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.
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.
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.