this is a white 2008 Dodge Nitro. this vehicle alone has roused me from the lengthy slumber of the Blog Sleep. this vehicle is terrible. so, so terrible.
now look, I realize that it hasn’t been manufactured for a number of years, and that doing a review of something like this really doesn’t mean much to anyone. But that’s probably because you’re not stuck with it for a week.
at this point I should make The Disclaimer: the vehicle pictured is not the exact one I’m driving. It looks exactly like it, but it is not it. it also happens to be a work vehicle, thus costing me zero dollars to use it. Having driven from Sylvan Lake to Lethbridge in it today makes me wish I HAD cost myself dollars and rented something.
RCR noes that the Dodge Nitro is a vehicle that’s ‘There’.
I’m here to tell you that it should not be There. It should just Not Be.
The only thing going for this vehicle is the fact that it did not disappoint my preconceived notion that it was probably one of the worst vehicles ever produced. In fact, it surpassed my expectations of bad, and went straight to worse.
It took me all of 30 seconds to declare this is, without a doubt, the singularly worst vehicle I have driven and ridden in. And that’s saying something. I rode in cabs in Bangladesh that were actually held together with wire and duct tape, and I’d still take those over the Nitro.
I’ll present a list of the litany of items that are so unforgivably lacklustre and bad about this vehicle, but first, let me preface this by saying to the people who purchased one of these things of their own volition:
You’ve made a terrible mistake.
HAH! thought I’d let you down easy for a second. Nope. This is a bad vehicle, and you should feel bad for buying it.
Why is that, you ask? Well…
Upon first entering the vehicle, you’ll be instantly assaulted by a Chrysler Approved interior that takes “Good Enough” and notches it down to “Fuck It.”
The footwell is unforgivingly small. There is no dead pedal, so your left foot is forever on a slightly off angle just to the side of the brake pedal. If you enjoy spreading your feet or legs on a highway drive, you are so fucked in this thing. I can’t get my feet shoulder width apart in it.
why is the footwell so small? It could have something to do with the driveline coming so far into the drivers footwell that you lose probably a third of the space you could have. Also, the left side is just filled in. no reason. just because. Chrysler was like “you want foot space? hahahah fuck you.”
My next immediate observation: everything in the center console is in a shitty, just out of reach, spot. This includes the shifter, which is way off to the right. this pissed me off the whole trip down. In my well thought out Tacoma, I can rest my right arm on the center storage box, and my hand on top of the shifter. Not so in the No-tro.The storage box is too far back, and at an odd height, and the shifter isn’t even close to where you’d naturally rest you hand. WHY. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS, CHRYSLER. PEOPLE NEED TO REST APPENDAGES AND YOU ARE NOT FACILITATING THAT.
The emergency brake handle is in a god awful leather boot cover, and right next to your right leg. That’s not so bad, but the issue is, the button to engage it does not click. There’s a spring in it, but there is no click. An e-brake needs a click noise when you push the button.
I don’t think I need to go too far into the rest of the interior. If you’re familiar with any shitbox chrysler approved interior, with it’s bad grey plastics, and prison like persona, you understand what it’s like on the inside.
I’m not even going to try to describe the inside of the hatch. It’s so mind-bogglingly nonsensical that both I and Aimée looked at it and went “….what is happening here…?”
So we’ll move to driving characteristics.
It has characteristics. It does. They are not good characteristics, but it has them.
Firstly, picture in your mind the driving dynamics of a classic American land barge from the 70s. that sort of front to back body sway under acceleration and braking. This has channeled that quite well.
Upon “accelerating” the hood rises noticeably. Under braking, the nose dips quite badly. You could turn this fucker into a seesaw by alternating gas, brake, gas, brake…
I hesitate to actually call it acceleration though. I don’t know if the one I’m driving has a five speed or a CVT. Sometimes, it shifts like a five speed, but it sounds and accelerates like a typical late 2000s Dodge CVT. That is to say, it makes a lot of noise, and it revs way the fuck up there, and you think “that cube van just took me off the line…”
this engine has been tuned to put out a low end hum like a child trying to describe a V8 rumble. it’s not a nice noise, and the sound dampening in the cabin is non-existent. The result is a desire to not want to merge up to highway speeds to prevent yourself from having to apologize to your ears.
