2008 Nitro New Car Test Drive
The 2008 Dodge Nitro is a mid-size sport utility vehicle distinguished from other SUVs by its squared-off styling with exaggerated fender flares. Nitro shares its platform with the Jeep Liberty. It is 22 inches shorter than the Dodge Durango full-size SUV.
The Nitro looks and feels larger than its size, with a high seating position that SUV owners like, and good cabin space. It features Load 'n' Go, a cargo storage system whereby the rear seats and front passenger seat fold totally flat in seconds; additionally, the cargo floor slides rearward out over the rear bumper, and can hold 400 pounds, making the loading of heavy objects much easier. It could prevent back injuries.
The Nitro comes with either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, with a choice of V6 engines. The newer 4.0-liter V6 is better than the old 3.7-liter, with 50 more horsepower and fuel economy that's only one or two miles per gallon less. However the 4.0-liter engine only comes in the top-of-the-line R/T model, which costs about $3200 more than the most popular SLT. But a five-speed automatic also comes with the R/T, and that transmission is also better than the standard four-speed in the SLT. Surprisingly, the R/T has a more comfortable ride, as well.
There are three types of upholstery: basic cloth, a handsome stain-repellant cloth, and beautiful perforated leather. No matter which covering, the seats are very comfortable. The cabin is quiet thanks to heavy use of sound deadening material, and visibility out the rear and to the front corners of the Nitro is excellent.
For a base price of $19,595, a Nitro owner gets many safety features that are usually optional on other vehicles, such as side curtain airbags, an electronic stability program with traction control and brake assist, electronic roll mitigation and a tire-pressure monitor.
The Nitro was introduced for the 2007 model year and it gets only minor changes for 2008. The only notable updates are standard Trailer Sway Control and the availability of rear obstacle detection system.
The 2008 Dodge Nitro comes as three models, SXT, SLT and R/T. All are available with rear-wheel drive (2WD). The SXT with a manual transmission has part-time four-wheel drive (4WD) that should not be left engaged on dry pavement. The SXT is also offered with an optional automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The SLT and R/T are offered with 2WD or all-wheel drive.
The SXT 2WD ($19,595) and 4WD ($21,255) come with a 210-hp 3.7-liter V6 and a choice of six-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, air conditioning, remote keyless entry with power windows and door locks, 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, slate-colored molded front and rear fascias and fender flares, folding power mirrors, theft-deterrent system, rear window washer/wiper, roof rails, and P225/75R16 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers.
The SLT ($23,005) and SLT AWD ($24,665) come standard with the automatic transmission. The SLT adds YES Essentials upholstery that Dodge says is stain, odor and static resistant; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; six-way power adjustable driver's seat; heated exterior mirrors; vehicle information center; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; fog lights; Load 'n Go cargo storage system with tie-down rails; overhead console; cruise control; compass; tinted windows; body-colored front and rear fascias and fender flares; and P235/65R17 tires on aluminum wheels.
The R/T 2WD ($26,180) and R/T AWD ($27,840) feature a 4.0-liter V6 making 260 horsepower, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. The R/T comes with a sport suspension with P245/50R20 Goodyear Eagle tires on chromed aluminum wheels. The R/T is equipped like the SLT.
Options for all three models include a power sunroof ($895) and trailer tow package ($820). Options for the SLT and R/T include a rear DVD entertainment system (1,300), leather upholstery with heated front seats ($830), and Dodge's MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System ($1550), which has a navigation system with voice command and a 20-gigabyte hard drive to store music and photos. Also offered for SLT and R/T is a Convenience package ($1,345) with rear obstacle detection, Dodge's UConnect wireless cell phone link, remote engine starting, eight speakers and a subwoofer. The SLT can be ordered with the R/T's sport suspension and chromed 20-inch alloy wheels ($1,505).
Safety equipment that comes standard on all models includes dual front air bags, head-protecting curtain side air bags, and a tire-pressure monitor. ABS with brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control with Dodge's Trailer Sway Control are also standard. Rear obstacle detection is optional for SLT and R/T ($250).
All NCTD prices are manufacturers suggested retail prices (MSRP) that do not include destination charges and may change at any time without notice.