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Weidel on Wheels: Dodge, Toyota keep the trucks coming

Dakota and Tundra offer plenty of power and good towing
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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With the skyrocketing costs of gas necessitating the move toward smaller, more economic vehicles, trucks have traveled through plenty of upheaval over the past two or three years.

So it’s understandable that all truck manufacturers have taken a critical look at their product and made some changes.

Sales aren’t as brisk, but both Dodge and Toyota have managed to survive by simply making better overall offerings.

Below is a look at two truck mainstays.

Dakota Crew Cab

This truck remains a true workhorse for a mid-sized brand.

The Dakota TRX4 driven here is the class leader in towing, hauling up to 7,200 pounds. The Dakota also receives high praise for its innovative storage bins under the rear seat and its comfortable seating.

Dodge added a revised suspension tuning and said improvements this year include both the ride and handling, yet to me it still drove like a cumbersome big rig in daily commuting situations.

The Dakota features a 4.7-liter, V-8 engine with 302 horsepower. But if you’re looking for power it would be wise to avoid the 3.7-liter, V-6 that produces only 210 horsepower.

Either model is very average in the gas department, getting 14 to 19 miles per gallon. The TRX4 model with four-by-four capability is priced at an estimated $31,045.

The Dakota is upgraded this year with springs and shock absorbers that give it an even more comfortable on-road feel  while the off-road abilities remain.

In a period when many large pickups are getting a more customized interior, the Dakota comes up wanting more. It still features too much plastic and Dodge would be wise to rethink the entire interior configuration.

Toyota Tundra

The brawny, full-size Tundra can handle a load, hauling up to 10,800 pounds. There’s plenty of formidable competition out there from Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Dodge, who have all updated with new powertrains and improved features.

Yet the Tundra remains a workhorse pickup and can hang with the big dogs in the truck world.

The Tundra has an impressive, 5.7-liter, V-8 engine with 310 horsepower. This half-ton pickup truck is available in three body styles — regular cab, double cab (crew cab) and crewmax (oversized crew cab). The double cab with four-by-four capability was test driven here for a week and demonstrated great hauling and versatility.

A major redesign occurred in 2007 and this year the changes were fairly subtle, including several cosmetic tweaks, front-seat knee air bags, and options such as a power vertical rear window, folding tow mirrors and an in-mirror back-up camera display.

Much like the Dakota, the Tundra could use some interior upgrading. Complaints range from the audio controls being too far from the driver, gauges too difficult to read, and not enough soft-surface material.

On the performance side, the Tundra is one of the quickest trucks around and provides a very smooth ride. It can serve as a suitable big rig for large jobs and does just fine in normal driving situations. The Tundra gets 14 to 19 mpg and the double cab model goes for around $28,690.

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2010 Dodge Crew Cab TRX4

Price: $31,045

Mileage estimate: 14 mpg city; 19 mpg highway

Power: 4.7-liter, V-8 with 302 horsepower
           
Standard features include: Rear-wheel anti-lock brakes; off-road tires; skid plates; special front seats with bigger side bolsters; dual-position tailgate; foglights; center console; tilt steering wheel; AM/FM stereo, CD and MP3 Player

Where to buy

Get it here: Magnussen’s Dodge Chrysler Jeep

Where: 1901 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn

Call: (888) 806-5067

On the Web: Auburndodge.com

 

2010 Toyota Tundra 4x4

Price: $28,690

Mileage estimate: 14 mpg city; 19 mpg highway

Power: 4.6-liter, V-8 with 310 horsepower

Standard features include: Anti-lock disc brakes; traction and stability control; 18-inch steel wheels; tilt steering wheel; dual-zone climate control; stereo with CD, MP3; Star safety system; keyless entry

Where to buy

Get it here: Magnussen’s Auburn Toyota

Where: 800 Nevada St., Auburn

Call: (530) 885-8484

On the Web: Auburntoyota.com