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Car reviews - Dodge - Nitro - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

29 Jun 2007

THE second Dodge model has arrived in Australia with razor-sharp pricing.

A mid-sized all-wheel-drive SUV that will take on the Ford Territory, Holden Captiva and the Toyota Kluger, the Dodge Nitro kicks off with a starting price of just $36,990.

That makes the Nitro $2500 cheaper than the base rear-drive Territory and a hefty $5000 cheaper than the entry-level Kluger.

The only one of the big three to undercut the Nitro is the South Korean-sourced Captiva with a starting price of $34,990.

Chrysler Group Australia managing director Gerry Jenkins said the Nitro would not simply be competing against other AWD models.

“It has a wide range of potential customers ranging from mid-sized SUV buyers through to Falcon and Commodore owners looking for something different,” he said, adding that the Nitro had aggressive “get out of my way” styling that would set it apart from the SUV crowd.

The Nitro features bold styling dominated by hard edges, bulging wheel-arches and a huge grille that features the signature Dodge chrome “crosshair”.

It is the first Chrysler Group product to use a new platform that will be shared by the next-generation Jeep Cherokee, which is scheduled to arrive here early next year.

While pricing for the next-generation Cherokee is not confirmed, the current base model is $2000 more expensive than the entry-level Nitro.

The Nitro runs a lightly revised version of the Cherokee’s 3.7-litre petrol V6, while a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel as seen in the new Wrangler is available as an option.

Both are available with automatic transmissions no manual is available.

The V6 is not the most potent unit on the market, producing 151kW at 5200rpm and 314Nm of torque at 4000rpm. It is teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission.

The four-cylinder direct-injection diesel generates 130kW at 3800rpm and a stump-pulling 460Nm at 2000rpm, and uses a five-speed automatic.

The diesel returns a combined fuel economy figure of 9.4L/100km (ADR 81/01), while the petrol is significantly thirstier, using an average of 12.1L/100km in the same test.

While not the heaviest in class, the Nitro is no lightweight, tipping the scales at 1875kg for the base petrol model and 1995kg for the premium diesel.

Adding weight is the Nitro’s hefty UniFrame body, which features elements of a ladder frame welded to a monocoque body for extra strength.

The Nitro is a five-seater-only model and there is no option for a third row of seats, which is available with many rival vehicles. It is almost a size smaller than the Territory and is not quite as big as the Captiva and Kluger either.

The tape measure shows the Nitro is 4584mm long, 1755mm tall and 1856mm wide.

Its suspension system uses coil springs front and rear, but the Nitro has a solid rear axle rather than an independent system used by many new SUVs. The steering is regular hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion.

Nitros are sold in the US as either 2WD or AWD, but Australian models are strictly AWD. Having said that, the SUV runs exclusively in 2WD (rear-drive) mode on bitumen, offering on-demand 4WD on dirt surfaces only. It is not equipped with a low-range transfer case.

The Nitro can wade through water up to 482mm deep and has a reasonable ground clearance of 210mm, but it is designed for urban adventures rather than off-road work.

Chrysler Group Australia said the Nitro’s AWD system is more for road handling and increased safety in slippery conditions than rock-crawling off-road ability.

It has opted for a firmer suspension rating in order to give the car a more sporty character on tarmac. This “performance” suspension setting is only available for the sporty R/T Nitro models in the US, but is standard on all Australian models.

The base Nitro SX comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, but the SXT model is fitted with huge 20-inch rims, which were never designed to go off-road.

Both models come with a full-size spare wheel that is mounted underneath the rear cargo area.

Both the petrol and diesel Nitros have the same towing capacity – 2270kg if the trailer/caravan is braked and a weight distribution hitch is used, and 1600kg braked but without a weight distribution hitch.

All Nitro models feature 65/35 split-fold rear seats, which can also recline, while the passenger seat also folds flat to open up cargo space.

The SX grade kicks off the Nitro range at $36,990 for the petrol model, while the diesel adds another $3500. Stepping up to the SXT costs $39,990 for the petrol model, while choosing a diesel adds $3500.

Standard safety gear for all models includes ABS brakes, electronic stability control, traction control and front, side and curtain airbags. The SX comes standard with air-conditioning, a six-disc CD sound system, cruise control, electric windows, a tyre-pressure monitor, cargo cover, front and rear foglights and rear parking sensors.

The SXT adds the bigger wheels, a premium sound system (with sub-woofer), two-tone seat trim, a trip computer, interior chrome highlights, tinted windows, electrically adjustable driver’s seat and body-coloured wheel-arch flares.

SXT options include a Luxury Group pack that adds a sunroof, leather trim, heated front seats and alarm for $3000, and a MyGig multimedia system will be available this October for $3500.

Dodge is also offering two years’ free comprehensive insurance on the Nitro.

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