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2009 Dodge Nitro

Overview
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2009 Dodge Nitro Review

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According to Dodge, the Nitro is the automaker's first midsize SUV. Just like its Durango big brother, however, the 2009 Dodge Nitro straddles a line between two segments, competing on some levels with vehicles from both the compact and midsize SUV categories. It even somewhat threatens to cannibalize sales from the recently introduced Journey, although the Nitro can't match the Journey's fuel economy or seating capacity numbers. The Nitro's niche in the marketplace isn't defined by its measurements, though, but by its bold, unique styling.

You'll Like This Car If...

While the 2009 Dodge Nitro derives much of its appeal from its bold exterior styling, it still offers all the versatility of a typical compact/midsize SUV. Generous rear-seat legroom and a handy slide-out cargo floor help sweeten the deal.

You May Not Like This Car If...

Compared to its car-based crossover competitors, the Nitro's more truck-like roots involve ride and handling compromises. There is no four-cylinder or diesel engine in the lineup and fuel economy with the two available V6 engines is far from impressive.

What's New for 2009

Improvements to the Nitro's suspension include stiffer rear axle shafts, as well as retuned shocks, springs and anti-roll bars. New standard features include floor mats, Auto Unlock at exit and a rear dome lamp. The six-speed manual is no longer offered.

Driving the Nitro
Driving Impressions

Because the 2009 Dodge Nitro looks so good, is versatile and offers a compelling array of interior features, we found ourselves wishing it had been built from scratch. As it...

... is, the Nitro's Jeep Liberty-derived architecture brings compromises in ride and handling, especially when compared to the newer generation of crossover SUVs like the Dodge Journey. Opt for the 260-horsepower V6, five-speed automatic transmission and tighter suspension of the R/T model, though, and it's easier to overlook those shortcomings. In models equipped with the smaller V6 and four-speed automatic, we often found ourselves wishing for either more power or another gear or two.

uconnect gps
This optional hard drive-based system includes navigation with real-time traffic information, MP3/WMA music and JPEG image uploading, a high-speed USB 2.0 port, auxiliary audio input, voice recognition, voice message recording and playback and Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity.

Load 'N Go Cargo Floor
For easier loading and unloading, the Nitro is available with a cargo floor that slides out 18 inches over the rear bumper and can hold up to 400 pounds. Beneath it is a four-inch deep storage bin good for storing jumper cables or hiding a laptop.

2009 Dodge Nitro Details
2009 Dodge Nitro photo Interior

The Nitro's most novel interior feature is the available Load 'n Go cargo floor that slides out over the bumper for easier loading and unloading. Other features include reclining rear seatbacks and an available fold-flat passenger seat that makes it easier to haul longer cargo or work on a laptop computer (while parked, of course). In between the base cloth and available leather seating, Nitro offers an exceptionally durable and stain-resistant seat fabric dubbed "Stain Repel". The interior styling is in line with that of recent Dodge vehicles and includes a perceptible amount of average-grade plastics.

Exterior

Without question, the 2009 Dodge Nitro's calling card is its distinctive, squared-off exterior styling. Included in the design is the familiar Dodge crosshair grille, a clamshell-style hood and decorative side vents. The top-level R/T model is distinguished in part by a body-color grille and standard 20-inch chrome wheels, while the mid-level SLT receives 17-inch wheels and chrome accents on the door handles and interior trim. Base.SE models get dark, unpainted bumper fascias, moldings and fender flares.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

A base Dodge Nitro comes equipped with a 3.7-liter V6, four-speed automatic transmission, AM/FM/CD sound system with an auxiliary input jack, air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, 115-volt power outlet, rear-window wiper/washer, cloth seats and 16-inch styled-steel wheels. Standard safety equipment includes front and front-side airbags, plus an electronic stability control system that includes rollover mitigation. The SLT adds Load 'N Go slide out cargo floor, Stain Repel fabric seats, a six-way power driver's seat and heated side mirrors. The R/T adds a 4.0-liter V6, five-speed automatic transmission, performance suspension, 20-inch wheels and body color grille, air dam and sill moldings.

Optional Equipment

The highlight of the Nitro's optional equipment list is the comprehensive uconnect gps navigation, entertainment and communication system (see Favorite Features). Other key options include a six-disc CD/DVD-Audio sound system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, premium speakers, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, ParkSense Rear Park Assist, sunroof, heated leather seating, four-wheel drive, 20-inch chrome wheels, remote start, premium cloth seating and an outward-sliding cargo floor.

Under the Hood

While most Nitros feature a 3.7-liter V6 matched with a four-speed automatic transmission, the R/T gets an exclusive powertrain consisting of a 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed Auto Stick transmission. Each combination is available in rear- or full-time four-wheel drive. While its nature-loving Jeep Liberty cousin offers a low-range transfer case, the Nitro features an available "performance" suspension. Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.

3.7-liter V6
210 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
235 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (RWD), 16/20 (4WD)

4.0-liter V6
260 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
265 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/21 (RWD), 15/21 (4WD)

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