heads confidently into 2007 following the launch of nine new models in just two years.
This includes Nitro
, the brand’s first-ever mid-size sport-utility vehicle.
On August 15, 2006, the Dodge Nitro
four door sport utility went into full production at the 2.10 million square foot Chrysler Group's Toledo North Assembly Plant, alongside the slightly smaller Jeep Liberty.
For the record, Nitro
is the first non-Jeep product to be built at the Ohio complex since the 1940s. Nitro
shares Liberty’s steel unibody construction, but has a new independent front suspension and a five-link rear suspension.
With a 108.8-inch wheelbase, the Nitro
is 4.4 inches longer than Liberty.
Available in 6 trims, the masculine Nitro
SUV ranges from the base SXT 4X2 at $19,885, up to the top-of-the-line R/T 4X4, starting at $25,970.
My test vehicle was the R/T model finished in Inferno Red Crystal Pearl Coat paint, and equipped with the standard 255 horsepower, 4-liter V-6.
Backed by the proven five-speed automatic and 3.55:1 rear axle ratio, the V-6 detonates off the line with gusto, has strong acceleration and good passing ability.
Helping to handle the power, the R/T package comes with a performance suspension that includes a revised sway bar, springs, shocks and bushings. Nitro
is available with part time or full-time four-wheel-drive systems, which are great for foul weather road conditions, but is not engineered for hardcore off-road activities.
As expected all Nitro
models come with a full range of standard equipped active and passive safety systems.
These include electronic stability and roll mitigation programs, all-speed traction control, advanced anti-lock brakes and side-curtain air bags.
Curious onlookers recognized the vehicle as a Dodge
by its signature crosshair grille and the three-dimensional ram’s head front and rear.
The majority of people gave approving nods, and commented on Nitro
’s confident- stance, ample body size, high beltline, and side fender vents.
Even the prominent body colored fender flares; exterior mirrors and door handles were described as beefy.
Emphasizing the performance and capability of the Nitro
R/T are the large 20-inch wheels wrapped in performance tires and pushed to the corners for improved cornering and increased traction.
Sizeable openings in-between the hub spokes makes it easy to clean dirt and brake dust off the chrome-clad wheels.
Overall quality is seen in both the Nitro
’s exterior and interior panels, with flush surfaces, tight gaps and close tolerances.
Luxury-inspired interior offers a driver-friendly instrument panel, and a spacious five-passenger environment almost devoid of external noises.
Upholstered in Dark Slate Gray tone leather, the seats are comfortable, and the front and rear cabin offers plenty of head, hip and legroom.
Stitched into the front seat headrests is the R/T logo in Inferno Red letters.
Large climate dials and audio buttons are easy to use, and the hooded three-pod, four-gauge instrument cluster with electroluminescent lighting is glare free.
Silver bands accent the gauges, and the beefy four-spoke steering wheel is leather-wrapped.
The driver pedals are made of brushed aluminum with black rubber anti-slip inserts.
Between the front seats is a large-capacity center console with room for hand-held PDAs and cell phones. Other cabin storage locations include the driver- and passenger-side door compartments; and a map pocket behind the driver’s seat.
With front passenger and rear seat backs folded flat, Nitro
holds 75.6 cubic feet of cargo, which is the same as a Toyota 4Runner or Mitsubishi Endeavor.
I made good use of Nitro
’s innovating “Load ’N Go” floor, with its panel that rolls 18-inches rearward out from the cargo area and extends over the rear bumper.
While I would like the panel to pull out even further, the system did make loading and unloading packages easier. Dodge
states that the panel is capable of holding up to 400 pounds of stuff.
Keeping abreast with the latest in electronic technology, Nitro
can be ordered with MP3, CD, DVD, USB, VES (for Video Entertainment System). Nitro
also offers cutting edge electronics, like the new MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System.
MyGIG allows the use of touch screen or voice commands to control all of Nitro
’s entertainment and communication equipment, and includes a 20-gigabyte hard drive where music and photos can be stored.
From my driving perspective, the handsome Nitro
is a commendable Jeep-like SUV that will help Dodge
continue as Chrysler Groups best selling nameplate.
With 1.4 million vehicles sold globally in 2005, Dodge
is the No. 5 nameplate in the U.S. automotive market, and carries a 7 percent market share in the United States.