2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4x4
2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4×4. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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Toronto, Ontario – As we approached the 2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4×4 in the Chrysler parking lot, my wife blurted, “Looks like a Hummer wannabe.”

Wannabe or not, the five-passenger Nitro, especially in R/T guise with its chromed 20-inch rims and body-coloured cladding, cuts a pretty striking profile. Hats off to DaimlerChrysler…er, Chrysler, for once again bringing a bold styling statement to the streets. The almost cartoonish tough-guy proportions of this Sunburst Orange Pearl specimen never failed to get a reaction wherever we went.

The 2007 Nitro is built on a Jeep Liberty platform that has been stretched 10 cm and has gained 2.5 cm in track width. The base engine is a 210-hp 3.7-litre V6, while the R/T and SLT versions get a 4.0-litre SOHC 24-valve V6 that generates 255 hp at 6000 r.p.m. and 265 lb.-ft. at 4200 r.p.m. It is coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission.

The V6 provides plenty of urge, and make a suitably gruff (but not particularly refined) noise that seems in keeping with the hunky crossover’s personality. On the highway, its voice diminishes to a distant thrum.

2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4x4
2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4×4. Click image to enlarge

As in many other Dodge products, the interior features acres of grey plastic, but proves functional with lots of storage bins and cubbies. I like the large rotary controls for the HVAC and audio, and the trio of main gauges are legible and well illuminated.

While in Park, shorter drivers may find reaching the console shifter a chore, as even this lanky journalist found it a bit of a stretch. Two more strikes: the steering wheel doesn’t telescope and there’s no dead pedal.

With the mid-size crossover segment burgeoning with ever more refined, car-based offerings, the live-rear-axle Nitro R/T with its stiffened performance suspension is a bit of a throw back. Sophisticated it ain’t: the big 20-inch wheels clomp over road imperfections, and any uneven road surface (of which there are plenty in the GTA) has the ute pitching and swaying in a most truck-ish fashion.

2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4x4
2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4×4. Click image to enlarge

Adding to the malaise is numb steering and a torpedoed-freighter cornering attitude.

At least there is 4×4 traction, right? Yes and no. The part-time four-wheel-drive of this tester (selectable via a rotary knob on the console) is only useable on loose or slippery surfaces such as gravel, mud or snow. Consequently, most of the time you’ll be running in rear wheel drive only. For 2008, full-time four-wheel-drive replaces this part-time system on the Nitro SLT and R/T. Not a moment too soon.

The four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS are probably the Nitro’s most impressive dynamic feature, offering excellent pedal feel and strong retardation. Standard on the Nitro is Electronic Stability Program (ESP), all-speed traction control, Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM) and tire pressure monitoring.

2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4x4
2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4x4
2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4x4
2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4x4
2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4×4. Click image to enlarge

Ride issues aside, the Nitro treats its occupants quite nicely. I found the optional heated leather seats ($865) very comfy, and the AM/FM six-disc DVD MP3 radio ($455) with eight amplified speakers plus subwoofer ($420) produced clear and accurate sound.

Included in the R/T package is one year of Sirius Satellite Radio. For most of the test week, I was tuned to 118 Radio Classics, checking out old radio dramas from the 30s and 40s. Interestingly, the Nitro’s occasional bucking fits lent a certain authenticity to the adventures of horsey-heroes like the Lone Ranger and Marshall Matt Dillon, but there were a few times when, like many of the Gunsmoke villains, I just wanted to get out of (the) Dodge.

The R/T can be loaded up with UConnect hands-free phone system, rear seat DVD, and the 30-gigabyte MyGIG Multi Media Infotainment System with navigation – a clever feature that lets you store your own music, pictures and data.

Thanks to the lengthened platform, rear seat legroom is generous, and the reclining 60/40 seat folds flat with a tug on a couple of straps, creating a large flat load space. With the front passenger seat folded flat you can load eight-foot lumber.

As is the case with most SUVs, you pay for the macho-ness with a high load floor, and the Nitro’s is way up there. An interesting item is the R/T’s standard Load N’ Go cargo floor, which slides out 46 cm (18 in.) and can support up to 181 kg (400 lbs). It came in handy at the garden centre when purchasing several bags of topsoil.

The Nitro R/T will tow up to 2268 kg with the optional trailer tow group and weight-distributing hitch.

While a base Nitro SE 4×2 with six-speed manual runs $23,595, the top-line R/T starts at $32,150, putting it right into the thick of the Toyota Rav4 V6, Honda CR-V, Ford Edge and Mazda CX-7 crowd. Comparisons are somewhat pointless. The Nitro is a completely different animal, offering striking Tonka Toy styling and a driving experience that makes no apologies for its robust Jeep DNA.

If you can live with its rough and tumble charms, the Nitro R/T makes an intriguing alternative to its city-slicker competition. However, I’d strongly recommend the 2008 model with standard full-time four-wheel-drive. At least then it will live up to its swagger.


Pricing: 2007 Dodge Nitro R/T 4×4

  • Base price: $32,150
  • Options: $2,430 (Leather trimmed seats with heated front seats, $865; 8 amplified speakers plus subwoofer, $420; AM/FM 6-disc DVD MP3 radio, $455; UConnect Hands-Free Communication, $295; Full size spare tire, $175; Remote start system, $220)
  • Freight: $1,200
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $35,880 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


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Competitors

  • 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer
  • 2007 Ford Edge
  • 2007 GMC Envoy
  • 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • 2007 Mazda CX-7
  • 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander
  • 2007 Nissan Xterra
  • 2007 Subaru Tribeca
  • 2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara
  • 2007 Toyota RAV4

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