2007 Dodge Nitro SLT. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
By Chris Chase
Photos by Jil McIntosh and Peter Bleakney
Dodge is a brand better known for pickup trucks than SUVs, a fact that explains why it waited until 2007 to bring its first mid-sized SUV – the Nitro – to market.
The Nitro was a boxy thing that foretold the second-generation Jeep Liberty, which arrived for 2008. It shared some structural and suspension elements, as well as the Liberty’s 3.7L V6 engine, whose 210-hp (and 235 lb-ft of torque) was far less explosive than the truck’s name suggested. For performance that meshed better with the Nitro’s name and its bulldog styling, the 4.0L engine (260 hp/265 lb-ft) used in the top-trim R/T model was the engine of choice.
A six-speed manual was the base transmission in lower trims; a four-speed automatic was available with the 3.7L engine, and the 4.0L used a five-speed auto. Four-wheel drive was standard in upper trims, and optional in more basic models.
2007 Dodge Nitro R/T. Click image to enlarge
Fuel consumption estimates, according Natural Resources Canada, were 13.2/9.1 L/100 km (city/highway) for a 3.7L 4×2 automatic model, and 14.0/9.7 for the same truck with four-wheel drive. With the 4.0L engine, estimates were 13.1/9.5 L/100 km two-wheel drive, and 13.6/10.0 with 4WD. The relatively rare manual transmission models were rated 12.8/8.9 (2WD) and 13.4/9.2 with 4WD.
Standard kit on the 2007 SE trim included 16-inch steel wheel, ABS, stability/traction control, air conditioning, power locks and windows, tilt steering, roof rails, fold-flat front passenger seat, reclining rear seat, and power-folding mirrors.
A move up to the SXT model added aluminum wheels, floor mats, overhead console, cruise control, fog lamps and tinted side and rear glass.
The SLT brought 17-inch wheels, body-colour fenders and trim, slide-out Load ‘n Go cargo floor, auto-dimming rearview mirror, two-tone seats with stain-resistant fabric, power driver’s seat, vehicle information centre, heated exterior mirrors and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
The top-trim R/T got 20-inch chrome wheels, performance suspension, body-colour grille and R/T badging on the front seats.
2007 Dodge Nitro SXT. Click image to enlarge
In 2008, the SXT got the same body-coloured exterior trim as the SLT, and a few new option packages (Convenience, Premium Sound and Travel Convenience), which added items to lower trims that were previously only available in higher-end models. A rear park assist system was another new option.
For 2009, the body-coloured exterior bits were extended to all trim levels, the SXT gained standard stain-resistant seats and Bluetooth, and the SLT got leather as standard. The only mechanical change was the elimination of the manual transmission.
The Nitro was reduced to a single SXT trim in 2010, and the rear-wheel drive layout was discontinued. Other changes were limited to minor shuffling of standard features. There were no further changes for 2011, and the Nitro was discontinued before the 2012 model year.
Consumer Reports gives the Nitro its ‘much worse than average’ reliability rating, while ratings for the similar Jeep Liberty range from average to ‘worse than average’. Here are a few common flaws to be aware of when shopping for used Nitros.
Early Nitros were prone to a stalling problem caused by faulty software programming in an electronic component called the Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM). Dodge issued a recall to fix this problem in July, 2007.