The Dodge Nitro is top rated by its owners in the Mid-Size Sport Utility segment. Characteristics that were particularly highly rated include overall seating capacity, rear seat comfort, interior storage compartments and audio system performance.
This personality-packed Dodge is a little larger than its Jeep Liberty counterpart and customers clearly appreciate the larger interior that results. Dodge has been applying lessons learned from the minivan business to all segments, with proof it matters here: Nitro’s clever storage options contributed to its win. The 2010 VSA win follows Nitro winning the 2009 Owner Recommendation Award.
For a complete list of winners and description of the Awards, click here.
As Dodge works to reinforce and develop an international presence, a new SUV for the range is being introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show in September. Named Journey, the first official U.S. sighting will be at the Los Angeles auto show in November, ahead of U.S. sales first quarter of 2008. Dodge is going after young families and young couples about to start a family; in life stages, Journey is set to step in once the realities of family life have been accepted, but the appeal of a minivan’s practicality hasn’t won out over that vehicle type’s staid image.
Being built at Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico, facility, Journey will go up against the likes of the Ford Edge
, Chevrolet Equinox
, Mazda CX-7
, Nissan Murano
, and Toyota Highlander
. It isn’t quite big enough to take on the Saturn Outlook
or upcoming Ford Flex
, but Dodge also offers a minivan and Durango SUVs for full seven- or eight-passenger lifestyles. Dodge will offer the Journey in its typical SE, SXT, and R/T trim levels, with standard five or optional five-plus-two seating. Instead of relying on elements of modern SUV styling (like the Lexus RX and Edge) or going ultra stylish like Mazda’s CX-7 and CX-9, the Journey offers a modern take on the traditional SUV look. It retains Dodge’s aggressive personality in a segment that more typically offers soft edges and styling. It will make a nice addition to a landscape crowded with me-too styling.
Journey will complement the truck-based Durango and Nitro SUVs, and is the best-looking product to come from the Chrysler D-segment platform. The Journey is significantly larger than the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring sedans on which it is based, sporting an extra five inches in wheelbase and two inches in overall length. Dodge refers to the Journey’s three-row seating arrangement as for only “occasional use” and calls it five-plus-two instead of seven-passenger or emphasizing the third-row aspect. This should help avoid criticism for a small third row by reducing expectations of a full-size third row from the beginning. Not a terrible idea.
And the Show Goes On…
At easily the wettest press conference yet attended by VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents, Jeep revealed their new Liberty outside the Javits Convention Center, home of the New York auto show. Not willing to cancel a press conference over something as small as a constant downpour (quite rightly thinking letting rain scare them off isn’t in good Jeep form), Chrysler’s PR staff simply made sure Frank Klegon, Chrysler Group Executive Vice President, Product Development, had an umbrella to keep the worst of the rain off during his presentation. And the vehicle showing off the new Sky Slider canvas roof still drove up with its roof open, though an umbrella could be spotted sticking out in an attempt to keep the interior a little dry.
Rain aside, the Liberty burst out of the ground as planned. The Liberty doesn’t go on sale until late this year, about twelve months after its new-for-2007MY Dodge Nitro
sibling. The Jeep Liberty gets a new look inside and out, more technology and convenience features, and takes up more space outside to provide more space inside. Liberty gains two more inches in wheelbase and overall length and is wider, to improve cargo space and make passengers more comfortable. (While this Liberty is larger than the outgoing car, the Nitro
is appreciably larger than the new Liberty.)
Liberty Returns to Square
The new Liberty also goes back to a squared-off look along the lines of old Cherokees, though it isn’t as stiff looking as the new Patriot. This is an interesting choice, given the introduction of the Compass and the company’s current traditional/modern SUV point/counterpoint showroom. Consider: Compass and Patriot, Liberty and four-door Wrangler Unlimited, Grand Cherokee and Commander. Given these almost logical pairings of modern complementing traditional Jeep styles, why did the Liberty go square again?
Quibbles aside, the new Liberty looks good, and more important looks all Jeep. Of the four introductions over the past year, Jeep’s only misstep in the looks department is the Compass. Wrangler maintained and improved its image and capability; Patriot provides a true entry Jeep, in looks and capability; and the Liberty looks all the better for losing its softer form.
Revived Avenger Takes Charger Cues in Sheetmetal and Hobbies: Avenger Race Car Part of 2007 NASCAR Car of Tomorrow Program
At the 2006 Paris auto show, Dodge showed off an Avenger Concept. At the time, we offered up our first impressions of the new sedan (click here for our story). A mere four months later, Dodge revealed the production version at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. Avenger is important to the Dodge franchise and promises to be a far better competitor than the defunct Stratus was in its end days, but VehicleVoice readers will not be surprised that the Avenger name replaces Stratus, or that the production car is much like the concept, minus the concept’s SRT-like bodywork.
Dodge also reinforced their commitment to motorsports with a Car of Tomorrow Avenger NASCAR also on stage. NASCAR driver Kurt Bush helped Dodge introduce the updated Viper, but Juan Pablo Montoya was on hand to help introduce the racing Avenger.
