How Will the New Ram Dakota Stack Up Against the Best Pickup Truck on the Market?

Ram is working double-time these days. Not only does Ram make one of the most popular full-size pickup trucks on the market today, but it’s also gunning for a contender in the midsize marketplace. How will the 2023 Ram Dakota stack up against the best pickup truck: the Ram 1500. 

2022 Ram 700
The Ram Dakota could be based on the Ram 700 | Ram

Why bother comparing the 2022 Ram 1500 to the Ram Dakota, which doesn’t exist yet? 

Comparing two models is typically pretty easy; you stack the specs and look at which one has better numbers, look at the intangibles (i.e., how the cars make us feel), and name the winner. 

However, comparing an upcoming concept pickup truck with little-to-no verified specs to a long-standing model like the Ram 1500 might be a bit tough, but we will give it a shot. 

Comparing models within the same brand can give us some insight into what the brand is doing currently versus what they plan to do in the future. 

Is Ram bringing back the Dakota? 

Ram lineup in the desert
2022 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Longhorn Mega Cab (left), Power Wagon (center) and 3500 Heavy Duty Limited Crew Cab Dually (right) | Stellantis

Car and Driver says Ram is working on a new midsize pickup truck that could resurrect the Dakota nameplate. This means this new truck will be a bit smaller and lighter than the massively popular half-ton Ram 1500. However, does this mean we can expect a smaller, cheaper Ram pickup with the same plush interior we have come to know and love from the bigger siblings? 

Ram Dakota specs

Red Jeep Gladiator on a dirt road
Jeep Gladiator | Jeep

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Ram has offered very few details on the specs of the possible upcoming midsize Ram. Many believe the Ram Dakota will share a platform with fellow Stellantis family members like the Jeep Gladiator. 

Ram hasn’t told us what the Dakota would cost. However, despite its potential similarities with the Gladiator, Car and Driver believe that to compete with competitors like the Ford Ranger and Maverick, the Ram Dakota will likely start somewhere around the $25,000 mark. But if Ram decides to give Ram 1500-esque styling and quality on higher trims, don’t be surprised to find a wide price range. 

What engine will the Ram Dakota have? 

This can basically go one of two ways, but either way, a V8 is all but out of the question. Ram seems to have two directions to take the Ram Dakota, one being a re-bodied Jeep Gladiator. This isn’t a bad option; in fact, it would make a lot of sense. We would expect to see the same 3.5-liter V6 used across the Fiat Chrysler lineup in this scenario. 

However, if the Dakota turns more toward being a small Ram 1500 and rides the praise garnered by one of the best pickup trucks on the market, the brand’s new diesel 3.0-liter V6 could easily be an optional motor. This would ensure the connection between the Dakota and its big sibling. 

Knowing Ram, there is likely an off-road-focused trim in the works as well. We have seen this from virtually every modern mid-sized truck and SUV. The Dakota would be a prime fit for the Rebel trim with upgraded suspension, beefy tires, and a tougher appearance. 

Is the Ram 1500 really the best pickup truck on the market? 

A blue 2022 Ram 1500 full-size pickup truck is parked.
The Ram 1500 | Ram

Year over year, this opinion becomes more and popular amongst journalists, fans, and customers. With a model like the Ram 1500 on the roster, it feels reasonable to assume Ram would consider resting the Dakota on the 1500’s laurels. 

Of course, the Ram 1500 will be a great deal larger, stronger, and more luxurious than the Ram Dakota. However, that doesn’t mean that the smaller brother wouldn’t try copying his bigger brother’s best moves. 

Besides many killer engine options, a solid drivetrain, and decades of brand trust, the thing that makes the Ram 1500 a real standout is its vastly superior interior compared to its competition. The Ram 1500 is one of the few pickup trucks that can work hard and reward its driver with a comfortable ride and a cushy interior. 

Can the Ram Dakota hang with the Ram 1500? 

The two trucks will likely be quite different from one another, and, most likely, so will the customers. That being said, if the Ram Dakota can grab a piece of the 1500’s comfort and luxury but remain a step-down, smaller, and most importantly, cheaper, then I’d say we’ve got a real one on our hands. 

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