The Dakota is Done, So What’s Next?

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2012-dakota.jpgby Patrick Rall

While speaking with Ram Truck brand CEO Fred Diaz at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, he confirmed that 2011 would be the final year for the long-running Dodge Dakota but he was unable to confirm what exactly would replace the mid-sized pickup.  He explained that one of the “problems” with the Dakota is that there was not enough differentiation between itself and the top-selling Ram, so when the next generation of the Dakota hits the market it will be vastly different from the Ram.  


However, Mr. Diaz didn’t offer any indication as to just what we would
see – or what it would be called – but recent rumors suggest that the
replacement will be a unibody pickup based on the new Chrysler minivan
chassis.

Some of these rumors have suggested that this unibody
Dakota (should they stick with that name) will be similar in nature to
the Honda Ridgeline, although we can expect that the unibody pickup will
be no where near as brutally ugly as the Ridgeline.  Also, since
Chrysler is trying to separate the next gen Dakota and the Ram, we can
expect it to be a bit smaller than the current 2011 Dakota.  If the new
mid-sized Ram pickup is based on the Chrysler minivan platform, we can
expect it to be built at the same Canadian production facility as the
minivans.

There have been no indications as to what engines might
power the replacement to the truck formerly known as the Dodge Dakota,
but we can expect the 3.6L Pentastar will be offered…perhaps as the
premium engine.  The Pentastar is the only engine offered in the current
Chrysler Town & Country/Dodge Caravan lineup, so we can definitely
expect the new pickup to offer that engine, but there is probably no
chance of the Hemi ending up in the new smaller pickup. And with the
Pentastar offering 283hp in the minivans and 290 in the Durango and
Jeep, there is very little gap between the new V6 and the anemic 4.7L V8
in the current Dakota. 

The downside to the Pentastar is that it is a
little short on torque, offering just 260lb-ft in the Grand Cherokee and
Durango where the 4.7L V8 makes 330 pounds of twist.  One thing that we
can expect is a 6-speed transmission that will help to improve fuel
economy, and with the recent announcement that the next Chrysler minivans
will offer all wheel drive, the rumors of the next small pickup become
more realistic.

The next generation Chrysler minivan is expected
to hit sometime around 2013, as that is when Chrysler’s contract to
produce the Volkswagen Routan comes to an end, so the new small Ram truck
could hit around the same time.  Based on a 2013 model year, we could
see the next Dakota – or whatever it’s called – by the end of this year
at the LA Auto Show or at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, if the new truck
doesn’t drop in the City of Angels.

(Click here to join the Dakota conversation at DodgeForum.com!)

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