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Dodge Dakota - 2006 Pickup Truck Buyers Guide

2006 Dodge Dakota Review
Martha Hindes

Dodge Dakota
2006 Dodge Dakota

That's the biggest truck I've ever seen," said a neighbor. Actually, the truck was a midsize Dodge Dakota, the smallest of Dodge's pickup fleet. Granted, the full-size crew cab -- with a sport utility-type body in front of the truck bed -- made it look larger. And the big V-8 engine that powered it didn't diminish that perception one bit. When Dodge redid the Dakota for 2005, it apparently decided to listen to the sales trends at the time and gave the Dakota an extra size boost that melded comfortably with its hulking semi-truck appearance in front. But sitting near Dodge's Viper-engine-powered RAM SRT10 monster "halo" pickup with a world record 154.587-MPH top pickup speed, the Dakota looks more diminutive.

The combo points out an irony in the truck business today. For the past two years, most smaller pickup offerings have been resized upwards as Americans have used them as all-purpose family vehicles instead of simply for hauling or towing. But where small pickups had lagged during relatively cheaper gasoline times, they're now getting second and third looks from consumers who want or need a pickup but must keep fuel costs under control.

When redesigning the Dakota, Dodge also leaned toward creature comfort and safety. Now there's easier access (added for '06), longer seat track for the tall, rear seat room for adults or ample rear seat storage, and a five-star safety rating among plusses. Dakota claims best-in-class towing with the segment's only V-8, a 4.7-liter 230-HP Magnum. The 3.7-liter, 210-HP Magnum V-6 automatic rated at 17/22 MPG (in two-wheel-drive mode) beats the six-speed manual's fuel economy by a tick or two. Dakota comes in ST, SLT and Laramie trims, rear or four-wheel drive and Club or Quad Cab.

Red Crystal Pearl and Light Khaki exteriors are new for '06. Other adds include sound system and sunroof options, upgraded audio, more Sirius Satellite radio, and top wireless connectivity. Options, can add to the $19,685 Club Cab base including $645 destination. On the pricier side, Dakota gets four new high-performance trims for '06, including a "blacked-out" Night Runner intimidator.

Full-size truckers, avoiding higher fuel prices, can go a notch smaller with Dakota and get a similar kick and function. Dodge would probably love it. So would the kids.