THE RIDE: Four-door, up to six-passenger 2010 Dodge Dakota Crew Cab TRX4 4x4 compact pickup.
DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2009, the Dakota boasts a composed ride as it absorbs the bumps of rough surfaces with skill and sure-footedness. The pickup offers smooth acceleration, adequate passing ability and precise handling.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 4.7-liter V-8 engine, which is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission, puts out 302 horsepower at 5650 rpm and 329 pounds-feet of torque at 3950 rpm. Suspension is handled by independent upper and lower "A" arms in front and a live axle rear. The power rack-and-pinion steering has an unswerving and communicative feel, making the pickup easy to place at sharp curves. Braking is smooth and predictable thanks to 12.3-inch vented front and 11.6-inch rear drum discs. Tow capacity is a commendable 7,250 pounds.
LOOK & FEEL: The ladder-type frame Dakota shows off an accent color grille with a centered Dodge emblem surrounded by halogen headlights with black bezels. Climb into the cabin and you won't find a reason to complain about space, which is abundant starting with a large six-way power driver's seat. In fact, the Dakota offers up to 37.1 cubic feet of interior room. There is an under seat storage area (Crate 'N Go as Chrysler likes to call it), an open storage bin above the glove box, huge floor console with foldout electronics organizer, and a 60/40 rear seat that also can fold flat. The analog gauge cluster for speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature and fuel is crystal clear. We found the overhead console with compass, temperature and trip readings handy.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard are dual front airbags, security alarm, remote keyless entry, rear antilock brakes, theft deterrent system and tire pressure monitoring system.
OUT THE DOOR: $31,365, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P265/70R16; wheelbase, 131.3 inches; length, 218.5 inches; weight, 4,830 pounds; fuel capacity, 22 gallons; city, 14 mpg; highway, 19 mpg; website, www.dodge.com.
WHY DIG IT: It's tough to beat if you consider generous tow and cargo capacity, performance and a cavernous cabin.