Dodge needs Avenger to play an important role in its car lineup, replacing the Stratus, which dropped after the 2006 model year. Despite initial comments about some confusion in its styling details, the Avenger is more successful at incorporating the Dodge family elements than the Sebring
is for Chrysler, but that would not have been difficult. The two share nearly the same overall dimensions, but Avenger’s Charger-inspired shoulders give the rear a more finished look than the truncated Sebring’s short deck allows. Avenger’s competition will include the Ford Fusion, Saturn Aura, and Chevrolet’s all-new 2008 Malibu (also revealed this January in Detroit), as well as the older Mazda6 and the even less expensive Kia Optima. The mid-size sedan segment has historically been highly competitive, and the 2007/2008 model years are no easier. The Detroit reveal gives us the chance to bring you more details on the production car and its available equipment, but in February we’ll have our first driving impressions.
Dodge showed concept and production versions of Nitro at the Chicago Auto Show, in 2005 and 2006 respectively (click for our coverage of the 2006 reveal). In September, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents had our first opportunity to drive it. Starting at Broadway Pier in the San Diego Harbor, we drove the Nitro on a long, winding route to Palm Springs.
Related to the Jeep Liberty
and built in the same facility, Nitro is bigger, has an all-new suspension, and is optimized for the on-road side of life. Entering this segment late, Dodge’s best opportunity for creating a buzz was exterior styling or innovative new interior features. Dodge saw an opportunity for an in-your-face look with a decidedly male-oriented bias and went for it; the brand’s established in-your-face attitude would be best supported by an aggressive, in-your-face mid-size SUV and there aren’t many of those out there already. Nitro competes with soft-road or crossover SUV entries including Toyota RAV4
, Saturn VUE
, and latest Mitsubishi Outlander
as well as with more traditional SUVs Nissan Xterra
, Kia Sorento
, and Jeep’s own Liberty. In this arena, only the Xterra wears strongly masculine styling.
A Year After the Concept, Production Nitro Introduced in Chicago
Dodge heads into the 2007MY competing in two new segments with two all-new entries. Along with the just-launched Caliber that we recently drove and reviewed, the Nitro arrives later in the year. Nitro is a traditional, four-door, five-passenger SUV with styling aimed at guys more than women. While the Chrysler Group’s Jeep Liberty, with which the Dodge Nitro shares production space, appeals more to women, the Nitro’s more aggressive attitude is expected to pull in more men. Its official introduction is this week at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, the same venue that hosted the concept car a year ago.
Among the difficulties with joining a full segment will be getting through the clutter. At least on paper, the Nitro is a strong entry. But the small and mid-size SUV segments include as many as twenty-five entries, depending on definitions, and that means a lot of competition for attention. With its optional 255HP V6, Nitro is near the top in terms of horsepower, and its relationship to Jeep’s Liberty should give it decent off-road capability. Dodge has also given it the ability to tow as much as 5000 pounds, properly equipped. The Nitro also looks to further support Dodge’s performance slant, with an on-road performance-tuned suspension optional for some models.
Dodge is developing a truck-based mid-size SUV, and the Nitro concept introduced at the 2005 Chicago auto show is a look at what the product might look like. The concept explores adding Dodge’s aggressive attitude to a mid-size SUV, looking to the Jeep Liberty for components and a starting platform.
The Nitro bears Dodge’s signature crosshair grille and bright red exterior paint, for a look that would slot in nicely alongside the Magnum, Ram, and Charger, as well as suggesting Dodge will further evolve this look with other products during the second half of this decade. Jewel-like headlights bore a rectangular shape (avoiding the round headlights that Jeep prefers). Silver and chrome accents could be found in the satin silver and black-trimmed roof rack and crossbars, chrome dual exhaust tail pipes, a brushed silver license plate, and in the brushed silver vents on either side of the SUV.
The satin silver continued inside, most notably on the center console, though also found on the control buttons, door handles, gauges, speakers, and assist handles. The concept interior also featured black and red two-tone interior, and a seven-inch LED screen with DVD navigation, something not found on most mid-size SUVs. The interior holds five people in two rows, with the second row and front passenger seat folding flat. Among the functional interior touches is a cargo bed that slides out for easier loading and unloading, and is also made of a tough, durable vinyl for easy cleaning. The Nitro shown focused on a solid package for seating five, as Dodge has the Durango for those who need to haul more passengers in an SUV and the Caravan for those more comfortable in a minivan.
As Dodge’s upcoming SUV is expected to share with the Jeep Liberty, but the Nitro indicates Dodge is looking for a larger entry than the Liberty. Compared with Liberty, the wheelbase of the Nitro concept was stretched four inches to about 108 inches and Nitro offers a longer rear overhang. The concept featured two rows of seats and a clever easy-load sliding surface (strong enough for people to sit on and tailgate). The Nitro borrowed its 210HP 3.7L V6, four-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel-drive system from the Liberty.