Here’s something I have never seen on any other vehicle except this one; the hood visibly buckles as you drive it. Seriously. you can watch the hood wobble as you go down the highway. It’s disconcerting. You want the vehicle you drive to be solid. This image does not convey any sort of solidity. Instead, it conveys, “I AM A DEATH TRAP AND YOU HAVE A FRONT ROW SEAT!”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this may be why it received mediocre safety ratings. I mean, if I were testing vehicles for safety and saw the hood buffet like that while driving, I’d probably note down “thiiiiiiis is not going to end well…”
On road, the thing is so boxy that it feels like it’s struggling all the time. like a fat dude on a slight incline. that huffing and puffing. that’s what it seems like.
Now, here’s an odd (and slightly troubling) behaviour I noticed about the steering. At low speeds in town, there’s easily an inch of travel on the steering wheel before the vehicle actually moves. This is NOT the case at highway speeds. That play in the wheel suddenly turns into a twitchy, and over active junkie. Seriously. You dont have to jerk the wheel for this to happen. You can move it slightly and the whole thing just jinks around like “GIMME MY FUCKN FIX!” Considering the stupidly high center of gravity of this thing, this could be bad.
It tries hard not to have body roll around a bend, but it fails. It’s like it’s trying to suck its gut in, but it just can’t stop that muffin top from peeking out.
Until I got south of Claresholm, the highway was pretty smooth, so the issues with the suspension never really showed up until then.
I have no idea what’s happening with the suspension. the front seems…ok…? the rear…
you know when you were in school and you went on field trips and you always tried to sit in the seats that were directly over the rear wheels of the school bus because you got shot up in the air every time it went over a bump?
that’s what happens to the rear of this vehicle. The front goes “hey a bump.” the rear goes “HEYAAA! FUCKIN PARTY BUMP!”
You could never put something fragile in the back without destroying it. so, y’know… if you own one of these and have kids, well… you have probably damaged them.
I assume the one I’m driving has stock sized tires. Which is fine, but it has a weirdly small turning radius, to the point where it feels like the wheels are rubbing on a tight turn. super fucked up.
There are all terrain Wranglers on all four corners. That’s fine. I have semi aggressive all terrains on my truck, so I’m aware that there will be road noise. The Nitro has road noise. From the tires. and the wind. And the hood. And the windows. and the engine. and the tires again. it is noisy. it is not the type of vehicle that you would drive around the neighbourhood to get a small child to sleep in. You would drive them around and make them more angry. and then you’d get home more angry, and the id wouldn’t sleep, and your spouse would blame you for not making sure the kid slept, and things would turn terrible and you’d get a divorce because your ‘compact’ SUV couldn’t calm our child with it’s comically bad sound deadening.
One last thing, and this must be similar across the Dodge family. If the first quarter of the tank looks empty from a drive from Sylvan Lake to Airdrie, and then slows down from there to Lethbridge, it’s not actually a quarter tank you’ve used. This is similar to a Caliber. The top quarter, or half, of the tank cannot be smaller than the bottom quarter/half. this is physically impossible to do and still maintain proper proportions of the tank. why Chrysler engineers couldn’t figure out how to calibrate the gas gauge to show an actual quarter/half, I do not know. Probably because they were terrible engineers.
And so, RCR noted the nitro is There, and I say it should Not Be.
I’d also add that, whomever it was at Chrysler at the time that approved this to be built, you need to take a good hard look at your life and wonder what it is about your own that warrants inflicting this level of shit on the general populace. Leave us the fuck out of your personal problems. The roads will be all the better for it.
and to those people who bought one… You could have had an Element, and lived a life of driving that was not a pox on your life, or the lives of those you care for.
And with that, I shall now see what my hotel tv programming has to offer.