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Dodge Nitro 2007 review: snapshot

Some will regard this collection of big rectangles as just about as good as it gets. Others will recall a child's crayon drawing of a car.

"Dardge" -- as the Americans pronounce it -- make no bones that this ostensible SUV is essentially a life-support system for phat 20-inch rims and various bling packages.

It's a brash boulevard bully with little more off-road application than a soft-roader, one in which show is more a priority than go.

Weighing in from 1780kg to just under 1900kg, kit and tranny depending, Australian-spec Nitros get either a 3.7 petrol V6 or a 2.8 turbo diesel four, which serves these days in everything from Jeep's Compass to Mercedes-Benz's ML.

The two oilers we sampled in Spain last week came with either a six-speed manual or an auto five. The latter box is the choice over an uncertain stick shift whose throw -- especially to fifth and sixth gear -- was not so much long as Olympian.

But then the diesel's loud and gravelly note would reckon poorly with the doof-doof sounds pouring from an up-spec SXT model with, say, a pimped out white-body, darkened-windows and chrome crosshair grille.

The Nitro's cabin is the best of the three new-gen Dodge models we've seen, faint praise though that may seem. Simple and functional, there is none of the grey plastics that mar the Caliber and Avenger, rather there's decent dark leather and bits of brushed aluminium.

The MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System includes one of the best sat-nav systems we've met -- smart enough to identify and announce road names and route numbers.

The sound system can store 100 hours of music, which, with its resonant clarity and volume, would suit it for any outdoor rave. The driver's seat is electronically adjustable, yet the steering wheel moves only up and down giving an uncomfortable position.

While the Nitro's driverly considerations seem largely beside the point, it is not an unrewarding experience to push on inviting roads. The Nitro is powered through the rear-wheels, with mildly back-axle biased all-wheel-drive selectable via a switch.

Ride on the phat tyres is unruffled, although European roads are not ours. The Nitro emulates some aspects of Jeep's products, including excessive wind noise at speed. It will attract a different buyer to the Wrangler or Cherokee.

Given its outer appeal, the Dodge at about $38,000 could cause some discomfort to GM's Hummer, which arrives here a month later and a price point north of $50K. A case of the Lion or the Ram.

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SX 3.7L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $7,999 – 10,881 2007 Dodge Nitro 2007 SX Pricing and Specs
SXT 3.7L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $7,985 – 10,990 2007 Dodge Nitro 2007 SXT Pricing and Specs
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