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BABY BOOM

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jul 14, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

BABY BOOM By Reed Berry

One quick glance up and down any highway serves as proof that there is a plethora of sport utility vehicles on the road. Most car manufacturers offer at least one, and new models are introduced each year. In order to get my attention, , an SUV has to be unique and must stand out from the rest when it comes to design, performance and functionality.

As I begin to tell the story of the Dodge Nitro SLT, let's start by examining the definition of the word "dodge". It means "to avoid". Based on my experience driving this vehicle, I can't help but wonder if that is what car buyers may decide to do. The Nitro lacks the car-like comfort and performance one may expect from a mid-size SUV. We know that Dodge is capable of producing decent automobiles. From the economical, friendly-looking Neon to the 500-horsepower Viper that flies past you at light speed on the freeway, Dodge offers a little something for everyone. And, of course, the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger models of the early 70s are memorable classics. So, will the new Nitro become yet another classic or will it be a Dodge that few choose to put in their garage? Except for being a little too boxy for my taste, the Nitro's exterior styling is rather striking. From one angle it looks a little like a Jeep Liberty; from another, there's a slight resemblance to a Hummer H3. The appearance of the vehicle is accented by a distinctive grille, large fender flares and wrap-around headlamps. Big, man-size door handles and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels also add to the Nitro's bold look.

If the car looks this good on the outside, one might assume that the impressive attention to detail will continue throughout. Unfortunately, once inside the vehicle things take a rather disappointing turn. The interior of the Nitro has more plastic than the Tupperware factory. The amount of plastic used on the dash and door panels, combined with rather uninspired design, give the interior a cheap, uninteresting look. Don't write off the interior of the Nitro completely, however. The optional equipment package in my test vehicle includes comfortable heated leather-trimmed bucket seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, plus a six-disc CD/DVD/MP3 player with eight amplified speakers and a subwoofer that sounds great! Spend a little extra and you can get the optional MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System that includes such features as voice-activated GPS navigation and an internal 20 GB hard drive on which you can download songs and digital photos. There's even a cool touchscreen control panel!

Another obvious benefit of the Nitro is the spacious passenger compartment with ample legroom throughout. The cargo capacity is quite generous as well, with 32.1 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seat. One feature I particularly like is the Load 'N Go sliding cargo floor that makes loading luggage and other large, heavy objects much easier. Pull it out, load it up, and slide it back in - it's that easy. As for performance, the SLT seems to have adequate power and acceleration, thanks to a 210 horsepower V6 engine and the standard four-speed automatic transmission. If you are not happy settling for adequate and desire more impressive performance, consider the Dodge Nitro R/T, at the top of the three-model Nitro line, which comes equipped with a more powerful 4.0-liter 260 horsepower V6 engine. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard on the R/T. In any vehicle I drive, I like to feel the road. Unfortunately, in the Nitro I am feeling a little too much of the road. As I drive along Arrow Highway in San Dimas, no problem. A smooth road equals a smooth ride in the Nitro. But as I turn onto a bumpy side street, the ride becomes a little harsh. As I pull into the driveway of a local convenience store to get my morning coffee, the bouncy, jarring motion of the Nitro reminds me of being on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.

While the ride and suspension do not impress, the list of safety features does. The Nitro has advanced multistage front air bags and supplemental side airbags, as well as all-speed traction control and electronic stability program. Quick, confident braking is accomplished with an anti-lock braking system. And, since most drivers do not check their tire pressure often enough, the Nitro SLT has a tire pressure monitoring display. Is Nitro the vehicle for you? A car buyer seeking a vehicle that combines practicality with car-like comfort may want to consider a smaller SUV or crossover vehicle. If you are looking for a large, spacious vehicle with a bold appearance - and if you don't mind overlooking a few flaws - the Dodge Nitro SLT, reasonably priced from the low-to-mid 20s, may be worth a closer look.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT Smartly styled, but the off-road-capable Nitro has a bit more kick in its ride than what some boulevard cruisers will be willing to tolerate. For more information about Dodge products, go to www.dodge.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2007 Dodge Nitro SLT 4X4 Price: Base MSRP: $24,145 As equipped: $27,405 Engine type: 3.7 Liter V6 with Sequential Electronic Fuel Injection Horsepower: 210 @ 5,200 rpm Torque: 235 @ 4,000 rpm EPA mileage estimates (miles per gallon) City/ Highway: 17 / 23 Drive configuration: Part time four-wheel drive Transmission type: Four-speed automatic transmission Steering: Rack & pinion Suspension: Front: Independent Rear: Live Wheels and tires: Wheels: 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels Tires: 235/65R17 All-season performance tires Brakes: ABS brakes with Electronic Brake Assistance Overall length: 178.9 inches Overall width: 73.1 inches Overall height: 69.9 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 4,162 lbs. 0-60 mph: 9.04 seconds

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