This year Ram has pushed past Chevrolet to become the second best-seller behind Ford in the full-size truck segment. The 2019 Ram 1500 has also received warm kudos from reviewers. So it’s no surprise that Fiat Chrysler is setting its sights on winning a sizeable chunk of the mid-size truck market. The automaker hopes to position the Ram Dakota as its champion for this segment. The name “Dakota” harkens back to the Dodge pickup that last rolled out of the factory in 2011.
FCA is working to develop a cost-effective platform for the new Ram, as Kelly Lin of MotorTrend reports. Although there have been reports that the Dakota and the Jeep Gladiator will share a platform, the automaker wants to develop one that is less costly than the Gladiator’s. So while it’s possible that the Dakota might be built on a scaled-down version of the half-ton Ram 1500, we’re still waiting for confirmation.
Fiat Chrysler’s CEO Mike Manley acknowledged that the Gladiator has a “very, very different mission” than the Dakota. From this statement, we gather that the Ram truck—not the Jeep—will be FCA’s mainstream mid-size truck. It will be positioned to compete with the likes of the Chevy Colorado, the Ford Ranger, the Toyota Tacoma, and the Nissan Frontier. And different missions aren’t the only distinctions between the Dakota and the Gladiator, either.
Strong differences in pricing and targeted buyers
With a starting price of $33,545, the Jeep Gladiator costs more than most base-model mid-size trucks. It’s even more expensive than other Jeeps in the line-up, such as the Grand Cherokee. Dealerships have upped the ante even more by hiking the price of the Gladiator to over $50,000, because of the novelty of a pickup with Jeep badging.
The new Ram Dakota, on the other hand, will be more affordably priced in the mid-$20,000s. The truck’s pricing not only places it within reach of more buyers but it also puts it on par with its competitors.
The Jeep Gladiator is marketed to drivers who want a fun, offroad-worthy truck. It’s a choice that is more recreational than practical. Buyers who drive this truck off the lot are willing to pay more for what CEO Manley calls a “more niche” truck, too.
The Dakota is geared for buyers who need the practical hauling and towing capabilities of a more conventional mid-size truck. The half-ton Ram 1500 and its close variant, the Ram Classic, may be more truck than what they need. Buyers might also want a new affordable alternative to consider as they compare candidates in the mid-size truck market.
Big contrasts in configurations, styling, and more
Another important difference lies in how the two trucks are configured. The Gladiator is limited to only one configuration: AWD, four doors, a five-foot bed, removable body panels, and a peel-off roof. The truck has a 3.6-liter V6 gas engine that delivers 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard but buyers can opt for an eight-speed automatic. FCA also plans to offer a diesel option in the future but hasn’t provided a firm date.
The Gladiator’s four trim levels offer features such as a hardtop roof, added offroad capability, towing capacity, and interior amenities. And its styling is unquestionably Jeep. The Wrangler JL lineage is stamped all over the pickup from its seven-slot grille to its squared-off fenders and giant off-road tires. The steering and handling, too, is Jeep-like, thanks to the live stick axles front and rear.
By comparison, the Ram Dakota will offer similar options found in its mid-size rivals: single or quad cabs and short or long boxes, for example. FCA says it will have a body-on-frame construction. Buyers will be able to choose between 2WD and 4WD. The Dakota will probably share the same 3.6-liter V6 with the Gladiator but the eight-speed automatic will be standard.
We hear that the Dakota’s styling will most likely echo that of the Ram 1500. But its interior may be more workday and as not as luxe as what its full-size sibling boasts. We’d venture that the Dakota will also share the Ram 1500’s independent suspension. That’s good news, given the recent praise the bigger truck has won for its refined handling.
Buyers who want to check out the new Ram Dakota must wait until at least late 2020 for the 2021 model year launch. The Jeep Gladiator is available now. Current Jeep owners who hanker after this offroader can take advantage of FCA’s temporary loyalty discount. The rest of us, though, will need to grit our teeth and fork over thousands over MSRP to snag one.