Dodge, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2008 Dodge Nitro R/T – Road Test

This review is almost a part 2, and more of an update – as opposed to a full-blown Road Test. Last week I covered the mid-range Nitro SLT and I loved it. This review is based on the top-level R/T which has a bigger engine (4.0 instead of a 3.7 litre) and tires among other unique features. I’ll just point out the differences in the two models, as opposed to going over the details of the entire vehicle all over again…

For a complete review of the Nitro SLT read my article here

First Impressions

Walking up to the Sunburst Orange Nitro, I start to grin – I remember how much I enjoyed the time I spent with the other version of the Nitro, I start to imagine how much fun I’ll have with the R/T. The R/T wasn’t available the last time I requested it, so I’ve been anticipating this version for quite a while. Although it is similar in appearance to the other Nitro, the R/T gets bigger 20” (51cm) chrome wheels with P245/50R20 performance rubber and a Performance Suspension, along with a bigger and more powerful V-6 engine.

Grabbing the big beefy door handle I opened the door and got in, expecting a considerable climb over the standard 17” (48cm) wheels that come with all the other Nitro’s, but actually it was no different – the step up is just the same. Inside, the test R/T has the optional leather heated seats (YES Essentials material is standard) with a red R/T logo on the headrest and matching stitching around the seats. Apart from the seat treatment, there’s nothing different with respect to the interior from the R/T to the other Nitro models.

Turning the key, I waited for the delay before the engine starts – as was the case in the SLT, but it wasn’t present in the R/T. Firing up the engine, it rumbles to life and sounds like a big V-8! I move the shifter into drive and prod the throttle. Nothing. Then I move forward. The drive by wire throttle is exactly the same as in the SLT tested previously….it’s a very odd feeling and one that I never did get used to – you can’t drive around slowly with any dignity – you always have to be aware that the throttle is very touchy. Once underway however, throttle response was very good and instantaneous. Entering the motorway was effortless, with the Nitro responding to the required urgency of my right foot, and it provides an equally satisfying growl from the engine.

The suspension is tight – much tighter than the previously tested SLT. In fact, I could take corners at speeds that put more sporty cars to shame, most notably the Avenger I’d tested a couple of weeks before. If you can’t or won’t spring for the added cost of the R/T over the SLT, you can still enjoy this suspension as an option on the lower end model, and I’d highly recommend it – it’s outstanding.

I did have a problem right from the beginning with the transmission. It didn’t happen all of the time, but when shifting into 5th, there would be a thump that was not only heard, but felt. In most cases it wasn’t a problem, but on one occasion I got to wear my coffee on my shirt because it shifted as I was taking a sip. Otherwise, the transmission and engine worked in perfect harmony and couldn’t have been better. With plenty of power coming from the engine, you’d almost think it was a V-8 and not a V-6. It sounded and felt considerably close to the Hemi V-8 in the Charger R/T – very intoxicating.

The Dodge Nitro R/T comes with a choice of 4×2 or 4×4. As mentioned previously, the R/T has a 4.0 Litre 190 Kw V-6 engine connected to a 5-speed AutoStick transmission.

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The Conclusion

What’s not to love about the Nitro? I loved the SLT, and the R/T is even better. It’s still unique looking and very different from everything else on the road except the Hummer H2 & H3. With the bigger engine and wheels, as well as the outstanding suspension the Nitro R/T is a tough truck to beat. Throw in the terrific price point and you’ve got a winner here. My only concern is the transmission shifting into the top gear – was it an anomaly or a potential problem in the future? Oddly enough, the bigger engine actually used less fuel – go figure!

By The Numbers…

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Powertrain:                  4.0  Litre V-6 engine, 5-Speed automatic transmission with AutoStick, automatic 4WD
Horsepower (Kw):     190 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (N.m.):           359 @ 4,200 rpm
0-100 kph:                  8.4 seconds (VERY wet road – nowhere near its true potential)
Cargo Capacity:         Behind Front Seats: 909 litres  //  Behind Rear Seats: 1846  litres
Towing capacity:      2,273 kg

Fuel Consumption:

The 4.0 Litre V-6 is listed at: City: 13.6 L/100 km  //  Highway: 10 L/100 km
I averaged 13.0 L/100km in 100% highway driving

Copyright © 2008 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

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