Dodge’s 2010 Dakota TRX4 is a midsize pickup, built for truckers who think big. It’s a serious off-road truck that comes only in a crew-cab configuration, standard with 4.7-liter V-8 grunt, 4×4 traction and extra-strength upgrades to help the TRX4 handle the rough stuff.
The TRX4 is base priced at $32,105, including a $740 destination charge. Beef is added to the pickup with P265/70R-16 off-road tires wrapping five-spoke aluminum wheels; extra-heavy-duty rear shock absorbers; heavy-duty engine cooling; anti-spin differential rear axle; 3.92 rear axle ratio; transfer case, front suspension and fuel tank skid plates; and tow hooks. Punctuating the fact that this Dakota is ready for the rough stuff are “TRX4 Off-Road” graphics on the bed sides.
The TRX4 exterior also is accented with black fender flares, body-side molding, black headlamp molding with chrome trim, fog lamps and a silver-accent-colored grille. Appropriate for an off-road pickup, the test truck’s grille is “accented” with bugs and the BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires with mud.
Redesigned in the 2008 model year, the hood was given character lines with a widened dome, and wears a lip that rests atop the grille.
Headlamps flanking the grille are rectangular, and formidable-looking fenders square off with the headlamps. Dakota’s chiseled-look lower fascia juts and integrates round fog lamps. Dodge reports the front-end design helps improve the pickup’s coefficient of drag.
The TRX4’s dual-position tailgate also contributes to better aerodynamics, incorporating a spoiler that Dodge reports helps smooth airflow over the truck’s rear. This tailgate can be locked in a tilt position to provide a better rest for long cargo in the 5-foot-4-inch-long cargo box.
Pumping up the test vehicle’s workhorse credentials is a $325 Trailer Tow Group Package, which includes a Class IV receiver hitch, seven-pin wiring harness and 6-by-9-inch multifunction fold-away mirrors.
Providing towing grunt is the 4.7-liter V-8 engine, delivering 302 horsepower and 329 lb.-ft. of torque — a 31 percent increase in horsepower and 13 percent increase in torque over its predecessor. Partnering with a five-speed automatic transmission the V-8 provides towing up to 7,050 pounds.
The V-8’s estimated city/highway fuel economy is 14/19 miles per gallon, and the engine has Flexible Fuel Vehicle capability, allowing it to use E85 fuel.
Inside the cab, the instrument panel’s white-faced gauges — including a notably large, round speedometer — grab the eye.
Available to fit today’s entertainment/infotainment-intensive lifestyles, the test truck is fitted with a $1,795 Media Center 730N package and a $750 Premium Sound Group.
The Media Center package offers a CD/DVD/HDD/NAV radio combo that includes: 6.5-inch touch screen; GPS Navigation; 30 GB hard drive (4,250 song capacity); Uconnect Phone; Voice Command; Sirius Traffic; and audio jack. The Premium Sound Group’s six Alpine speakers fill the big cab with sound pumped from a 276-watt amplifier.
Adding convenience is Dodge’s clever Crate ‘N Go system, which is standard on the TRX4. Flipping up the 60/40-split rear seat cushions unveils a pair of collapsed plastic crates, one large and one small. These can be pulled up, and the sides locked into place, to form crates that together hold about 2 cubic feet of cargo.
After loading the crates they can be lifted and toted away. This is not a gimmick feature.
I use it often and find it handy — especially during grocery-store trips.
In this era when several new full-size pickups are garnering a great deal of attention, lots of consumers are overlooking an excellent choice with the midsize pickup. In terms of capability, midsizers like Dodge’s Dakota can fill the needs of many who are shopping for a pickup.
Compared to its full-size Ram sibling, the Dakota is more affordable, and is more garageable and easier to park. While not quite as large or powerful, its muscle, cabin size and workhorse credentials are respectable.
Dodge’s marketing strategy for the Dakota is targeted at a specific consumer. A Dodge spokesman said the Dakota isn’t positioned as a “miniRam,” but as a “lifestyle vehicle,” noting Dodge’s use of the term “lifestyle” is directed at younger consumers (25- to 35-year-olds) who likely lean more toward the “play” than “work” side of the truck’s use.
If “play” is the consumer’s focus, then the 2010 Dodge Dakota TRX4 delivers big time. — Tim Spell, Motor Matters
(Tim Spell is editor of the Houston Chronicle InMotion section.)
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010