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car review

2007 Dodge Nitro

In 2007, Daimler-Chrysler decided to mix things up a little by launching the mid-size Dodge Nitro. The idea was to get away from the "sport-cute" syndrome, and draw more males into the sport-ute market while appealing to buyers who were looking for something a little more manageable than the Durango or Grand Cherokee.

The Nitro featured aggressive styling, with a three-dimensional ram's head in the middle of the grille, oversize fender blisters and a monochromatic paint scheme. If nothing else, it came with a built-in presence.

It came in four trim levels - SE, SXT, SLT, and R/T - with two engine choices: 3.7-litre V-6 and 4.0-litre V-6. Power outputs were 210 and 255 horsepower, and torque was 235 and 265 lb-ft, respectively. You could choose from either a six-speed manual, four-speed automatic or five-speed automatic transmission, depending upon the model and engine.

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With the exception of the base SE, all-wheel-drive was available on all models, and there were two systems; the smaller engine mated to the manual gearbox received a part-time setup, with 4WD being accessed via a console-mounted switch, while the automatic models got full-time AWD.

Wheels and tires were oversize 16-inchers, and the Nitro featured independent suspension front and back. On the SLT and R/T models, you could order a performance setup that included heftier shocks, stiffer spring rates and massive 20-inch wheels and tires. On paper and in person, the Nitro looked as tough as a drill sergeant, and had a towing capacity of 2,268 kilograms, with four-wheel brakes and ABS as standard equipment.

Inside, the SE and SXT models came with fabric seats, but you could order leather with the SLT and, on the top-of-the-line R-T, it was standard.

Other interior accoutrements included a CD player with MP3/MWA compatibility, 65/35-split folding rear seat, two 12-volt power points and the usual roster of power windows, air conditioning, power door locks and so on. A DVD rear entertainment system was also available, as was navi, and a touch-screen multi-media entertainment system.

With the rear seats folded completely flat, the Nitro offered 1,846 litres of storage room. For tailgate parties and trips to the lumberyard, an optional Load 'N Go cargo system was also available. This feature allows the floor to be slid out, sparing you having to reach in to load or unload stuff. Slick.

Fuel consumption was tolerable, but not earth-shattering: 13.0 L/100 km in town for the four-wheel-drive, manual transmission SE and 9.0 on the highway. This was slightly thriftier than the Liberty, for example, which was, and is, built on the same platform.

Five safety recalls are on file with Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the '07 Nitro. They are:

  • A faulty windshield wiper "delay" setting that could fail during snow or hard rain.
  • A parking brake malfunction on models equipped with the manual transmission.
  • Problems with the ABS system when coasting uphill.
  • Computer software issues that could cause the vehicle to stall suddenly.
  • Possible rear-wheel lockup on models equipped with the 42RLE automatic transmission.

NHTSA also has 18 technical service bulletins for the Nitro and they range from "torque converter shudder," to transmission shift quality, to a "whistling" sound on some of the smaller V-6 engines, to play in the steering and a rough ride. It should also be noted that a large number of these advisories also apply to other Daimler-Chrysler models of this vintage, and don't forget that this vehicle does have AWD, which could mean that it's seen off-road duty.

Not too much love from Consumer Reports, which gives the 2007 Nitro a failing grade for predicted reliability. Areas of concern include paint/trim, body hardware, and power equipment. "Overall," comments CR, "the Nitro is unimpressive."

Things do improve in 2008. Lots of comments from owners, including: "Looks cool," "Bounces a bit on rough pavement," "Not for tall people" and "Slight delay when shifting into gear."

Nor is market research company J.D. Power impressed, giving the Nitro a worse-than-average grade for overall dependability. According to this organization, there is not one single area of the Nitro worthy of praise.

Prices for a three-year-old Dodge Nitro seem to range greatly, from the $11,000 neighbourhood, up to almost $21,000, depending upon condition, mileage and trim level.

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2007 Dodge Nitro

Original Base Price: $23,290; Black Book Value: $16,325-$20,900; Red Book Value: $11,750-$15,075

Engines: 3.7-litre and 4.0-litre V-6


210 hp/235 lb-ft for 3.7-litre

255 hp/265 lb-ft for 4.0-litre

Transmission: Six-speed manual/four- and five-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy (litres per 100 km): 13.0 city/9.0 highway (3.7-litre with manual); regular gas

Alternatives: Chevrolet Trailblazer, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-7, Ford Edge, Nissan XTerra, Subaru Tribeca