2011 Dodge Nitro Expert Review

You'll Like The 2011 Dodge Nitro If...

If you're shopping for a crossover in the mid-$20K range, but find most of the offerings a bit bland, check out the 2011 Dodge Nitro. The Dodge Nitro's five-passenger seating, roomy rear seat and clever slide-out cargo floor should help cement the deal.

You May Not Like The 2011 Dodge Nitro If...

The 2011 Dodge Nitro isn't as refined or smooth riding as many of its car-based CUV competitors. And, because there is no diesel or four-cylinder engine choice, fuel economy from the Nitro's two V6 engine offerings is mediocre at best.

What's New

The 2011 Dodge Nitro receives some minor styling changes, including the addition of 20-inch wheels and a monochromatic interior on all trims. The top-of-the-line Dodge Nitro Shock receives standard leather seats and a sunroof. The Dodge Nitro Heat trim can now be equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 engine and is called the Dodge Nitro Heat 4.0.

Interior Features

The 2011 Dodge Nitro offers seating for five, a roomy cargo hold and a commanding view of the road. Among its more notable features is the cargo floor that slides out over the rear bumper allowing for easier loading and unloading. For maximum cargo hauling, there is an available flat-folding front passenger seat. Rear seat passengers enjoy generous legroom and reclining seatbacks. The Dodge Nitro Heat, Nitro Heat 4.0 and Nitro Detonator trims features durable fabric covered seats, while the Nitro Shock, the highest trim level, has leather seats with color accent stitching. The Dodge Nitro's dash and door panel design matches the vehicle's bold exterior, but the plastics are hard to the touch and lack any sense of color or contrast.

Exterior Features

There's little doubt the 2011 Dodge Nitro's biggest asset is its bold, upright exterior styling. Further distinguishing features include a clamshell-style hood, color-keyed crosshair grille and decorative side vents. All models ride on 20-inch polished aluminum wheels surrounded by all-season tires, and feature deep-tinted privacy glass and front fog lamps. Bright paint colors such as Detonator Yellow, Inferno Red and Blackberry Pearl further help Nitro owners create a custom feel.

Driving Impressions

When we look at all of the 2011 Dodge Nitro's versatile features, compelling styling and cutting-edge electronics, it makes us wish Dodge had built this one from scratch. Instead, all these good ideas ride atop the borrowed Jeep Liberty platform, which we feel compromises the Nitro's ride and handling. It is much more truck-like than it need be. Still, when equipped with the 260-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6, five-speed automatic transmission and sport suspension (not to mention the 20-inch tires), the Dodge Nitro's rough riding shortcomings can be partially overlooked. For the record, we'd avoid the base Heat trim. Its 3.7-liter V6 and four-speed automatic left us wishing for either more power or a better transmission.

Pricing Notes

The 2011 Dodge Nitro's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just under $23,000 and can top $34,000 for a fully-equipped Dodge Nitro Shock. In the past, our Fair Purchase Price values have reflected real-world selling prices not far below those sticker prices. The bold but off-road capable Nissan Xterra starts around $24,000 and, fully loaded, can top $34,000. The Chevrolet Equinox, another oversized compact SUV, also starts around $23,000 and can approach $37,000. As for resale value, we expect the Nitro to be about on par with the Xterra and just below the Equinox.

Notable Equipment

The base 2011 Dodge Nitro Heat comes equipped with a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter, V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Standard audio is a AM/FM/CD sound system with an auxiliary input jack and a one-year subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio. Other standards include power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, rear-window wiper/washer, rear defroster, 20-inch polished alloy wheels, slide-out cargo floor and heated side mirrors. The Nitro Heat 4.0, Nitro Detonator and Nitro Shock all feature a 260-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 engine coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission, as well as Bluetooth streaming audio, eight Infinity speakers plus a powered subwoofer, and Uconnect with voice command.

Notable Options

The highlight of the Dodge Nitro's optional equipment list is the comprehensive Uconnect GPS navigation, entertainment and communication system (see Favorite Features). Other key options include CD/DVD/HDD radio with 6.5-inch touch screen and 30 gig hard drive, Sirius Satellite Radio with Travel Link, ParkSense Rear Park Assist, a power sunroof, heated leather seating, four-wheel drive, and remote start.

Favorite Features

Uconnect GPS
This optional 30GB hard drive-based system includes navigation with Sirius Travel Link offering real-time traffic information, CD/DVD/MP3/HDD radio, a high-speed USB 2.0 port, auxiliary audio input, voice recognition, voice message recording and playback, and Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity.

Sliding Cargo Floor
For easier loading and unloading, the Dodge Nitro comes 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.

Under the Hood

Only the base Dodge Nitro Heat is burdened with the 3.7-liter V6 matched with a four-speed automatic transmission. All other trim levels are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 attached to a 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), 15/21 (4WD)

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

Editors' Notes

The 2011 Dodge Nitro has a split personality. On one side, the Dodge Nitro is like any mid-size crossover offering seating for five, available all-wheel drive and an affordable sticker price. Then there is the Nitro's more extreme side, which displays bold and boxy styling, vivid color choices and massive 20-inch wheels. Placed side-by-side with a Honda CR-V or Chevrolet Equinox, the untrained observers would probably be hard pressed to place the Nitro in the same league. And, although the Nitro threatens to cannibalize sales from family members Jeep Liberty and Dodge Journey, Dodge isn't worried, saying the Nitro has its own unique niche defined by its artful blend of size, styling and features.

Road Test Video Reviews

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Owner Reviews


61 Reviews

38% 43% 13% 5% 2%

Owner reviews are verified by our team and cannot be altered or removed.

My 2011 Dodge nitro gets great mileage.

I have had my vehicle for six years now and only had major trouble out of it once. So in all it is an awesome vehicle. The downside is it does not have to many features and its not roomy. It is just a regular old vehicle. The problem I had was when my fuel pump when out. They claimed my warranty would pay for it but it didn't. Also I had to replace my door and window on driver's side. Boy was that difficult. It took my husband almost 4 months and he still didn't get finished. I pretty much like my nitro but the longer I have it the more I wished I had got something else.

- Mickey D

It is a SUV but drives like a truck.

Drives great, very reliable haven't had any problems with the vehicle yet. I think the windows are smaller than the average car so I don't really like that, it makes it harder to see out of especially when backing up. Very roomy inside especially the cargo area. It is great for traveling, holds all our luggage. Plenty of legroom and also holds 3 car seats with no problem. Gets decent gas mileage.

- Rachel S

This vehicle was my father's, I think of him every time I get behind the wheel.

My vehicle has been fun and reliable. It has a sporty look with the red stripes and I feel safe and comfortable in it. I have had to replace the tires and the battery, but, other than that, I keep the oil changed every 2, 000 miles and it runs like a top. It was my father's vehicle and he has since passed. So, I value this SUV very much. I would encourage anyone to own a Dodge.

- Laura T