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CarGurus Expert ReviewThe Good
The 2009 Dodge Dakota offers abundant storage, a tough and durable frame, and best-in-class towing to go along with decent looks and more-than-passable ride quality.The Bad
Poor gas mileage, a weak V6 engine, a lack of refinement, and questionable interior materials and workmanship keep the ’09 Dakota somewhat behind the midsize pickup curve.
The CarGurus View
When equipped with the available V8 engine, the 2009 Dodge Dakota justifies its reputation as a solid workhorse and a mighty tow vehicle. A lack of refinement, some shortcomings in cabin materials, and a minimum of standard safety features may concern more than a few buyers.
At a Glance
Since a significant redesign in 2005 and some major tweaking in ’07, the 2009 Dodge Dakota offers little change from the ’08, with the re-naming of a couple of trims about the extent of it. The Dakota features four basic trim levels: ST, Bighorn/Lonestar (ex-STX), Laramie, and TRX (ex-Sport). The Dakota trims come in either Extended Cab or Crew Cab configurations, and each trim, except the TRX, offers a choice of rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). TRXs are available only with 4WD.
With no Regular Cab configuration (the Regular Cab was dropped in 2005 because of customer disinterest), Dakota’s Crew Cab is limited to a 5½-foot bed, while the Extended Cab offers a 6½-foot bed. The Extended cab comes with rear-opening “suicide doors," while the Crew Cab is a true four-door configuration.
Professional reviewers note that the ’09 Dakota has a best-in-class towing capacity of 7,100 pounds, when properly equipped, and a respectable 1,630 pounds of payload capacity. Most reviewers are also impressed with the interior storage space offered by the Dakota, especially with the available Crate ‘N’ Go fold-up rear seat that allows two sizable storage boxes to pop up from the rear floor in Crew Cab trims.
The 2009 Dodge Dakota comes with a 3.7-liter SOHC V6 as the standard engine. This engine puts out 210 hp at 5,200 rpm and 235 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. EPA estimates for the 3.7-liter V6 are 16/20 mpg with RWD and 15/20 with 4WD.
Available for all ’09 Dakota trims except the ST is a 4.7-liter Flex Fuel V8 that virtually all reviewers agree is the engine of choice to maximize the Dakota’s workhorse capacity. The 4.7-liter V8 pounds out 302 hp at 5,650 rpm, and 329 lb-ft of torque at 3,950 rpm, and the EPA estimates 14/19 with RWD and marginally less with 4WD.
For 2009, the Dakota ST comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission, while all other trims are equipped with a standard four-speed automatic that’s an option for the ST. A five-speed automatic with overdrive is available for all Dakota trims that pack the 4.7-liter V8.
Most reviewers find the 3.7-liter V6 good for little except light hauling and commuting, while the V8 is adequate for merging and passing, as well as the heavy towing and hauling that the Dakota was designed for.
Ride & Handling
A four-wheel independent front suspension, with a front stabilizer bar, and a live axle rear suspension support the ’09 Dodge Dakota across the line. Nearly all professional reviewers note the Dakota to be smooth and well mannered. Some body lean and a bit of rear-end hop, common to pickups in any case, is managed nicely by the Dakota. Reviewers also praise the power rack-and-pinion steering that gives the ’09 Dakota a well-defined and accurate feel for the road.
The Dakota for ’09 is equipped with standard front disc and rear drum brakes. More than one professional reviewer feels the brakes across the Dakota lineup should be considerably upgraded, with the available four-wheel ABS offered as standard equipment. Four-wheel disc brakes are also mentioned as an improvement.
The ’09 Dakota base ST and TRX feature standard 16-inch wheels with all-terrain tires. The Bighorn rolls on standard 17-inch and the Laramie on standard 18-inch wheels. TRXs are true off-road machines, and include a standard limited-slip rear differential, skid plates to protect the fuel tank and transfer case, all-terrain OWL tires, and a 3.92 axle ratio.
Cabin & Comfort
Virtually all professional reviewers find the gauges and controls on the 2009 Dodge Dakota easily readable and readily accessible. Cabin materials and workmanship, however, are another matter, with nearly all reviewers noting a disappointing lack of quality in both.
Standard comfort and convenience features for the base ’09 Dakota ST include front cloth bucket seats, tilt-wheel steering, air-conditioning, and a single-disc CD/MP3 player with four speakers. The Bighorn (for Texans, Lonestar) adds cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls, power windows, doors, and mirrors, a center console, and phone pre-wiring.
TRXs offer such standard features as premium cloth upholstery, a six-way power driver’s seat, a universal garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, SIRIUS satellite radio, and a radio data system. The top-line Laramie adds a chrome grille and chrome finish bumper, remote power door locks, steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, and a 276-watt 6-CD changer with MP3 capability and six Alpine Premium Speakers.
Options for the Dakota ST include a four-speed automatic transmission, chrome side-steps, upgraded rims, and chrome exterior accents. Options for the Bighorn, TRX, and Laramie include, besides the 4.7-liter V8 and five-speed automatic transmission, a MyGIG infotainment system, Bluetooth hands-free communication technology, 6.5-inch touchscreen navigation with SIRIUS Realtime Traffic, leather upholstery, heated front seats, Crate ‘N’ Go storage in the Crew Cab trims, and a Class IV towing package.
Standard safety features for the 2009 Dodge Dakota include rear-wheel drum ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, a passenger-sensing airbag deactivation system, child seat anchors, seatbelt pre-tensioners, front fog/driving lights, a tire pressure monitoring system, dusk-sensing headlights, and a remote anti-theft alarm system. Available safety equipment includes four-wheel ABS and a front and side-curtain airbag system.
Though some reviewers question the Dakota’s rear-drum-only ABS feature and lack of standard side airbags, all agree that the ’09 Dakota tests well. The National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration gives the Dakota five stars in front and side impact testing and four stars in rollover tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the ’09 Dakota a Good rating, its highest, for front and side impact tests when equipped with the available front and rear side-curtain airbags, and a second-best Marginal without the side-curtain airbag protection.
What Owners Think
With few exceptions, owners are pleased with the 2009 Dodge Dakota. There are, however, several items many owners feel need attention. Fuel economy is the major complaint mentioned, with the lack of power from the 3.7-liter V6 coming in a close second. The lack of a more aggressive exterior is another issue owners bring up, along with reliability and quality disappointments.
Praise, however, far outnumbers complaints from owners of the ’09 Dakota. Ride quality, the power generated by the 4.7-liter V8, and the advantages of the Dakota’s high stance for better drive visibility all make a positive impression on most owners. Cabin storage space is another aspect of the ’09 Dakota lauded by owners, with several noting the advantages of the Crate ‘N’ Go storage available with the Crew Cab configuration.
Finally, virtually all owners are impressed with the Flex Fuel capability of the 4.7-liter V8, which allows the engine to run on either regular or E85 ethanol gas.
by Eric Tallberg
Talk about the 2009 Dodge Dakota
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