 feet. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive is available along with more than 40

options. Trim levels include the relatively plain base; Sport, which sports body-colored trim; SLT, which is

fancier with more chrome; SLT Plus, which is fancier still; and the hot-rod R/T.

Our Dakota was a nicely outfitted Club Cab 2WD SLT with the 5.2-liter V8 and automatic transmission. The base

price was $19,665; some carefully selected options raised that figure to $22,405, which we thought seemed reasonable.

As we expected, the performance and pulling power of the V8 was several steps above that of most of the

V6-powered compact pickups. The Dakota isn't particularly fast because, even empty, it weighs about two tons.

But it is capable of dealing with serious loads, whether those loads are in the cargo bed, hooked onto the trailer

hitch, or both.

We were pleased to see a high level of quality on our truck. Everything was screwed together tight, the doors

and tailgate closed with an authoritative slam and nothing creaked or rattled. Even wind noise was noticeably low. Interior
Stepping inside our Dakota Club Cab was all it took to convince us why people like the New Dodge approach to

truck building. It's roomy, comfortable and full of features, big and small, that make getting down the road a


The standard interior comes with a comfortable bench seat, split into three parts on a 40/20/40 percent basis.

The center portion has a folding back that also serves as a center armrest and includes a large, multi-function

storage console. Optional bucket seats come with a huge center console that includes specific spots for tissue

paper, maps and cassettes or CDs. Both bench and bucket seats have their strengths, so choosing between them is

a personal decision.

Other neat touches: Three cupholders in the forward portion of the center console in three sizes, for a two-liter

bottle, 20-oz. bottle and soft-drink can -- just right for Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear. In the Club Cab, the

rear seat cushions are split 60/40, increasing versatility when carrying people and cargo. The rear cushions fold

up, revealing a flat floor so your suitcase or toolbox will stay upright; that's a good feature because not all

extended cab pickups have a flat floor surface. Under those rear seat cushions are two storage compartments; one

houses the jack and tools and provides some storage space, the other is a generous storage bin. In addition to the

front cupholders, there are cupholders in the quarter panels for the rear-seat passengers. Order the automatic

transmission and the place where the manual transmission lever would poke through the floor becomes yet another

little tray to toss odds and ends.

Those whose lifestyle revolves around a trailer hitch should seriously consider the well-designed fold-away power

mirrors. They measure a huge 6x9 inches and are the biggest we've ever seen outside a truck stop. They are terrific,

providing a big boost in rearward vision, yet cost only $160.

You can't reasonably expect an extended cab pickup to offer lots of stretch-out room for rear-seat passengers.

But the Dakota Club Cab is wide enough for three adults back there; and as long as those in front move their seats

up a bit, the three in back should find the trip to the football stadium parking lot livable. Driving Impressions
Trucks keep getting better in terms of ride quality, but they're still trucks. Empty, the Dakota won't confuse

you into thinking you're in a luxury sedan, but the ride gets better as weight is added. It's best if you make your

own decision regarding ride comfort when you take one for a test drive.

The Dakota's handling feel is a pleasant surprise, especially to those familiar with bigger pickups. It has

that relentless straight-ahead stability that makes easy work of long highways, yet it works commendably well when

the pavement takes a few turns. And the Dakota is relatively nimble, able to deal with tight spaces and crowded

conditions where its tidier size (compared to the big pickups), allows it to fit easily through traffic and into

that last available spot in front of the grocery store.

In short, as with several other characteristics important to truck buyers, the Dakota's just-right size seems

to give it several advantages with few apparent shortcomings. Summary
Some truck buyers have been stuck in a quandary: Don't need that big honkin' full-size pickup, but the compacts

and imports don't meet the power requirement to tow the boat to the lake. The Dakota fills that niche like no

other truck on the planet.

If you need to tow something bigger than the Dakota will handle, then you need a full-size pickup. If you don't

deal with much of a load at all, maybe one of the compacts will do just fine.

But if you're like a huge number of truck buyers and have needs that fall somewhere in that great middle ground,

then there's nothing else available that will do the job like the Dodge Dakota. For many of us, it's just right.

Model as tested
SLT Club Cab
Basic Warranty
36 months/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Dodge City, Michigan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Power Convenience Package I (includes: remote keyless entry, power windows and locks), dual power 6x9-inch mirrors, power six-way driver's seat, AM/FM/cassette/CD, trailer towing package, rear sliding window, tilt steering wheel, four-wheel ABS, floor mats

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
5.2-liter ohv V8
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
Rear-wheel ABS, power steering and brakes, AM/FM/cassette stereo, air conditioning, 22-gallon fuel tank, tinted glass, bright grille and bumpers, alloy wheels, light group

Engine & Transmission
5.2-liter ohv V8
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
230 @ 4400
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
Live axle

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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