For 2005, the Dodge Dakota receives major restyling. The mid-size Dakota is 95 mm longer than the 2004 edition. There’s a new six-speed manual transmission, a quieter air induction system, a coil-over-shock independent front suspension, stronger hydroformed frame, improved brakes, rear access doors on the Club Cab, automatic headlamps, an optional six CD/MP3 player, taller front head restraints and available side curtain air bags.

The base 3.7-litre V6 can be optioned to a 4.7-litre V8, making the Dakota the only midsize pickup available with eight cylinders. As in 2004, the Dakota comes in Club Cab or four-door Quad Cab; no regular cab is offered.

Both body styles come in five trim lines: ST, ST Plus, SLT, SLT Plus and Laramie. All include air conditioning, front and rear carpeting, tinted glass, cargo box light and variable intermittent wipers. Four-wheel-drive is optional on all models.

The base ST comes with cloth seats, CD player, manual mirrors, and 16-inch steel wheels, while the ST Plus adds cruise control, tilt wheel, and floor mats.

The SLT adds power windows, mirrors and locks with keyless entry, centre folding armrest with storage, 40/40 folding seats in the Club Cab, fog lamps, and 18-inch wheels. The SLT Plus adds an overhead console with Homelink garage door opener, six-way power driver’s seat, six-disc CD/MP3, and integrated alarm.

The Laramie includes auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seats, upgraded stereo with wheel-mounted controls, automatic headlamps and chrome-clad cast aluminum wheels.

In a crowded marketplace, the Dakota’s bold new face stands out; along with its exclusive V8 engine, it’s also the only midsize to offer full-time four-wheel-drive, and its towing capacity exceeds that of its rivals. Fit-and-finish is excellent, and noise levels have been reduced; this is a pleasurable hauler both for heavy-duty jobs and for cruising around town. On the down side, the V6 still retains its legendary taste for fuel; a stripped-down, all-vinyl model, such as that available in the Ford Ranger, would be appreciated by those who want the Dakota’s heavy-duty ability on the job site but who don’t want to be steam-cleaning mud out of the carpet.

The Dakota is built in Warren, Michigan.

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