SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide
It may be the latest trend and could be the most practical design yet for those who want something more than conventional 4WD, four-door sport utility vehicles offer.
Sport utility trucks (SUTs), as they're being called, are just starting to emerge and Dodge's 2000 Dakota Quad Cab may become the trendsetter.
Recently introduced, the new Dakota four-door pickups are now being delivered to dealer showrooms. They offer six-passenger seating, V8 engine power, a payload capacity of 1,450 pounds, and maximum towing rates up to 6,100 pounds. These are capacities unmatched by any similar sized vehicle on the market. In fact, Quad Cab's five-foot three-inch, 38 cubic foot cargo bed is the longest among true four-door compact pickups, says dodge.
You may wonder why Dodge opted for this down-size cargo bed when compared to traditional 6.5-foor boxes. According to Mike Gladini, Dodge Truck Marketing Manager, the shorter bed fits in all garages and research showed that those owning the larger box use the full length of it less than 10 percent of the time. For those who demand the extra length, Mopar Parts offers a lightweight aluminum bed extender that allows the tailgate to be left open, effectively lengthening the bed 18 inches. Added to that, the lightweight aluminum extender can be removed easily by lifting it up and out.
But the real selling point of this new truck is its four doors, the rears of which open forward a full 90 degrees for unencumbered ingress/egress. The rear windows, unlike those in some other trucks, can be lowered completely.
As a full-fledged four-door, Dodge elected not to call it a crew cab, primarily because of the construction vehicle connotation. The extra length cab provides spacious rear leg and head room that surpasses, in comparison, even the full-size Dodge Ram Quad Cab, among others.
Secured storage space is additionally offered by the 60/40 split folding rear seats (they lift up against the rear wall) that opens the rear cabin from ceiling to floor for carrying bulky items like a 32-inch TV, a fragile item you wouldn't want to necessarily stow in the cargo bed. And the rear seat back is angled for comfortable seating over long hauls.
Dodge offers a trio of powerplants that include a 3.9-liter OHV 175 hp V6; new 4.7-liter SOHC 235 hp V8 with aluminum alloy heads; and a 5.9-liter OHV 245 hp V8 with cast iron heads.
If towing is a consideration, Dodge recommends the 5.9-liter Magnum. I would not, however, rule out light towing with the new 4.7-liter V8 since it provides exhilarating performance through first to fourth gears when equipped with a five-speed manual transmission.
The 2000 Quad Cab has lots of attributes like power rack-and-pinion steering for tighter turning circles, keyless entry, 24-gallon fuel tank, new larger 11-inch disc brakes with standard rear-wheel ABS, deep tinted glass on the rear door windows, 40-20-40 cloth split front seat with folding dual-purpose backrest/armrest storage.
The interior is nicely styled with easy-to-read instruments and HVAC gauges. Attention was given to little items like cruise control activation and set buttons placed on the same side of the steering wheel whereby selection can easily be made by a convenient thumb movement. Assist handles are placed over three doors, although a fourth would be nice.
Ride quality is smooth, quiet and not truck-like. I rode in the rear seat of the new Dakota Quad Cab for more than 90 miles and was very comfortable. Recalibrated shocks and spring designs contribute to this refined ride and superior quick handling.
Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or a new electronically controlled four-speed automatic with alternate second-gear ratios. The 4WD shifter remains floor-mounted and engages easily.
As for the short cargo bed, it's ideal for tent campers as tents and equipment can be stowed there freeing the extended cab for seating or additional cargo. Or, if you're into kayaking or diving, the bed is a handy place to stow wet gear.
If mountain biking is your thing, Mopar Accessories will offer a rack to stow bikes, likely in conjunction with the bed extender. Otherwise, and depending upon the length of the bike, it will fit by removing the front wheel, a common security practice among biking enthusiasts.
Pricing for the Dakota 4x4 Sport Quad Cab begins at $22,135 and a 4x2 at $19,490. Also offered in upstyle SLT model, the new Quad Cab is one snazzy practical vehicle that goes beyond the conveniences of an SUV. It also makes a great tow vehicle, especially for those campers owning pop-ups.