In addition to four full-size doors and a 63.1-in. (160-cm) bed, prospective Dodge Dakota Quad Cabs drivers will have the option of adding the next-generation "Magnum" V-8 power-plant.

DaimlerChrysler's Dodge Div. picks up the "Magnum" moniker, but in fact the new V-8 is wholly different from the usual Magnum lineup, in that it's the new overhead-cam unit - lifted from its sole former duty in the Jeep Grand Cherokee - as opposed to the ancient, all-iron overhead valve engines that form the heart of the Magnum truck engine range.

More delightful, the Dakota application provides the first opportunity to get at the tasty Jeep 4.7L SOHC V-8 (a 1999 Ward's Ten Best Engines winner) with a manual transmission; the engine, until now, has been available linked only to an automatic in the Grand Cherokee.

The engine, which also will be available on all Dakotas and 4WD Durangos in 2000, generates 235 hp and 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) of torque, precisely the same rating available from Jeep, although low-emissions vehicle (LEV)-capable variants deliver 5 hp less.

Dodge officials say this is best-in-class power, since Dakota offers the only V-8 available in the compact truck segment - even though the Dakota, as we all know, isn't quite as small as a true compact.

The 4.7L Magnum V-8 was engineered, according to Dodge, to provide smooth operation with low noise levels. It did so by minimizing vibration inside the engine and noise in the transmission. Stiffer structures and moving parts also help reduce vibrationin the V-8. Its tuned-air induction system helps to cut induction noise - a good thing, if conscientiously approached.

Dodge executives expect 45% of the Dakota output from the Warren, MI, plant to be Magnum V-8 equipped (the 5.9L OHV V-8 remains as an alternative to the 4.7L, for those who simply must have another 10 hp). Fifty-five percent will carry V-6s. About 5% of buyers are expected to opt for a 5.9L V-8. Fifty-five percent of the mix is likely to be 4x2 and 45% 4x4, say officials.

Available in dealerships starting in November, prices start at $19,490 for a 4x2 truck and $22,135 for a 4x4 model. Customers can expect to add for popular options including air conditioning and $580 for a V-8.

The Dakota Quad Cab has an all-new, aluminum 4WD front axle designed to increase durability and torque capacity. It weighs 11.5 lbs. (5.2 kg) less than its predecessor.

The vehicle, targeted to compete with Ford's new Explorer Sport Trac SUV/pickup hybrid, has a new storage and seating design to complement four full-size doors.

Since it will be competing in this new, hybrid segment, Dodge brass admit to an internal scrap about naming the new vehicle. "If it's got a bed, it's a pickup," says Jim Julow, vice president of Dodge.

Dodge says production started on the Dakota Quad Cab Oct. 6 and some 5,000 have been shipped to dealers. About 15,000 units are expected to be shipped by Christmas.

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear- or 4-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup truck

Engine: 4.7L (4,701 cc) SOHC V-8; aluminum block/aluminum heads

Power (SAE net): 235 hp @ 4,800 rpm

Torque: 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) @ 6,800 rpm

Compression ratio: 9.3:1

Bore x Stroke (mm): 93 x 86.5

Transmission: 5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 131 ins. (333 cm)

Overall length: 215.1 ins. (546 cm)

Overall width: 71.6 ins. (182 cm)

Overall height: 66.3 ins. (168 cm)

Curb weight: 4.457 lbs. (2,022 kg)

Market competition: Ford Ranger; GM S-series; Nissan Frontier

DaimlerChrysler AG is looking at offering a hybrid version of its Dodge Durango sport/utility vehicle (SUV) by 2003.

But only if Congress passes HB 2380, the Energy Efficient Technology Tax Act. The legislation would give Durango hybrid buyers tax incentives of $3,000. Curiously, that three grand equates to precisely the same amount that DC says is the cost premium of the hybrid Durango versus the plain ol', internal-combustion-only V-8 model. Funny how these things tend to work that way, huh?

The hybrid Durango uses a 3.9L OHV V-6 engine to power the rear wheels and a three-phase, Siemens-made AC induction electric motor to power the front axle. A similar system was first shown on the Chrysler Citadel concept.

The hybrid accelerates faster than the V-8 version of the Durango, is 20% more fuel efficient, achieving 18.6 mpg (12.6L/100 km) combined city/highway driving, compared to 15.5 mpg (15L/100 km) for the V-8 Durango - and produces fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to boot.

Several hurdles, beyond the U.S. Congress, remain for the hybrid, including improved battery technology.

DC says it would build 50,000 to 100,000 hybrid Durangos annually on the same assembly line as the current Durango if given the proposed tax credits.

"This, we think, is a hybrid we can sell," says Thomas S. Moore, vice president, Liberty and Technical Affairs, Engineering and Technology.

Although DC is readying hybrid technology for other markets, the hybrid Durango is strictly meant for the wide-open spaces: "It's really for the American customers," Mr. Moore says.

DC decided to use the technology on the Durango because a small car, with or without the hybrid technology, isn't likely to sell well in the U.S.