Compact pickup truck; Built in USA
  • ext. cab
  • reg. cab long bed
  • reg. cab short bed
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,800 – $7,900*

1998 Dodge Dakota Sport regular cab

1998 Dodge Dakota SLT Club Cab extended cab

1997 Dodge Dakota Sport Club Cab extended cab

1997 Dodge Dakota interior

1997 Dodge Dakota Sport regular cab

  • Acceleration (V8)
  • Quietness
  • Ride (2WD)
  • Acceleration (4-cylinder)
  • Fuel economy (V8)
  • Rear-seat room/comfort (ext. cab)

Dakota offers a bit more interior space and towing capacity than compact pickup rivals, and a significant advantage in payload capacity. If you like the styling, the rest of the truck probably won’t be disappointing.


Fully redesigned for 1997, Dodge’s pickup again measured between compact and full-size. Powertrains and suspensions were essentially carryovers. Dual airbags were now standard. Regular-cab Dakotas came in two sizes: 111.0-inch wheelbase with a 6.5-foot cargo bed, or 123.9-inch with an 8-foot bed. The Club Cab, which added a 3-place bench seat and 19 inches to the back of the cab, rode a 131-inch wheelbase and came only with the shorter bed. All body styles were available with rear-wheel drive or on-demand 4-wheel drive that is not for use on dry pavement. Rear antilock brakes were standard; 4-wheel ABS optional. Three engines were available: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 120 horsepower; a 3.9-liter V6 that produced 175 horsepower; and a 5.2-liter V8 with 230 horsepower. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard; 4-speed automatic optional only with the V6 or V8.

Yearly Updates

1998 Dakota
A deactivation switch for the passenger-side airbag was added for ’98, and, at mid-season, a high-performance Dakota R/T arrived, packing a 250-horsepower 5.9-liter V8 with automatic transmission and riding a sport suspension with 17-inch tires, became available.
1999 Dakota
Dakotas got a one-touch-down power driver’s window and a redesigned overhead console for ’99. A rotary headlight switch replaced the prior pull-turn knob.
2000 Dakota
Dakotas could now be equipped with a 235-horsepower, 4.7-liter V8 engine, borrowed from the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It replaced the previous 5.2-liter V8. A “crew cab” (Quad Cab) model with four front-hinged side doors debuted in midseason. Quad Cabs seated six. Regular-cab models abandoned the previously available 8-foot cargo bed, coming only with the 6.5-foot bed used by the Club Cab.
2001 Dakota
New linewide features for 2001 included a standard universal garage door opener, redesigned alloy wheels for Sport and SLT models, and 16-inch wheels instead of 15s with the optional tire and handling packages. Dashboards and center consoles were also redesigned and, on 4x4s, the transfer case was now controlled by a dashboard switch rather than a floor lever.
2002 Dakota
New for 2002 was an SXT version that included popular equipment such as 16-inch wheels and bucket seats.
2003 Dakota
The 4-cylinder engine is dropped, while 4.7-liter V8s could get a 5-speed automatic. Also for ’03, 16-inch wheels are standard in place of 15s on all models except the R/T, which uses 17s. Rear seats gain LATCH system child-seat anchors, and added midyear was a Stampede package that includes the Tire and Handling Group plus body-color bumpers and lower-body trim.
2004 Dakota
Dodge dropped the 245-hp 5.9-liter V8 for ’04, and replaced the 175-hp 3.9-liter V6 with a 210-hp 3.7-liter V6. Also dropped this year was the sporty R/T model.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive

Dakotas originally came with a choice of four engines: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, a 3.9-liter V6, and 5.2- or 5.9-liter V8. Five-speed manual shift was standard; 4-speed automatic transmission optional (standard in high-performance R/T). A new overhead-cam 4.7-liter V8 replaced the 5.2-liter in 2000 and the 4-cylinder was dropped in 2003. Also in ’03, a 5-speed automatic replaced the optional 4-speed on the 4.7. Dropped in 2004 is the 5.9-liter V8, and the 175-hp 3.9-liter V6 was replaced by a 3.7-liter V6 making 210-hp.

ohv I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/150
Engine HP 120
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 145
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual


ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.9/239
Engine HP 175
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 225
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.7
Engine HP 210
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 235
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.2/318
Engine HP 230
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 300
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.7/287
Engine HP 230-235
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 295
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic


ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.9/360
Engine HP 245-250
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 335-345
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



Road Test

The stiffer frame on this generation of Dakota evidently made a noticeable difference, as a 2WD Club Cab model proved to be impressively solid on rough roads. Ride quality was also pleasing. The suspension provided a comfortable and stable ride, with only a little bouncing on wavy surfaces. A 4-wheel-drive model, on the other hand, does not feel as stable or comfortable, jiggling more over bumps.

The 5.2-liter V8 is smoother and quieter than before, delivering strong acceleration and passing power. Gas mileage is another story. We averaged only 13.3 mpg with the V8, though that included mainly urban commuting. The overhead-cam 4.7-liter V8 that replaced the 5.2 in 2000 also furnishes strong acceleration. The base 4-cylinder engine is simply too weak for a vehicle of this size and weight. The V6 makes a sensible compromise. The Dakota R/T delivers impressive acceleration, but is hampered by a rough ride and lack of 4-wheel drive.

