Happy days are very here if you're a Dakota fan. Hell, it's happy days even if you're not. For 2005, the big deal is a V-8. Two of 'em, actually. However, power is simply the beginning of the changes behind the all-new Dodge.
The standard will be a 3.7L V-6 that'll put out 210 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque, and it'll be hooked to a new Getrag 238 six-speed manual transmission instead of the familiar NV3500 five-speed, with an optional four-speed auto on tap. Not enough for you? A 4.7L V-8 has been spec'd at 230 horses and 290 lb-ft of torque, and will be mated to the six-speed or to an optional five-speed. If you need a pinch more kick, there will be a High Output version of that V-8, which claims more than 250 ponies and 300-plus lb-ft of torque, and it will have tuned pipes for a throaty Magnum note.
The exhaust for the other mills will have a 30-percent larger blowhole than before and two resonators instead of one for a mightier sound. The V-8 power can bring the towing capacity of the Dakota up to 7,150 pounds. But if you're salivating for a much-talked-about Hemi, you'll have to wait until the Quad Cab SRT comes out in the fall-although that'll be a performance street truck, not a four-by. And while the Jeep Liberty's 2.8L commonrail diesel could likely slide under the hood of the Dakota, Dodge isn't coughing up any confirmation of it as reality.
What else will you care about? Two four-wheel-drive systems will be offered: a standard part-time system with low range and a full-time with part-time lock. The suspension will also be fresh: The front will feature a short- and long-arm system with coilover shocks, while the rear will ride on redesigned leaves. The fully boxed '05 frame will be 3.7 inches longer than the last Dakota (extra space is mostly in front of the anterior axle) and the interior will be roomier. And the regular cab has been dumped in favor of only Club Cab (with a 6-foot 6-inch bed) and Quad Cab (5 foot 4 inches here) styles in entry-level ST, middle-of-the-road SLT, and highfalutin Laramie models. The ST Club Cab 4x4 will start at about $23,000, while a Laramie Quad Cab 4x4 will come in a hair under $30,000.
The other more obvious change to the Dakota is to its features. The Dodge peeps say the headlights are "technical looking," the taillights "double-barrel," the interior "European inspired," and the appearance "big-rig" influenced. Whatever! Say it looks a lot like a mini Ram as the rest of us do and move on! In fact, we'd just call it what it is-a downsize beast with fullsize inspiration.