The “Dodge Liberty” was a heavy rear-drive SUV closely based on the 2008 Jeep Liberty, differing mainly in suspension tuning (with fewer concessions to off-roading), comfort, and the availability of factory skid plates for the Liberty.
The Nitro was a bit more comfortable than the off-road-ready Liberty; the 2011 Nitro also gained some changes for better handling. The Dodge Nitro SUV was also longer than the Liberty, could tow 5,000 pounds, and had an optional sports suspension package (standard on the Nitro R/T and optional on the SLT). A sliding cargo floor, not sold on the Jeep, let owners slide out the cargo bay floor 18 inches for easier loading; it held up to 400 pounds. The Nitro also had a fold-flat front-row passenger seat.
The Nitro came with the same 3.7 liter V6 as the Liberty, but with an optional 4.0 liter V6. Transmissions were a six-speed manual or an automatic (four speeds for the 3.7, five speeds for the 4.0).
The Nitro and 2008 Liberty were created at the same time, according to engineer Bob Sheaves; the Nitro came before the refreshed Liberty because a new tire-chain requirement for the Liberty caused some changes to its architecture (though the inner wheelhouse opening is the same on both SUVs. See the Nitro and Liberty being built in Toledo, Ohio.
The Dodge Nitro had an independent front suspension and a five-link rear suspension which had upper and lower trailing links and a track bar, for higher lateral stiffness. The performance suspension used a heavier sway bar, with different springs, shocks, and bushings, capped off by 20-inch wheels. Steering was rack-and-pinion.
The standard 3.7-liter SOHC V-6 engine was good for 210 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque; compared with the prior year, it had an updated valve train and combustion chamber for better low-speed torque, idle smoothness, and noise control. Electronic Throttle Control (by-wire gas pedal) was used to work with the stability and traction control.
The optional 4.0-liter SOHC V-6 engine delivered 255 hp and 265 lb.-ft. torque; in the 2010-11 Nitro, output rose to 260 hp at 6,000 rpm, while torque stayed constant.
The six-speed NSG (the former New Venture Gear) 370 manual transmission was standard with the 3.7; first and second gears had triple-cone synchronization, with dual-cone synch on the third and fourth gears and one cone on fifth and sixth gears. Gears were hard-finished; the shift system was a multi-rail unit. The two-piece aluminum case had an integrated clutch housing for better stiffness and lower weight. New first-gear ratios and a wider spread helped both economy and performance; the new ratios were 4.46, 2.61, 1.72, 1.25, 1.0, and 0.84 (reverse, 4.06). The axle ratio was 3.73:1 with this choice.
A four-speed 42RLE variable line pressure automatic transmission was optional (standard on the SLT) with the 3.7 liter engine. Ratios were 2.84, 1.57, 1.0, and 0.69, with a reverse of 2.21. The axle ratio was again 3.73:1.
The Mercedes WA580 five-speed automatic transmission was used with the 4-liter engine, and provided range selection (AutoStick). Its ratios were 3.59, 2.19, 1.41, 1.0, 0.83, and Reverse 3.16. The axle ratio with this one was 3.55:1.
The 4x4 system was part-time (MP143 GII case) with the manual transmission and full-time with automatics, controlled by a switch in the console. The torque split was 50/50 on the part-time system and 48/52 on the automatic, which had a planetary center differential.
Don Wagner wrote that the CRD Nitro (for Europe) centered the backup lights in the cluster instead of at the bottom; the front bumper was smoother. presumably to conform to pedestrian impact standards. There were side marker turn signal repeaters just aft of the front fender flares; and the VIN had an 8 in the year position.
Filip Norrgård provided the following figures and information for the Nitro diesel in Finland:
The VM 2.8 liter common-rail diesel engine (“Panther”), coupled to a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual, delivered 177 hp (130 kW) and 303 lb-ft of torque (410 Nm). Gas mileage was about 34 mpg highway (6.9 l/100km), 27 mpg combined (EU standard, 8.6 liters/100 km) with the manual transmission.
