December 3, 2018

In the annals of high power pickups, there"s a modern muscle truck that regularly gets overlooked. The 1998-2003 dodge Dakota R/T—lovingly known among enthusiasts as the "Mighty Dak"—was a short-lived effort from Chrysler to transpose the tried, tested and also true formula of large engine/small vehicle onto a mid-size pickup template. That in chin isn"t surprising. After ~ all, this is the same Chrysler that would soon thereafter stuff a Viper engine under the hood of a short-box ram 1500, basically embiggening the Dakota R/T concept.

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No, what"s puzzling is the no various other mid-size van brand would follow Dodge"s lead and come out through a hi-po street design of your own. Sure, Toyota"s Tacoma S-Runner/X-Runner and the Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme looked the part, but neither had anything special going top top under the hood contrasted to their conventional showroom siblings, making the Mighty Dak no just unique for that is time, but the last of a dying breed.

Make the Turn

The catalyst behind the R/T to be the present in 1997 amongst Dodge"s product planners that the Dakota could already hold its very own on a handling course as compared to various other mid-size and compact options of that era. That wouldn"t take lot effort, mused the design team, come double-down on the pickup"s nimble character and also at least give it a shooting at taking out a Camaro or Mustang ~ above a twisty road.

A arrangement was hatched: up-size the Dakota"s tires come 255/55 17 inches, fall the suspension 19 mm to bring its center of heaviness that lot closer come the asphalt and also beef increase its stabilizer bar at the back by an additional 9 mm. The brakes were also given an ext authority end the R/T"s velocity (with discs measure up 11.3 inches in the front, but still saddled with rear drums). Instantly, the personality the the van was revolutionized from affordable hauler to slalom-friendly menace.

Then there to be the concern of motivation. Dodge had currently been ahead of the less-than-full-size pickup fill in terms of power many thanks to the Dakota"s available 5.2L V8, i m sorry boasted two added cylinders end anything else obtainable at the price point. The R/T design took things even further v the consist of of an exclude, 5.9L V8 that was great for 250hp and 345 lb-ft of torque thanks in part to a higher-flowing twin exhaust system. A limited-slip behind differential walk its best to fight because that traction under full throttle, and also a strengthened four-speed automatic transmission fed the V8"s output to a solitary solid axle (without the option of four-wheel drive).


Never one to it is in subtle with its trucks, Dodge likewise gave the Dakota R/T (available in both solitary and prolonged cab human body styles) a dollop of intuitive flair that consisted of four unique colors: flame red, black, extreme blue and also deep amethyst, as well as body-colored trim all roughly and, the course, an huge R/T call-out ~ above the trucks" flank.

Fun and (Mostly) Fast

It"s fair to say that the dodge Dakota R/T is much more oriented towards fun than all-out performance. As with most muscle trucks, the absence of weight over the behind wheels provides it a burn-out maker par excellence, i beg your pardon isn"t precisely the top quality a traction racer is looking for when trying to hook up because that a 4 minutes 1 mile pass.

On the street, under best temperatures and also conditions, that was possible to scoot the R/T come 60 mph indigenous a standing start in around seven seconds, which to be respectable because that the time, and about one second slower 보다 a Mustang GT. V a ready track, the 4 minutes 1 mile vanished in simply over 15 secs at a terminal trap rate of 90 mph.

More intriguing, however, were the Dakota R/T"s managing chops, which regularly caught automotive journalists of the job by surprise. In the early on 2000s compact van were generally viewed together the consolation prize of the pickup segment, and also as together were afforded small attention to their suspension setups outside of what was forced for towing or heading off-road. The Dodge had delivered a competent and fun-to-drive choice was a shock to the system.


Of course, over there was somewhat of a price to pay because that the Dakota R/T"s rotate away from utilitarianism in the direction of the whimsy of speed. As result of the rear suspension construction being so much lower, the bumper tow rating because that the R/T was dropped to 2,000 lbs, a much cry indigenous what the typical version of the Dakota was qualified of. Dodge had actually to clear up scores of complaints—and in part cases, buy van back—after initial declaring for the R/T failure to show that towing would certainly be impacted. It"s precious noting, however, the installing a class IV hitch and also air bags mostly closes the gap in between the sports truck and also its an ext sedate sibling.

No Ripple Effect

Despite its fun factor, the dodge Dakota R/T never really caught on together anything much more than a novelty during its quick six-year run. Sales numbers peaked approximately 4,000 for the 2000 version year, which to be a fall in the bucket since at the time the Dakota was churning over 100k systems a year. In totality, simply 16,496 R/T van were ever built, through the last year"s 802 instances sold representing that is nadir.

It"s probably this under-appreciation that preserved the Dakota R/T from having any meaningful affect on the future the mid-size and compact van performance. Although Dodge would certainly resurrect the R/T badge because that the third-generation Dakota that followed, it was mainly a sticker package with no systematic performance upgrades over the base truck. GM and Ford slept on the street truck vibe completely, with only Toyota"s TRD acquisition a rest from dune-bashing to build a supercharger kit that might be outfitted to the Tacoma—though it was not component of any certain factory model.

This trend continues to today. Although strength is up throughout the board, there"s not one performance-oriented offering outside the full-size industry that might legitimately be taken into consideration the follower to the Dakota R/T. For all of the turbocharged, eight-cylinder oomph modern-day bucks deserve to buy, suspension design and also styling have actually migrated, probably permanently, right into the off-road human being where rugged trucks at this time command huge bucks. Dodge"s 15 year-old cargo-hauling cruise missile reminds us all of a time once a factory-backed speedster didn"t require a rocky follow or Baja desert to enjoy.

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Want an ext classic performance trucks? The GMC Typhoon and Syclone paved the way for today"s supercharged SUVs.