The Nitro has all the Dodge character. It feels bigger than its size, thanks to a high beltline, high seating position, and much glass at the rear corners. The R/T used to cost $3200 more than the SLT, but for 2009 Dodge has leveled the prices, which makes the R/T the superior value. Mechanically, the SE and SLT models are hindered by the 3.7-liter engine and four-speed automatic transmission. The R/T has a more powerful and smoother 4.0-liter engine, which gets about the same gas mileage at the 3.7, along with a good five-speed automatic transmission. It also has a more comfortable ride. If you're going to opt for a Nitro, go for the R/T.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from San Diego, California, with Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago.
Model Line Overview
Dodge Nitro SE 2WD ($22,240), SE 4WD ($23,900); SLT 2WD ($24,560), SLT AWD ($26,220); R/T 2WD ($24,560); R/T AWD ($26,220)
multi-stage frontal airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags; anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, electronic stability program with traction control and electronic roll mitigation, child seat anchor system, tire-pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional):
rear obstacle detection
3 years/50,000 miles
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSRP):
Dodge Nitro R/T 4WD ($26,220)
YES Essentials cloth upholstery, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, six-way power adjustable driver's seat, remote keyless entry with power windows and door locks, heated power exterior mirrors, 115-volt power outlet, flat folding front passenger seat, 60/40 folding rear bench seat, AM/FM/CD with MP3 and six speakers, Sirius satellite radio, auxiliary input jack, tilt steering column, theft-deterrent system, rear window washer/wiper, roof rails, vehicle information center, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, Load 'n Go cargo storage system with tie-down rails, overhead console, cruise control, compass; tinted windows, sport suspension, fog lights, P245/50R20 Goodyear Eagle tires on chromed aluminum wheels
Options as tested (MSRP):
Travel Convenience Group ($820) with an alarm, heavy-duty engine cooling, a Class III trailer hitch receiver, a wiring harness and a full-size spare tire; power sunroof ($895); Convenience group ($1,345) with rear obstacle detection, auto-dimming rearview mirror, UConnect wireless cell phone link, remote engine starting, eight speakers and subwoofer; Premium Sound group with AM/FM/6 CD/DVD/MP3 stereo ($350)
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested (MSRP):
4.0-liter sohc V6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm):
260 @ 6000
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):
265 @ 4200
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:
Head/hip/leg room, f:
Head/hip/leg room, m:
Head/hip/leg room, r:
75.6 cu. ft.
independent, upper and lower A arms, coil springs, shocks and stabilizer bar
live axle with upper and lower trailing arms, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar and shocks
disc/disc with ABS and brake assist
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of April 01, 2009.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges.
N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: