1995 DODGE DAKOTA CLUB CAB 6.5-FT. BED 4WD
Used Truck - 1995 Dodge Dakota Club Cab 6.5-ft. Bed 4WD in Williamston, Sc
Actual costs may vary.
Major Accidents, Lemon History and Odometer Problems
» Get A Free CARFAX Record Check
1995 Dodge Dakota ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
The Dakota is 100 percent pickup.
In an automotive world increasingly filled with trucks that have carlike characteristics, the Dodge Dakota pickup is a traditionalist.
It suffers no confusion, no inner conflict about its role in life. It looks like a truck and it drives like a truck. So there.
The Dakota is a midsize truck that roams the ground between compact pickups such as the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet S-Series and GMC Sonoma, and the big mothers such as the Ford F-150, Chevy/GMC C/K series and the big Dodge Ram.
After years of buying its small pickups from Mitsubishi, Dodge created its own niche in 1986 with the home-grown Dakota. It turned out to be a popular size, and continues to be a pacesetter.
Changes to the Dakota for 1995 are confined to a few minor cosmetic revisions, revised padding for the 60/40 split bench seat and the addition of a natural gas fuel option. Otherwise, this is a familiar face, looking very much as it has since 1991.
The Dakota is offered in four trim levels: Base, which is self-explanatory; Work, packaged more for payloads than for pleasure; Sport, which is the model we tested; and the more luxurious SLT. Payloads depend on engine choice and range from 1250 lb. to a hefty 2600 lb.
Three engines are available. The smallest is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder rated at 99 hp at 4500 rpm, and 132 pound-feet of torque at 2800 rpm. Next is a smooth 3.9-liter V6 rated at 175 hp at 4800 rpm, and 225 lb.-ft. at 3200 rpm.
However, nothing exceeds like excess, and the engine we tried was the 5.2-liter Magnum V8 the only V8 available in a compact pickup rated at 220 hp at 4400 rpm, and 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 3200 rpm. That’s the most muscle you can pack into a pickup in this size class. The V6 engines offered in Ford and General Motors compact pickups offer respectable power but the Dodge V8 has a definite edge over both.
The V8-powered Dakota is not exactly a fuel miser, but life could be worse. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the Dakota will get 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. Some of the Dakota’s V6-powered competitors have better mpg ratings, but they can’t match the V8’s hauling power.
Our Dakota Sport had a 5-speed manual transmission and 2-wheel drive. Manual transmissions make the most of an engine’s power, but it’s not as critical with the V8 because power is abundant.
This is one engine that still delivers plenty of grunt when it’s allied with an automatic, and the Dakota’s optional 4-speed automatic transmission makes all-around driving - particularly stop-and-go a little easier.
On the other hand, the V8 delivers enough low-end thrust to make shifting almost redundant. With no load on board, the Dakota gets moving as easily in second gear as it does in first; the V8 will do that easily.
The manual transmission’s shift linkage was relatively smooth, but the shifts themselves were long. This is a truck, after all. The clutch take-up was friendly enough that even manual-transmission novices should have no trouble.
The Dakota is available in either Standard Cab or Club Cab, in 2- or 4-wheel drive. Either short (6.5 ft.) or long (8 ft.) cargo beds are available. The Dakota Sport model we drove was the Standard Cab with the short bed.
This combination provides enough room for driver and passengers, but there isn’t much leftover space with the seat extended to the end of its travel. Only the tiniest of drivers will have any storage room behind the seat of a Standard Cab.
Beyond that, the Dakota’s interior is rather standard fare. The basic driving controls are easy enough to find, but this somewhat dated design isn’t setting any new ergonomic standards. Instruments and materials are average. Chrysler could take a few lessons from Toyota on this score.
However, here, as elsewhere, Chrysler continues to take a leadership role in passive safety. This is one of the very few pickups that includes a driver’s airbag.
The seats are softish and a bench means three people could squeeze in, assuming the middle person is willing to share legroom with the gear-shift lever on a manual.
On the road, our Dakota made it abundantly clear that it is not trying to be a car. The steering has a trucklike, loose, vague feeling when the Dakota is pointed straight down the highway, and it doesn’t track back to on-center after the driver has made a minor maneuver.
Part of this is due to excessive assist in the power steering, part of it is due to suspension geometry. Excess power assist, which tends to diminish steering feel, is common to a good many trucks and sport/utility vehicles.
The good news in this connection is that the Dakota is easy to manage at low speeds in other words, it can be maneuvered around parking lots without feeling like a Nautilus machine on wheels. The bad news is the disconnected feeling may make some drivers slightly uneasy. But this is a sensation that quickly fades once you’ve put a few miles behind you.
The Dakota is fairly tall and so there is a substantial amount of body lean even in modestly hard cornering. There is also a slight choppiness to the ride, and on an uneven surface the upward body motions become extravagant, requiring several bouncy cycles before it settles down.
Another of the Dakota’s dynamic traits is a lightness to the tail under moderately hard cornering, particularly when the cargo bed is empty and the road surface is slippery. The driver gets the sense that the truck doesn’t really care too much about which end goes through the corner first, front or rear.
This isn’t surprising, because as with other pickups there is hardly any weight in the back, which means no weight on the rear wheels, which in turn means reduced traction. This heavy forward weight bias when there’s no load is one of the basic pickup truck compromises.
Even so, we think the Dakota’s suspension could use some updating. Even if you accept the Dakota’s truckish ride, it takes a backseat to some of the more contemporary trucks when it comes to handling.
On the other had, the Dakota does have one chassis option 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) that a good many pickups still lack. Most are still equipped with systems that work on the rear wheels only because the forward weight bias of an unloaded pickup could easily result in rear-wheel lockup.
ABS on all four wheels makes emergency stops much easier and safer because the system not only tries to keep the back of the truck in the back, but the driver maintains control of the steering as well. A system in which ABS does not work on the front wheels could mean a loss of steering if the front wheels lock up. Not good.
We were also impressed with the performance of the Dakota’s V8 engine. Acceleration was fairly brisk. Dakota V8 owners should have no trouble merging with interstate traffic or making a pass on a two-lane road.
More important, the low-rpm power and all-around flexibility of the V8 make it well suited to towing and other heavy chores.
In the end, the Dakota isn’t exactly state-of-the-art, but it has some saving graces. One is the airbag. Another is the optional ABS. The V8 engine option puts the Dakota in a class by itself among compact pickups. And its pricing makes it even more attractive.
If you favor carlike behavior in a pickup, this may not be the truck for you. But if you like the idea of the Dakota’s size and muscle both the V6 and V8 have plenty of punch the Dakota is definitely worth a look.