2002 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4
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by Greg Wilson


Mid-sized Dakota Quad Cab is a versatile vehicle

Full-size four-door pickups like the Dodge Ram Quad Cab, Ford F-150 SuperCrew, and Chevy Silverado Crew Cab are very popular in Canada, particularly in the Prairies, but they are monsters on the road – and if you’ve ever tried to parallel park one of these babies on any downtown street, you’ll know that it’s almost impossible to find a big enough parking spot.


A more practical all-around driving choice is a mid-sized, four-door pickup, such as the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab, Nissan Frontier Crew Cab, or Toyota Tacoma DoubleCab. Mid-size pickups are about ten or fifteen inches shorter than full-size crew cabs and seven or eight inches narrower, so they're easier to maneuver in parking lots and on crowded streets - yet they offer adequate room for four or five passengers, and have a useful (though usually short) cargo box.

Another advantage of mid-size pickups is that they get better (but not great) gas mileage than their bigger, heavier gas-guzzling cousins - and depending on the engine offered, are able to tow trailers weighing up to about 3000 kilograms.

Mid-size pickups are usually offered in three bodystyles: a Regular Cab with two or three seats, an Extended Cab with two rear jump seats, and a Crew Cab with a total of five or six seats. Having driven all three varieties, my opinion is that a Crew Cab is the most versatile despite its shorter box. With a decent-sized rear seat, crew cabs can double as family vehicles - and when the rear seat is not in use, the area can be used as a roomy storage area that's secure and dry. For longer cargo items, the short box can be extended by lowering the tailgate and securing the cargo with tie-downs, or by adding a bed extender.


Dakota Quad Cab Sport

2002 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4
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The 2002 Dodge Dakota is offered as a two-door regular cab, two-door extended cab, and four-door crew cab (Quad cab) with two wheelbase lengths and two box lengths: 6.5 ft. and 5.3 ft. - however the Dakota Quad Cab is offered only with the shorter box.

With the Dakota, you can choose between five trim levels, three different engines (two of them V8's), three transmissions, and a multitude of options which can boost the price by as much as $10,000 over the base price. 2002 Dakotas range in price from $21,815 for the 4X2 SLT Regular Cab to $29,135 for a 4X4 Quad Cab Sport, plus options.

My test truck was a well-equipped Quad Cab Sport 4X4 with a standard 4.7 litre V8 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, split folding front bench and split folding rear bench seats, air conditioning, electronic shift-on-the-fly 4WD, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, and heavy duty suspension. Options on my truck included bigger all-terrain 16 inch tires and alloy wheels, 4 wheel ABS (instead of rear only), anti-slip rear differential, box bedliner, power drivers seat, power windows and door locks, cruise control, an upgraded stereo with eight speakers, and front fog lamps. Including freight and a/c tax, the price of my test truck came to $38,335.


Interior impressions

Dakota 4X4's have a lot of ground clearance - minimum ground clearance is 198 mm (7.8 in.) - so the step-up into the cabin is high, but not awkward. Grab handles inside each door make it easier to launch yourself onto the seat. Both front and rear doors are wide but the rear doors are narrower than the front doors - however, the rear doors open almost 90 degrees, allowing easy access to the rear seat. The driver sits up high, and the Dakota's large windows offer excellent visibility in all directions. I also liked the Dakota's extra-wide outside mirrors.

2002 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4

2002 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4
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Front and rear passengers have plenty of headroom, and rear passengers have a surprising amount of legroom. The front seats in my test truck were covered in a comfortable soft cloth fabric with an attractive pattern, and the seats had fixed head restraints which seemed a bit low for taller drivers. The Quad Cab's standard 40/20/40 split front bench seat has a centre folding seat which can be folded down and used as a centre armrest with a roomy built-in storage compartment. There are actually six seatbelts in the Quad Cab, so it's possible to transport six people - but it's more comfortable for four or five adults.

The Dakota's dash design is very attractive and functional without being too flashy or too utilitarian. I liked the simple white on black gauges (all six of them), the quality look of the indented dashboard material, and the close-at-hand, easy-to-see buttons and dials in the centre dash area. I also liked the large interior door handles which are easy to grip. The lower console includes a couple of useful open storage areas, and two cupholders with sliding ratchet levers which grip any size of cup or mug. There are also large storage pockets in the doors.

The rear seat is comfortable, though the seatback is more vertical and the head restraints are too low. One or both of the split rear seat cushions can fold up against the seatback, creating a large open storage area inside the cab. During my test-drive, I was able to transport a clothes dresser inside the rear of the cab with both doors closed! It's also possible to carry one or two passengers on one side of the back seat while transporting cargo on the other side with the split seat cushion folded up. This interior storage space is protected from the elements and can be locked if you have to leave the truck parked in a public place.

The 5.3 feet-long short box isn't long enough for a bookshelf or a double bed, but the tailgate can be lowered and the cargo secured using the hooks in the bed walls. Nissan also sells an optional tubular bed extender which folds over on top of the tailgate. Another method of hauling longer items is to prop them up on top of the raised tailgate (which has a vinyl protector to prevent scratching). The angle of the items keeps them from sliding out of the box.

The cargo box has a tiered design for dividing the bed into sections with 2X4's, has built-in tie-down hooks, and will carry up to 454 kg (1000 lb.). My test truck had an optional plastic bedliner, a useful item that prevents scratching the painted box surface. A large cargo light above the rear window illuminates the entire box at night, and a step bumper with a protective covering is helpful when jumping in and out of the box. The tailgate is removeable, but it's not lockable.


Driving impressions

When I started up the Dakota's 4.7 litre V8 each morning, it produced a considerable amount of fan noise which subsided as soon as the engine warmed up, and usually didn't reappear until the next morning. This is common with truck engines which have bigger radiators, but I still thought the noise seemed excessive.

