The big picture is grainy for the ’08 Dodge Dakota. And that’s just the way Chrysler Group wants it.

The auto maker’s refreshed compact pickup, scheduled for unveiling at the Chicago auto show, features an optional 4.7L V-8 tweaked to generate 290 hp and peak torque of 320 lb-ft. (434 Nm) – increases of 25% and 10%, respectively.

Contributing to the power jump is the addition of more spark.

The new mill is Chrysler’s second engine to feature two spark plugs per cylinder. The 5.7L Hemi V-8 was the first.

However, with a nod to growing consumer awareness of fuel economy and Chrysler’s renewed marketing focus on that sensitive issue, Dakota’s V-8 affords greater gasoline efficiency because it will run on E85 ethanol.

New valve-lash adjuster technology also refines the engine’s operation at idle, while revisions to its induction system and piston-rod assembly further enhance its smoothness, Chrysler says.

The truck comes standard with Chrysler’s 3.7L Magnum V-6 that generates 210 hp and peak torque of 235 lb.-ft. (319 Nm). But both engines also feature as standard a remote start function, a segment first.

The V-6 is mated to either a 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The new V-8 has a 5-speed automatic.

Dakota’s redesigned exterior features a more angular theme, starting with headlamps that are reminiscent of the Dodge Nitro SUV, launched last year.

Also revised are the hood, grille, front fascia, rear spoiler and fenders.

“The Dodge truck DNA is well-understood in the marketplace,” says Ralph Gilles, Chrysler vice president-Jeep/Truck; color and trim studios; and specialty vehicles.

“We are creators of trucks with a distinct flair for style and no compromise in function. We restyled the 2008 Dodge Dakota to reflect that DNA in a package that presents the Dakota as both a sporty lifestyle vehicle and a work truck.”

Body styles for ’08 are extended and crew cab. There also are six trim levels: ST, SXT, SLT, TRX4, Sport and Laramie.

Meanwhile, the interior features a new instrument panel, center console and accent finishes.

“The interior is designed to provide an ergonomically friendly cockpit with improved comfort, utility and thoughtful storage amenities to complement a variety of lifestyles,” Gilles says.

emayne@wardsauto.com