The 2008 Nitro is a distinct looking SUV with innovative styling. Sharing its platform with the Jeep Liberty, the Nitro features a Load' n' Go' cargo storage system which is great when the need arises for maximum cargo space. The R/T is certainly the most fun to drive benefitting from better handling and tires and improved interior options. If you are in the market for a fun to drive SUV with nice cargo space and options abound, check out the 2008 Nitro. If you have the extra cash, opt for the R/T.
The 2008 Dodge Nitro is a mid-size sport utility vehicle distinguished from other SUVs by its squared-off styling with exaggerated fender flares. Nitro shares its platform with the Jeep Liberty. It is 22 inches shorter than the Dodge Durango full-size SUV.
It features Load 'n' Go, a cargo storage system whereby the rear seats and front passenger seat fold totally flat in seconds; additionally, the cargo floor slides rearward out over the rear bumper, and can hold 400 pounds, making the loading of heavy objects much easier. The Nitro comes with either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, with a choice of V6 engines. The cabin is quiet thanks to heavy use of sound deadening material, and visibility out the rear and to the front corners of the Nitro is excellent.
The only notable updates are standard Trailer Sway Control and the availability of rear obstacle detection system.
The 2008 Dodge Nitro comes as three models, SXT, SLT and R/T. All are available with rear-wheel drive (2WD). The SXT with a manual transmission has part-time four-wheel drive (4WD) that should not be left engaged on dry pavement. The SXT is also offered with an optional automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The SLT and R/T are offered with 2WD or all-wheel drive.
The SXT 2WD ($19,595) and 4WD ($21,255) come with a 210-hp 3.7-liter V6 and a choice of six-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, air conditioning, remote keyless entry with power windows and door locks, 115-volt power outlet, flat folding front passenger seat, 60/40 folding rear bench seat, AM/FM/CD with MP3 and six speakers, Sirius satellite radio, auxiliary input jack, tilt steering column, slate-colored molded front and rear fascias and fender flares, folding power mirrors, theft-deterrent system, rear window washer/wiper, roof rails, and P225/75R16 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers.
The SLT ($23,005) and SLT AWD ($24,665) come standard with the automatic transmission. The SLT adds YES Essentials upholstery that Dodge says is stain, odor and static resistant; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; six-way power adjustable driver's seat; heated exterior mirrors; vehicle information center; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; fog lights; Load 'n Go cargo storage system with tie-down rails; overhead console; cruise control; compass; tinted windows; body-colored front and rear fascias and fender flares; and P235/65R17 tires on aluminum wheels.
The R/T 2WD ($26,180) and R/T AWD ($27,840) feature a 4.0-liter V6 making 260 horsepower, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. The R/T is equipped like the SLT.
Options for the SLT and R/T include a rear DVD entertainment system (1,300), leather upholstery with heated front seats ($830), and Dodge's MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System ($1550), which has a navigation system with voice command and a 20-gigabyte hard drive to store music and photos. The SLT can be ordered with the R/T's sport suspension and chromed 20-inch alloy wheels ($1,505).
Safety equipment that comes standard on all models includes dual front air bags, head-protecting curtain side air bags, and a tire-pressure monitor. ABS with brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control with Dodge's Trailer Sway Control are also standard. Rear obstacle detection is optional for SLT and R/T ($250).
Dodge publicity makes a big thing about the Nitro's looks, citing its so-called athleticism. From the front, it's unmistakably Dodge. It's got that big crosshair grille, which looks much better in body color (R/T) than chrome (SXT, SLT). In silhouette, with its relatively upright windshield, very high beltline and rectangular windows, plus short front overhang, the Nitro's shape is reminiscent of, say, a '62 Dodge Power Wagon. Our test Nitro R/T was equipped with standard 20-inch chromed aluminum wheels, and they sure are showy.
The front buckets were very comfortable and supportive, with excellent bolstering.
It responds to voice commands and the navigation system has real-time traffic information. The Load 'n Go function quickly and easily flops the 60/40 rear seats and front passenger seat totally flat.
After long drives in both the Dodge Nitro SLT AWD and R/T 2WD, we prefer the R/T.
The 3.7-liter engine in the SLT is slightly harsh and too slow, and the four-speed automatic transmission needs another gear. When we floored the SLT once at 40 mph, the tranny didn't kick down and the vehicle felt gutless. The suspension takes bumps with a jolt, especially at lower speeds and mostly at the front wheels. Chrysler's R/T models are considered higher performance, but in this case it's not hot-rod high performance, it's more literal: simply a higher level of basic performance by the engine, transmission and suspension.
The 4.0-liter V6 is a single overhead-cam engine. It's rated at 260 horsepower, 50 more than the engine in the SLT, and it provides 265 pound-feet of torque at 4200 rpm. Both engines can tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with the Trailer Tow package.
It refuses to short-shift, or up shift before redline under heavy throttle. The handling of the R/T is reasonably sure-footed, and considerably more precise than the SLT; Goodyear Eagle tires help a lot.
The Nitro has all the Dodge character. It feels bigger than its size, thanks largely to a high beltline, high seating position, and much glass instead of sheet metal at the rear corners. It's not easy to make an SUV look distinctive, and the Nitro tries very hard. "It turns out that the thing actually has something approaching character. For one thing, it is the first Dodge product I've driven in years that was absolutely flawless in the things that count -- fit, finish, interior design and comfort, and overall utility." says the Washington Post Mechanically, it's hindered by the 3.7-liter engine and four-speed automatic transmission in the SXT and SLT, the most popular models. " But mostly, the Nitro's on-road personality is a fun one: purpose-oriented and happily truck like but still entertaining when the road goes all twisty." adds Automobile Magazine The R/T, costing on average about $3200 more, has a more powerful and smoother 4.0-liter engine, which gets about the same gas mileage at the 3.7, along with a good five-speed automatic transmission. It also has a more comfortable ride. If you have the extra cash, Go for the R/T.