Dodge Nitro, Caliber Knocking on Death's Door

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Chrysler decided to extend production on its 2011 Dodge Nitro (there will be no 2012 model year) so that it can fulfill orders related to a burst in customer demand for the model, the automaker said. Nitro sales are up 24% so far this year. Joining the Heat trim, a new R/T trim will be added to the 2011 Nitro lineup. The Heat 4.0, Detonator and Shock trims will no longer be produced.

The R/T Nitro gets 20-inch wheels, power heated seats and leather upholstery. A 260-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 is standard, mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.  The Heat model sticks with a 210-hp 3.7-liter V-6. Both models are available with four-wheel drive. Neither trim has pricing info yet.

Production of 2011 Nitro will end in December. The Jeep Liberty, a sibling vehicle, will continue to be produced for the 2012 model year, until its successor is ready

Although 2012 is the last model year for the Dodge Caliber, an official date for the end of production hasn’t been announced. The Caliber lineup has been simplified to just three trims: SE, SXT and SXT Plus. The model starts at $17,380, excluding $750 for destination.

Base models get air conditioning (including a cooled storage area for drinks), remote keyless entry, heated power mirrors, power windows and locks, auto-dimming rearview mirror and cruise control. The SE trim is only available with a five-speed manual; you need to upgrade to the SXT to get a continuously variable automatic transmission.

SXT models, starting at $18,765, add an automatic transmission, four disc brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels and a fold-flat front seat. SXT Plus models start at $18,730 and have a sport-tuned suspension, all-season performance tires and 18-inch wheels, but stick with a five-speed manual transmission. A CVT with manual shift control is optional on the SXT Plus.

The 2012 Caliber goes on sale later this year. The Caliber replacement, as yet unnamed, has already been publicized by Chrysler. It will go on sale in the first half of next year.

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