The Dodge Nitro officially started production on the existing Jeep Liberty line on August 15, 2006, after a $600 million investment that expanded the Toledo North Plant by 160,000 square feet. A new flexible manufacturing process replaced body-specific tooling with 150 robots which could swap “hands” automatically and between vehicles. The plant could build two vehicles and pilot a third.
An inbound parts sequencing center in the adjoining Stickney complex managed more than 1,800 different parts and provided metering, kitting, and container management to both Toledo plants; much of TNAP was forklift-free, with dollies used instead, to aid safety and productivity.
Options included a utility table, DVD-based navigation system with traffic data, rear-seat DVD, remote start, UConnect, and Sirius Satellite Radio. The four wheel antilock brakes had inverted hat construction up front, with vent openings on the outboard side of the rotor, to improve cooling and prevent deformation. Brake traction control was integrated to provide anti-slip capabilities. The stability control system included roll mitigation.
The interior headliner was shrink-wrapped to increase headroom. The instrument panel was nearly identical to that of the Avenger/Sebring in basic form, as was the center stack.
The Dodge Nitro SLT and R/T had extra chrome on the steering wheel, instrument cluster, first-row grab handle, and center console; shifter and control buttons were large to make operation with gloves easier. The center console had three spaces that could handle hand-held PDAs, cell phones, or coins.
Buyers could get vinyl or cloth seats, with leather seats optional on the R/T and SLT; the seat structure was new and thinner. The standard cloth was stain-and-odor repellent.
The front passenger seat and second row seats all folded flat; second-row seats also reclined.
Colors were Sunburst Orange, Electric Blue, Inferno Red, Light Khaki, Bright Silver, Black and Stone White.
The 2009 Dodge Nitro got a change to one blue color, and bright red replacing electric blue paint. Floor mats, rear dome lamp, automatic transmission, and automatic unlocking became standard; remote express-open front windows became standard on SLT and R/T. The 4.0 muffler was retuned. The suspension was retuned with updated rear axles and shafts, springs, shock, roll bas, and steering gear for more precise handling and feel. The brakes got a retuned booster, low-rollback calipers, and revised pedal ratio for better feel. Various packages were also changed.
2010 Dodge Nitro got active head restraints, interactive Decel Fuel Shut Off (iDFSO) (3.7/4-spd only), ECO lamp, power heated manual folding mirrors, air filtration system, and premium seat trim with stain-repel
seat fabric. SXT got new leather trim, body-color grille with air dam, front-passenger express-up power window, and security alarm. Light Sandstone Metallic replaced Light Graystone outside; a new dark pebble beige is available on SE, with a new pastel pebble beige on SXT.
The 2011 Dodge Nitro gained standard 20" wheels, a new performance suspension, nine-speaker Infinity satellite audio system with voice command, monotone slate interiors, and body color grille with bright inserts. Models were now Heat, Detonator, and Shock. The upper two models had diagonal Dodge fender stripes, with Detonator getting color-matched fabric inserts and stitching, and Shock getting leather seats (heated in front).
More Dodge Nitro specifications:
Dodge Nitro test drive | Nitro concept car
The 2007 Nitro had three trim levels, SXT, SLT, and R/T; the R/T added a performance suspension, 20-inch tires, and chrome-clad aluminum wheels, all of which were optional on the SLT, along with other features. Prices ran from $19,885 (SXT, rear wheel drive) to $25,970 (R/T, rear drive). Four wheel drive was about $1,600 extra. Gas mileage in 2010 was 16/22 for the rear-drive 3.7, 15/21 for the 3.7 4x4; 16/21 for rear-drive 4.0, and 16/20 for 4x4 4.0.
The market was not thrilled by the Dodge Nitro, despite its “anything but cute” tagline. Part of the reason was a sudden rise in fuel prices at about the time the Nitro appeared; it was heavy, with mediocre fuel economy, and, unlike the Liberty, didn’t seem to have a reason for the weight. The Nitro held on with marketing changes, but even when fuel prices crashed, demand stayed minimal; and the Nitro was quietly dropped.
Jeep Liberty. Dodge Nitro concept car. Dodge Nitro review.
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