Dodge Nitro has assertive stance



The 2007 Dodge Nitro shares its basic platform with the Jeep Liberty. Inset, the Nitro’s roomy interior.


Dodge is aiming to inject some of its “Grab Life by the Horns” attitude to the mid-size SUV segment with its chiselled new hauler, the Nitro.


Based on looks alone, it’s a winner. The Nitro distances itself from everything else in its class with a purposeful, assertive stance, fronted by the trademark Dodge crosshair grille, wide front fenders and sculpted sides featuring a deep-body section and high beltline. Bright vents on each front fender add a dramatic visual highlight, while the short front and rear overhangs — not typical for a mid-size SUV — contribute to a forceful overall expression that states: “Don’t mess with me!”

As Dodge’s first mid-size SUV, the Nitro actually shares its basic platform with the Jeep Liberty, though the suspension is all new and intended for much more spirited on-road driving than its “off-road-friendly” corporate cousin. The

Nitro also uses the Liberty’s 3.7-litre V6 engine, but it rides on a longer wheelbase.

That longer “footprint,” combined with a slightly wider track and lower roofline, means the Nitro’s ride is not as choppy as that of the Liberty, feeling more solidly planted and less top-heavy.

Available in two- and four-wheel-drive versions, the Nitro’s standard 210-horsepower, 3.7-litre V6 has been tuned for better low-end pulling power and reduced emissions. This V6 has to haul more weight in the 1,784 kg Nitro than it does in the Liberty and for most city traffic conditions it works quite well, but it can sound a bit thrashy when asked to work hard on acceleration.

You can also have your Nitro in four trim lines: the base SE starts at a reasonable $23,490 in two-wheel drive form. Opting for 4WD hikes the entry fee to $26,330. If you want more features and content, next up is the $24,985 SXT model (add $2,840 for the 4WD version). The SLT, at $30,090, comes only with 4WD, as does the top-line $31,195 R/T version.

We’re big fans of the R/T model, using Chrysler’s new 4.0-litre V6 with 255 horsepower on tap and a unique sport suspension. It’s a real hustler for an SUV.

Inside, the Nitro’s interior is handsome and straightforward, with a fold-flat passenger seat and split-reclining rear seats.

There is a noticeable excess of plastic trim, however, and the transmission tunnel does intrude to minimize space in the front footwell areas.

Available features are many, including two of particular note: the Load ‘n Go slide out cargo floor — included as standard on the SLT and R/T models.

2007 Dodge Nitro

Type: Mid-size 5-passenger SUV RWD/4WD

Price: $23,490 - $31,195

Engine: 3.7-litre V6 SOHC/4.0-litre V6 SOHC

Horsepower: 210 @ 5200 rpm/255 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft): 235 @ 4000 rpm/265 @ 4200

Highlights: Edgy “bad boy” styling, handy slide-out cargo floor, stain-free upholstery