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Sources: a new 2022 Dakota really is coming, but maybe not the Challenger ACR

by David Zatz on

The first Dodge Dakota was engineered for Chrysler, under contract; the second was almost revolutionary, a surprisingly comfortable truck with a good ride, capable handling, and a choice of V6 or V8 engines. The final model was based on the Ram pickup, rather than created on its own platform; it faltered in the market and was dropped after the 2011 model-year.  Even as it launched, there were rumors of a next-generation model that would return to the Dakota’s roots.

AutoBison image, used with permission; they noted that while the Dakota name had been trademarked, the trademark was not for trucks but for exterior trim—such as nameplates, say, for crash repairs. The word “Ram,” they pointed out, was not in the Dakota filing. This rendering is based on the idea of a Peugeot-based pickup, and likely would not be ready for 2022. Or would it? 

The compact and midsize pickup markets both seemed moribund for years, with the Toyota Tacoma soaking up all the sales. Then GM popped in with the Colorado and Canyon, which have been doing well enough for Ford to sell Rangers. All this time, FCA has been needing a similar truck for the global market, especially since the rebadged Mitsubishi L200 (Ram 1200/Fiat Fullback) contract may not last forever. That brought up new rumors of a redesigned Dakota, created for both domestic and global markets—a metric-ton pickup.

The first Dakota engineered entirely by Chrysler was its most successful one; it was created during the company’s 1990s renaissance. Some said the ride was better than that of the Durango, which was based on it.

Weeks ago, Allpar writer Patrick Rall brought up the possibility that the Gladiator would be adapted into a Dodge or Ram pickup (along with the chance that it might be based on the Ram 1500, as the last one was).

The Gladiator story almost makes sense; the Jeep Gladiator has to go on very tough trails, and have the roof taken off. Taking the same basic chassis, but using a fixed roof and not demanding the off-road strength or suspension articulation, would make for a cheaper, better-riding pickup. It’s still not a Dakota in the traditional sense, or the global metric-ton pickup (which Peugeot could eventually supply), but it might help to keep the Toledo plants busy and steal some sales from the Tacoma, Colorado, and Ranger.\

Car & Driver has gone on record as claiming that the starting price will be around $30,000; they seem sure that the pickup will be based on the Gladiator, and made in Toledo. (They also heard a rumor that it would be based on the Ram 1500 and made in Saltillo.)

On the other hand, why would FCA use an overweight chassis that would probably cost nearly as much to bash into shape as making a brand new vehicle, or using the modern new Rams as a starting point?

The original Dakota design was largely outsourced; it was remarkably close in its dimensions to the International pickup.

Earlier, Allpar’s Patrick Rall predicted at least two cab setups, with single and four-doors, though there’s so little demand now for single-row cabs that a regular four-door and a larger four-door seem more likely; they may go with one wheelbase to save money and add a longer (or shorter) wheelbase later, if sales justify it. Likewise, they might do two bed lengths, or not.

The powertrain will probably include the usual Pentastar V6 and “EcoDiesel” V6, with a turbo four-cylinder for those who want power and economy without a diesel (or without that particular diesel); the diesel would have the most torque, the four-cylinder the most horsepower, and the Pentastar the most balance. There is also a GME T6—a turbo straight-six—still in development. The transmission will almost certainly be the usual eight-speed, with no manual transmission choice, and, unlike the Gladiator, 4×4 will be optional. Chances are the only 4×4 system, too, will be the Wrangler’s (relatively) new full-time setup.

Towing could go up to 8,000 pounds, if the redesign merited it, with payload around 1,600 pounds. Fuel economy should be better than the Gladiator, based on the fixed roof and reduced provisions for heavy off-road abuse. Inside, it’s likely to be far more Spartan than the Ram 1500, but more luxurious than a ProMaster.

What about going with a smaller Ram 1500? We’d expect something a little lower to the ground, then, with just two doors (to set it off from the Ram). It would be far more luxurious than the Gladiator, but basically the smallest Ram they could build without a lot of engineering. The idea would be to reduce the costs of engineering and construction while cutting weight. Perhaps they would go whole-hog on weight reduction and downsize the engine bay to fit only a six-cylinder, but that seems unlikely, due to the costs involved. More likely would be a two-door (or tight four-door) with a short bed, lower capacity, and the smaller engines, sold at a discount.

As for the Challenger ACR, numerous sources are now saying it’s been canned; whether that’s because of not being able to meet the performance or durability goals, or because of virus-related delays, or for economic reasons, we can’t say.


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