- Exciting styling
- Good safety equipment
- Multiple interior configurations
- Stiff ride
- Vague steering
- Limited handling
If you judge the 2008 Dodge Nitro's performance based on its looks, you'll be disappointed when you hit the road.
The 2008 Dodge Nitro certainly proves the power of style. One look at this five-passenger mid-size SUV and you swear this truck was fast, agile, and ready for a street shoot-out. Especially when looking at the high-line 2008 Nitro R/T with its big 20-inch wheels, you'll agree this SUV has true street presence.
The Nitro's looks deceive. Under the exciting bodywork is a Jeep Liberty. The Liberty is not known for terrific on-road prowess, and neither is the 2008 Nitro. To be as blunt as the Nitro's styling, this Dodge rides stiffly, and the expected handling benefit from the buttoned-down suspension never materializes, as the standard stability control steps in early to curtail any potentially dangerous antics. Too bad the 2008 Dodge Nitro can't deliver what its looks promise.
However, if you love the styling, the Dodge Nitro offers three models; Nitro SXT, Nitro SLT, and Nitro R/T. The R/T gets a 4.0-liter SOHC V-6 that delivers 260 horsepower. The lesser models pick up the Liberty's base 3.7-liter V-6 that produces just 210 horsepower. All models include fold-flat front passenger and second-row seats, which recline for added passenger comfort. There are two cargo floor configurations: a reversible load floor standard on Dodge Nitro SXT and Load 'N Go cargo floor standard on the SLT and R/T. The Load 'N Go is a heavy-duty tray on wheels that you can load gear on to and then slide into the cargo area.
Safety features are plentiful, and they include anti-lock brakes, stability control, Electronic Roll Mitigation, and side curtain airbags. These features add peace of mind to the Dodge's excellent performance in government crash tests. Part-time four-wheel drive is available, but it lacks a low range. While the Dodge Nitro may have a Jeep under its skin, this SUV is not intended to go off-roading.
Options include a MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System with navigation that features real-time traffic data updates, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3 audio with premium speakers and a subwoofer, remote start, ParkSense, and UConnect for Bluetooth phones.
On the road, the 2008 Dodge Nitro isn't the model of refinement. There is wind, road, and engine noise. The ride gets particularly choppy at freeway speeds, and the steering is so vague that constant corrections are required to keep the Nitro pointed where you want it to go. Of course, it's not that the Dodge Nitro is unsafe--it's just not a great driving vehicle. The interior is basically comfortable, but some editors from TheCarConnection.com find the seating position a bit too high. Material quality is acceptable, but much of the plastic feels subpar compared to the class leaders.
Similarly, the Acura RDX is a gem on the road. Some may like its more modern styling, and the quality that is systemic with the Acura helps justify its price premium over the 2008 Dodge Nitro R/T.
Two other worthwhile alternatives are the Toyota RAV4 and the Sport model of the Toyota Highlander. Both offer better performance and more refined interiors, but neither can match the Dodge's style.