There are almost 50 different SUVs on the Canadian market. Most of them are more akin to a car than a truck. In fact, many are based on a reinforced sedan platform and use a "reactive" all-wheel-drive system that can transfer some of the available torque to the rear wheels -- that is, only when the front wheels start to slip.
The new Dodge Nitro is not shy about its origins and proudly stands out from the competition. It uses an extensively reworked version of the Jeep Liberty architecture. It's longer and more rigid than the latter, while the wheelbase was increased from 2,640 to 2,763 mm.
Thanks to these improvements, the Nitro offers more room for rear passengers and a 79-liter greater cargo capacity. In addition, the R/T model features a class-exclusive system called Load'n Go, consisting of a cargo tray that slides out 46 centimeters over the rear bumper to make loading heavy or awkward items easier. Once open, the rear hatch offers good protection against the elements. Like virtually all competing models, the Nitro is only available in 4-door body style.
A major improvement over the 3.7L
The Nitro R/T is motivated by a new 4.0L V6 engine mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. This powertrain generally does a really good job. With 260 horsepower on tap, accelerations are convincing and passing maneuvers, energetic. The autobox works pretty well in all conditions. However, in normal driving, it tends to upshift too quickly, not letting the engine rev up at high RPMs. Fortunately, this transmission comes with a manual mode function which allows the driver to have fun when the occasion presents itself. Of course, you'll have to stop at the gas station more often, because the Nitro morphs into a mad guzzler when you're too hard on the throttle. While not explosive, this powerplant is really cool to exploit.
The Nitro R/T comes standard with a part-time four-wheel drive system. In 2WD mode, the rear wheels drive the vehicle. When 4WD is engaged, power is distributed in a 48/52 ratio. I found this system fairly effective and safe. However, the 20-inch tires ruin the party with their excessive width. I strongly recommend that you purchase a second set of wheels with winter tires of the same size as the base model's before the cold season starts.
Auto journalist & Consumer Ratings
2008 Dodge Nitro 4WD Specifications
Similar to 2008 Dodge Nitro 4WD