I purchased this truck in summer of '97, just wanting a truck. I have not regretted it ever!
I have drove this truck just about every day since I bought it, have taken it on many trips over 1,000 miles, towed with it, used the 4X4 non-stop for over 250 miles one winter during a blizzard in Colorado, & it performed perfectly the way I wanted it to.
The 4X4 system is awesome! It always shifts right into and out of 4X4 & 2 hi without any delays, or problems.
I have never had to turn the key for more than 1 or 2 seconds, nor has the truck ever left me stranded anywhere.
The interior is still in near perfect condition; only thing is the power window/lock switch cluster on the driver's door pops off sometimes, & the CD player sometimes needs help when ejecting a CD, but I never expected a factory stereo to last as long as this one has lasted me... I am waiting for it to just die off completely, so I can install a new deck.
The seats show no signs of wear what so ever (maybe because anytime I spill anything, I clean it right away), the panels, and dash are in near new condition.
The 5.2L V-8 is a huge plus for me; it has been very reliable, and has more than plenty of power for what I use it for. Averages 15 city MPG, and 20 MPG highway.
My only complaint, which is very small, is the front seat cup-holders are a joke, will not hold anything, so I always make sure it is in a bottle, so if it falls, it will not spill.
I LOVE my Dakota! I will never trade it for anything else! After owning Chevrolet's, and Ford's that lasted me about 6 years at most, I have owned one Dodge Dakota for about 14 years, & have had minimal problems. Maybe it is the way that I take care of the truck, I always am precise with oil changes, transmission flushes, and differential service, that has made it so reliable, or just luck. I only use midgrade or higher gasoline, & use Valvoline 10W30 high mileage motor oil, and change it every 3,000 miles. There have been a few times I have gone 7,000 miles on a few oil changes.