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October 7, 2009 > Auto Review: Dodge Nitro

Auto Review: Dodge Nitro

The Dodge Nitro could be the poster child for the problems with Chrysler and some other manufacturers in today's US auto industry. It looks pretty good from the outside but driving it is a big disappointment.

Using the same platform as the Jeep Liberty, the Nitro SE and Liberty also share the same 3.7-liter V-6 (and 4-speed automatic transmission) that produces 210 HP. The Nitro R/T model uses a 5-speed automatic coupled to a 4.0-liter, V-6 that adds 50 HP. 4X2 and 4X4 drives are available in both models. EPA mileage estimates vary from 16 mpg and 22 mpg for all power train combinations.

Our test car was a Nitro R/T 4X4 with a base price of $25,920. The navigation system and better speakers added $2,145 to the sticker. Bigger tires, chrome wheels, sunroof, and other options brought the total price up to $33,355. The R/T model has firmer suspension settings than the SE model which starts at $22,985.

Your local Dodge dealers are ready to deal on their Nitros. The 2009 models have discounts of $3,000 or $4,000. The 2010s have $1,000 or $2,000 discounts.

Chrysler has given the Nitro (and other vehicles) a "Lifetime Warranty" on the power train for the original owner. However, this only applies to the 2009 models - it does not apply to the 2010 models. The base warranty is 36,000 miles or 36 months.

What is the driving experience like? In a word... disappointing. First the driver's seat is too high and if you are over 6 feet tall, your vision is impaired by the top of the windshield. There is plenty of room under the seat and the engineers could have lowered it at least 3 inches or more. Next, the seat is not comfortable and provides no real support. This would be really bad on long trips.

The Nitro is twitchy to drive. Small steering wheel movements seem to be magnified by the time they get to the front wheels creating the need for corrections. After my first couple of freeway trips, I realized that I had to focus on steering just to keep the Nitro from wandering back and forth in my lane. Add side winds to the equation and even a short trip in a Nitro is tiring.

The Nitro is also noisy, and has difficult outside sight lines. A combination of road noise and drive train noise are annoying. Roof supports seem to be thicker than they need to be making outward vision poor. When making left turns, the center curbing of divided streets is hard to see, and I almost hit one or two of them.

Sorry Chrysler/Dodge, but the Nitro is one vehicle I would not buy.


By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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