Although the Dakota is roomier than rival compact pickups, the rear bench seat in Club Cab models lacks sufficient leg room for adults. Getting into the rear seat is a squeeze, too. As a bonus, the rear-seat cushion folds up to reveal a couple of handy, flat-topped storage compartments. Rear doors on the Quad Cab are not technically full-size, but they open independently of the front doors and make entry/exit a lot more convenient. The Quad Cab also has more rear leg room than any rival’s extended cab, though long-legged adults still will find their knees pressed into the front seatback.

This Dakota’s dashboard looks more modern, but it’s covered with flimsy plastic. Inside door panels are made of cheap-looking molded plastic that does not look or feel durable. In general, though, materials are comparable to those in most rival trucks. Visibility is good all around. Radio and climate controls are easy to reach. Two cupholders are molded into the center console.


Model Tested: 2002 Dodge Dakota Club Cab 2WD, V6 auto

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 3
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 6
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
Cargo Room - 4


Value - 7

Total: 46


ext. cab
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
131.0 214.8 71.5 65.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
3557 15.0 6
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.0 38.0 41.9 22.1
reg. cab long bed
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
123.9 215.1 71.5 65.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
3396 15.0 3
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.0 NA 41.9 NA
reg. cab short bed
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
111.9 195.8 71.5 65.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
3335 15.0 3
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.0 NA 41.9 NA
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Dakota ext. cab


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 103
Injury 78
Theft 77

Trouble Spots

Dashboard lights
Description: The gauges and overhead console quit working because of a blown fuse. (1997)
Engine misfire
Description: Engine bucking at about 5300 rpm may occur when many electrical devices are in use. Noise from the generator affects the transmission-governor pressure sensor delaying upshifts. (1997-98)
Engine noise
Description: The timing chain makes a rattling noise, which requires a replacement chain, sprockets, and tensioner. (1997)
Exhaust system
Description: The exhaust manifold studs on the 2.5-liter engine tend to break. (1997-98)
Keyless entry
Description: If the remote keyless entry transmitter batteries die in less than two months, there is a problem with the transmitter and it will be replaced under warranty. (1997-98)
Manual transmission
Description: High shift effort on 5-speed manual transmission may be remedied with a replacement shift shaft lever and shift detent plunger. (1999-2000)
Rough idle
Description: Poor driveability may be caused by a rub between the camshaft position sensor and the tone wheel. (2000)
Steering noise
Description: Snapping or clicking noise in steering caused by defective upper bearing retainer for which there is a fix kit. (2005)
Suspension noise
Description: Front ball joints wear prematurely forcing relacement of lower control arm as well. Replacement joint with grease fitting is now available. (1997-03)
Suspension noise
Description: A rhythmic squeaking noise from the front of 2-wheel-drive trucks is likely due to a warped front hub, not the rotor, usually after a brake job. (1997-99)
Vehicle noise
Description: A popping noise can come from the rear of the cab because the sleeves in the cab isolators are too long and must be ground down. (1997-98)
Water leak
Description: Power locks may lock/unlock spontaneously because water leaks into the lock cylinder. (2000-03)
Description: “Radiant Red Metallic” paint suffers chipping problems because antichip primer was not applied during production. (1997)

Recall History

Description: Airbag could deploy inadvertently when ignition is shut off.
1997 w/131-inch wheelbase
Description: Some vehicles may have inadequate clearance between fuel line and cab underbody.
1997-00 w/2.5-liter engine
Description: Some vehicles may have inadequate clearance between left front brake tube and power-steering hose.
Description: Sound-deadening material inside the steering wheel could become detached from the cover and housing causing the driver-airbag system to become disabled. The airbag-warning lamp will illuminate on the instrument panel.
1998 2WD
Description: Front-brake hoses or antilock brake-system sensor wire may be abraded at front wheels by contact with wheelhouse splash shield; prolonged contact with hose can cause partial braking loss.
Description: Bolts used to attach cab and core support to frame may have been improperly hardened; can allow cab to separate from frame.
Description: The front-seatbelt retractor does not comply with the requirements of the standard. If the retractor does not work properly, it will not adequately protect occupants in the event of a crash.
2000 w/4.7-liter engine and automatic
Description: Automatic transmission may expel fluid from fill tube during normal temperature operation.
Description: Some of the owner’s manuals for these vehicles are missing instructions for properly attaching a child-restraint system’s tether strap to the tether anchorage.
2000-03 w/4WD
Description: If moisture leaks into front suspension upper ball joint, evacuation of the lubricant and corrosion may cause the joint to wear over an extended time period; could cause clunking noise and possible separation that may result in loss of control.
2001 w/4WD
Description: Electric shift-transfer case may not fully engage into gear, causing the transfer case to end up in the neutral position.
2001 Quad Cab
Description: Front-outboard lower-seatbelt anchor bolts may not be tightened correctly. An improperly tightened seatbelt anchor may not provide the anticipated level of occupant restraint in a crash.
Description: Certain vehicles are missing certification labels about maximum tire load capacity. Dealers will distribute labels.
2001-02 Dakota with automatic transmission
Description: The transmission lever may potentially be shifted out of park with the key removed and without depressing the brake pedal, or the key may be removed when the shifter is not in park, which fails to comply with Federal regulations. Dealers will replace the gearshift blocker and bracket assembly.
2001-03 w/manual transmission
Description: The clutch may chafe headlamp and dash wiring harnesses, causing the horn, lights wipers and signals to be inoperative. Dealer will inspect and replace al affected parts.
Description: Windshield wiper motor may be susceptible to water intrusion that could cause internal corrosion, resulting in partial or total loss of wiping capability.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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