New car reviews

2007 Dodge Nitro

Keith Turner, Tue, 31 Oct 2006 08:00:00 PDT

Early one recent morning in the San Diego harbor, in the shadow of some of our nation's greatest warships - the decommissioned USS Midway and the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz, home from a recent tour in the Mideast -- Dodge executives gathered to unveil their newest baby: a mid-sized sport utility vehicle called the Nitro.

With bold, rugged styling similar to that of the testosterone-pumped ships it shared harbor with that morning, the Nitro is set to stand out from its many competitors in the crowded mid-size SUV market. Following in the footsteps of its Dodge cousins Charger and Caliber, the Nitro is positioned to bring out the masculine side of one's personality.

While other mid-sized haulers in its class, such as the Ford Escape, Nissan Xterra and Chevy Equinox, cater to a fairly generic audience, the Nitro is designed to appeal to more males than females.

While other mid-sized haulers in its class, such as the Ford Escape, Nissan Xterra and Chevy Equinox, cater to a fairly generic audience, the Nitro is designed to appeal to more males than females.

Indeed, there's no mistaking the difference in styling between this vehicle and the others it will share the road with. Taking a cure from the rear design of the Dodge Magnum, the Nitro features a large, bold "crosshair" grille, sharp body lines, flared fenders and narrow one-third rear windows that gave the Magnum its one-of-a-kind look.k.

Now you can make that two-of-a kind as the 2007 Nitro prepares to tackle the showroom floor with all the subtlety of an NFL linebacker at a cotillion. Available in three model configurations: the base SXT, mid-level SLT and the R/T, the Nitro is certain to start turning heads as soon as it hits the freeway.

The Nitro comes available with part-time or full-time four-wheel drive systems, with the full-time system standard on all 4x4s with automatic transmissions. A part-time four-wheel drive system is available on all manual transmission Nitros.

Even more impressed will be fellow football fans at tailgate parties who take a gander at the utility of Dodge's newest invention, the "Load 'N Go" cargo floor that slides 18 inches out of the rear on steel tracks strong enough to hold two grown men of 200 pounds each.

You put your party gear on the table-like panel for pre-game festivities and then slide it easily back into the vehicle as kickoff approaches.

To put the muscle where their mouth is, Dodge is including two V-6 engines and three transmissions for the Nitro. A 3.7-liter V6 with six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission on the SLT and SXT models; and a 4.0-liter V6 with automatic transmission on the RXT.

The smaller engine produces 210 horsepower and is expected to get 18/24 miles per gallon in the two-wheel drive automatic version and 17/23 mpg in the four-wheel drive manual version.

The larger engine is standard on the top-end, R/T model, with 260 horsepower that will cover about 17 to 21 miles on a gallon of gas.

In spite of its explosive name, the Nitro promises to be one of the safest mid-size SUVs on the road, with more than 25 security and safety features standard on all models. Among these are anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and "Electronic Rollover Mitigation," which is designed to prevent the vehicle from getting into a situation that could potentially cause a rollover.

Airbags are everywhere in the Nitro, including advanced multi-stage air bags that identifies the size of the front seat passenger based on weight and adjust the airbag deployment accordingly. Side-curtain airbags extend the length of the vehicle, offering protection for all front and rear seat passengers. Each side air bag operates independently to deploy only in specific area needed.

But the Nitro is just all business and safety, there's some fun stuff too, like the new, optional MyGIG multimedia "Infotainment System" featuring touch-screen or voice command controlled navigation, hands-free cell phone, and a 20-gigabyte hard drive where you can store some 1,600 songs and photos - yes, photos - to personalize your vehicle.

You can arrange a slide show of family photos to serve as a screen saver while driving, or change the photo to suit your needs. Imagine arriving to pick up your date and having her smiling photo displayed right there on your center console! How impressive is that?

There's also an optional video entertainment system for rear passengers to enjoy movies and play video games, and Sirius Satellite radio, with its multitude of music and news channels, comes standard on the SLT and R/T models.

Driving the Nitro through the twisties of Southern California's San Jacinto Mountains was a pleasure. Every turn was negotiated effortlessly as the 17-inch wheels (optional on the SXT) hugged the road with little complaint. In spite of the narrow rear windows, sight lines are excellent all around the Nitro, and the V-6 easily had the power to pass while climbing to higher altitudes.

An interesting design choice on the Nitro is the retro-like door handles that feature an oversized thumb button that requires pushing to open the doors. With a cartoon-like appearance, these buttons make one feel like they are preparing to take a drive into the "Cars" movie by Pixar instead of driving to the football game or flea market.

To be built at the Dodge/Chrysler Toledo, Ohio assembly plant, the price of the base Nitro SXT starts at $19,885 for the 4x2 model and $21,395 for the 4x4. The mid-level SLT sells for $23,295 (4x2) and $24,805 (4x4); while the top-of-the-line R/T is priced at $25,970 (4x2) and $27,630 for the four-wheel-drive model. All prices include a $660 destination fee.

Whether you call its styling athletic, bold, rugged or just plan cool, the 2007 Dodge Nitro is certain to turn some heads in stadium parking lots across the country. It's a clear indication that Dodge is ready to do battle on the highly volatile mid-size SUV battlefield. Ready . . .aim . . .Nitro!

 


2007 Dodge Nitro SLT on carlist.com


2007 Dodge Nitro SLT on carlist.com


2007 Dodge Nitro SXT on carlist.com


2007 Dodge Nitro SXT on carlist.com

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