If your local Jeep dealer's lot seems a little crowded, well, it is: Suddenly Jeep has six models to sell, with two of them, the Compass and the Patriot, built on a platform developed for the Dodge Caliber.
So it's logical the Dodge dealers wanted a little something in return. What they got is the Dodge Nitro, a square-shouldered little SUV that reminds us old-timers of the Power Wagon era. The Nitro is built on the platform that was developed for the Jeep Liberty.
It's kind of refreshing that Chrysler can make two mechanically similar vehicles look so different, and it makes you wonder if some other manufacturers shouldn't try a little harder. (A good place to start: the Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute triplets.)
Dodge debuted the Nitro as a concept vehicle at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2005, and by August of 2006, it was already in production at the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio. Despite some missteps in its early marketing campaign, the Nitro, while not a home run, is certainly an extra-base hit.
There are three models: the SXT, SLT and R/T. Two engines are available, both V-6s -- base engine is a 3.7-liter with 210 horsepower, and it comes in the SXT and SLT models. The 4.0-liter engine has a potent 260 horsepower, and it's offered only in the R/T. The test Nitro was an R/T with rear-wheel-drive. Four-wheel-drive is offered on all three models. The base SXT has a standard six-speed manual transmission; the SLT has a four-speed automatic, with an optional five-speed, and the R/T gets only the five-speed auto.
As with other Dodge models, the R/T designation -- Road/Track -- means performance. While the Nitro R/T is no racer, its 4.0-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic transmission provide plenty of power, smoothly delivered -- considerably smoother than I was expecting. Even with its stiffer R/T suspension and big 20-inch tires and wheels, the ride was entirely tolerable, and handling was very good. Side airbags, traction control and stability control added to peace of mind. Interior space, front and rear, is on par with the competition.
Our R/T started at $22,635 (add $1,660 if you want four-wheel-drive), while an entry-level SXT starts at $19,350. The tester was loaded with options, including a special R/T package $1,980), a power sunroof ($895), a trailer tow group $670) and an upgraded stereo ($945). Total price, with shipping: $29,275. At least $3,000 worth of additional options are available, including leather upholstery, a navigation system and a rear DVD player.
You don't have to spend nearly that much to get most of the Nitro attitude; indeed, its 3.7-liter V-6 is no slouch. It's an appealing SUV in any form.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Mike Hanley||Cars.com National||November 16, 2006|
|Bill Jackson||Cars.com National||February 23, 2006|
|Sara Lacey||Mother Proof||September 25, 2007|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||July 29, 2007|
|Mark Glover||The Sacramento Bee||March 2, 2007|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||February 18, 2007|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||December 24, 2006|
|Anita Lienert||The Detroit Newspapers||October 4, 2006|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||October 4, 2006|
|Emily Hansen||Mother Proof||September 13, 2006|
People Who Viewed This Car Also Viewed
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Dodge Nitro
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.