While most Dakota's come with a standard 3.9 litre pushrod V6 engine, the Quad Cab offers a standard 4.7 litre SOHC V8 engine, a responsive, sporty engine with plenty of horsepower and torque: 235 horsepower @ 4800 rpm and 295 ft-lb. of torque at a relatively low 3200 rpm. Throttle response on takeoff is immediate, and the Dakota's 0 to 100 km/h time of 10.5 seconds is quick for a crew cab pickup truck. At speed on the freeway, the 4.7 litre V8 is relaxed doing just 1,800 rpm at 100 km/h and 2,200 at 120 km/h. At that speed, there's only a faint burble from the engine and a little wind noise, and the Dakota's cabin is quiet enough to hold a regular conversation. Even my truck's optional P265/70R-16 OWL all-terrain tires were surprisingly quiet over the pavement.

Fuel consumption, while better than a full-size Dodge Ram with the same engine, is still pretty awful: 17.8 l/100 km (16 mpg) in the city and 12.3 l/100 km (23 mpg) on the highway. Thank goodness it uses Regular Unleaded.

2002 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4
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Equipped with the 4.7 litre V8, the Quad Cab can tow a trailer weighing up to 2132 kg (4700 lb). With the optional 5.9 litre V8 and an optional trailer towing package (which includes a Class IV platform hitch receiver, seven lead wiring harness with direct plug-in, and 7/4 pin adapter wiring pigtail), the Dakota can tow up to 3016 kg (6650 lb.). Towing capacity varies with the engine, transmission and bodystyle selection, so you need to verify the particular vehicle that you are going to buy to find out how much it will tow.

I found the 4-speed automatic transmission would shift quickly with a slight 'bump', but could be fooled into hesitating by accelerating hard just as it dropped into a higher gear - but that's a minor quibble. The transmission lever is on the steering column rather than the floor which frees up console storage space, and includes an on/off overdrive button at the tip of the lever.

I was impressed with the Dakota's highway ride. It's very comfortable for a truck with a heavy duty suspension, a sold rear axle, and a high ride height. The Quad Cab also handles with surprising stability and poise, and it tracks well on the highway with good resistance to side winds. Though the steering is not a variable-assist system, the steering has a light touch at slow speeds for easy parking. However, if you have to make a U-turn, the Quad Cab has a very wide turning circle of 12.6 metres (42.1 ft.) - or about five feet more than a Dakota Regular Cab model.

The brakes are front disc/rear drum, and while rear anti-lock brakes are standard equipment, my test truck was equipped with the optional four-wheel ABS system - something I would recommend for all Dakota buyers.

2002 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4
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Engaging four-wheel-drive is easy: a dial just to the left of the heater can be switched between 2HI (rear-wheel-drive), 4HI (50/50 front/rear torque split), and 4LO (4HI in a lower gear). 4HI can be engaged 'on the fly' at speeds up to about 80 km/h, while 4LO can only be engaged when stopped. 4HI is a 'part-time' system, which means that it should only be used on slippery surfaces such as snow, ice, gravel, dirt, rocks, or very wet roads to prevent tire binding and premature wear to the 4WD system. The 4WD system also includes a Neutral position, which I presume is for disengaging the transfer case in order to tow the Dakota.

Off-road performance is excellent - there's plenty of power and torque for climbing, good traction from the part-time 4WD system and beefy OWL tires, and a Low gear for descending steep trails. My only concern is the Quad Cab's long 131 inch wheelbase which could lead to 'grounding' over a sharp hill.


Competitor overview

The Dakota Quad Cab has few direct competitors in its size range - the closest would be the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab ($35,398) with its supercharged 210 horsepower V6 engine, and the Toyota Tacoma DoubleCab ($31,350) with a 190 horsepower 3.4 litre V6. The Dakota is the only mid-sized truck available with a V8 engine (4.7 litre or 5.9 litre), but surprisingly, the Frontier's supercharged V6 has more torque than the Dakota's 4.7 litre V8 while the Tacoma's V6 engine has almost as much torque. The Dakota and Tacoma have a standard short box, but the Frontier is offered with a long box. The Tacoma DoubleCab is narrower than the Dakota and Frontier and as a result it's interior is slightly smaller - but it's also considerably lighter and faster than the other two, and has the best fuel consumption too.


Verdict

The mid-size Dakota Quad Cab pickup is a good choice for a family that needs a manageable 4X4 pickup truck, or for singles that want a truck with room for their friends and their snowboards. I liked the fact that the Dakota is easier to maneuver and park than full-size trucks, and is capable of towing a recreational trailer weighing up to 3000 kg. I didn't like its poor gas mileage and relatively high as-tested price.

Dodge Dakotas are built in Warren, Michigan.


Technical Data: Dodge Dakota Sport Quad Cab 4X4

Base price $29,135
Freight $870
Options $8,230
Price as tested $38,335
Type four-door, 6 passenger mid-size crew cab pickup
Layout longitudinal front engine/PT 4WD
Engine 4.7 litre V8, SOHC, 16 valve
Horsepower 235 @ 4800 rpm
Torque 295 @ 3200 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Transfer case electronic part-time, shift-on-the-fly with Low range
Tires Goodyear Wrangler P265/70R-16 OWL all-terrain
GVWR 2726 kg (6010 lb.)
Wheelbase 3327 mm (131.0 in.)
Length 5464 mm (215.1 in.)
Width 1819 mm (71.6 in.)
Height 1740 mm (68.5 in.)
Box length 1.6 m (5.3 ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 17.8 l/100 km (16 mpg)
  Hwy: 12.3 l/100 km (23 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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