2009 Dodge Dakota Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Dodge Dakota was new.


Performance: 7.7

What gets reviewers most excited about the 2009 Dodge Dakota's performance is its available V8 engine, but with competitors now also offering V8s, that's not the trump card it once was.

  • "This year's introduction of a V8 engine option to the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon twins means the Dodge Dakota is no longer the only vehicle in the compact/midsize pickup class to offer a V8. However, the Dakota maintains its best-in-class maximum towing capacity of 7,100 pounds." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

Every Dakota trim except the Laramie comes standard with a 3.7-liter V6 engine that makes 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. While auto reviewers concede that the V6 is adequate for daily driving, many agree that it isn't strong enough for more rigorous towing and hauling. The top-of-the-line Laramie comes with a 4.7-liter V8 (optional for the other trims) that produces 302 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Dodge Dakota 2WD  with the V6 engine and manual transmission maintains a fuel economy of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. With the V8, it achieves 14/19 city/highway. The Dakota 4WD similarly makes 15/19 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission and V6, and 14/19 with the V8. Both engines are available with a five-speed automatic transmission.

  • "V8 Dakotas have good power in around-town driving, and adequate highway passing reserves. With either transmission, V6 Dakotas and all Raiders are underpowered for anything but daily commuting and light loads." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The V6 offers adequate power, but the V8 is the engine you want if you have frequent towing or hauling in mind -- or even if you simply want to best the powerful V6s from Nissan and Toyota. " -- Edmunds
  • "V-6 Dakota is overtaxed -- short on power and sluggish for passing and merging." -- Cars.com
  • "Be it people or cargo, the V6-propelled, 4500lb Dakota isn't the choice of the aficionado. Or anyone else, for good reason: with a meager 235lb-ft of torque and a wheezing 210 horses underfoot, an unladen Dakota barely motivates itself." -- The Truth About Cars
  • "The V8 engine makes the Dakota quick, especially considering a Laramie four-by-four with a crew cab weighs more than 4,800 lb." -- BusinessWeek
  • "The optional V8 makes easy the sometimes challenging task of passing slow-moving traffic on rural two-lane highways." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

The Dakota features front independent suspension and live axle rear suspension.  According to most reviewers, the Dakota's ride and handling aren't anything to write home about, good or bad.

  • "The Dakota proved surprisingly sharp through our lane-change exercise, but its braking performance leaves a lot to be desired." -- Car and Driver
  • "In comparing the 2009 Dakota to a typical sedan, a sophisticated driver may notice a small amount of rear-axle ride harshness over uneven pavement. Others may feel the Dakota rides as well as most cars." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "It doesn't handle especially well -- throw it hard into a curve and it rolls and feels as if it might tip over -- but boy is the ride smooth, both on the highway and in town." -- BusinessWeek
  • "The driver enjoys natural brake pedal effort that's very progressive. Well done, Dodge." -- Cars.com

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