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What is smaller than a normal mid-size truck, yet, bigger than a sub-compact truck? The next Dakota SRT-8. The baby truck that will aligned itself with the upcoming SRT-10 Ram.



(Reference: www.car-truck.com) Dodge recently previewed the 2004 Dodge Durango, when they showed us their 2003 Durango R/T concept earlier this month. Many readers have written in wondering about the status of the next generation Dakota since both vehicles share the same platform.

Despite the fact that the current Durango was introduced after the Dakota, the next generation Durango will be the first to be launched. It will begin production in September and should be in showrooms by late October or early November. The Dakota on the other hand will continue through the 2004 model year and launch in the fall of 2004 as a 2005 model.

Why the delay? Regular readers will recall that the original Dakota program (codenamed NB) ran into trouble in late 2001. The problem came from the fact that market research had shown that consumers wanted the Durango to be larger. Armed with that information, Dodge engineers designed the new HB/NB platform with a ten-inch longer wheelbase.

While the change allowed the next Durango (HB) to have 24 percent more interior space than the current model. It made the Dakota just slightly smaller then the Ram. This through a wrench in the works since it didn't make much sense to build another slightly smaller Ram. In March of 2002 the program was halted for reevaluation.

After much review Dodge reinstated the program and re-christened the Dakota "ND." It was decided that due to the huge amount of R/D dollars invested the ND would be based on the same platform, but that the body will be redesigned to take it back to mid-size truck scale.


My Ace Buzz Patrollers tell me that the Dakota will have an identical front end to the just unveiled Durango and over all be "very similar." This is a good thing, since the new Durango looks great. One of my Ace Buzz Patrollers tells me that this wasn't the case as recently as last summer! He adds that the original "final design" didn't test well during market research (or with Chrysler insiders) which prompted a 11th hour redesign of the front end. They seem to have succeeded admirably, 71 percent of the 3000+ Buzz readers who responded to our poll said that they "Love it!"

The interior will also be very similar. Unfortunately there will be one major difference. One of my Ace Buzz Patrollers close to Dodge truck production tells me that currently Chrysler does not plan to offer the new 5.7 liter HEMI in the Dakota. Instead the 3.7 V6, 4.7 V8 and 4.7 HO will be the only engines offered.

This strikes me as a bad idea. I'm guessing that even if the HEMI isn't available at launch it will show in 2006 or 2007 in the next generation of the awesome Dakota SR/T. Look for the 2005 Dakota to be unveiled next January in "concept" form at the 2004 North American International Auto Show.

Note: The great Dakota SR/T rendering above was done by Ace Buzz patroller Steven Lawrence.
 

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Ok...anyone want to pitch in to the "Buy Steve a SRT-8 Fund"?..it goes to a good cause...
 
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hemidakota
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