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The Dodge Nitro - A new addition to the Dollar car rental fleet - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

Having booked our SUV (4x4) car rental for our April ’07 visit, I was fully expecting to be handed over a Jeep Cherokee Laredo, a vehicle I have had the pleasure of renting on many visits. On this trip however we were given a brand new model in the SUV line up, namely a Dodge Nitro. For once I really didn’t know what to expect of this vehicle as I had missed its launch and had never before rented a Dodge, even though they are part of the same Daimler-Chrysler Corporation.

The Dodge Nitro is a new addition to the Dollar fleet and we were given an SXT model with a part-time 4-wheel drive feature. The Nitro is based on the floor plan of the Jeep Liberty (known as the standard ‘Jeep’ in the UK) and has been distinctly designed with a raunchy front end giving the vehicle a strong and ‘young’ appearance. The Nitro is certainly not subtle and has great road presence. It feels much bigger than it’s actual size and has a welcome high driving position providing a good view to all four corners of the vehicle. This makes for easy manoeuvring and parking. The cabin comfortably holds 5 and very comfortably 4 adults with ample space for 4 large suitcases and many pieces of hand baggage. A nice touch is the sliding floor in the load area, designed to slide luggage into and out of the hatch (trunk/boot) area. Our version had fabric covered seats which were very comfortable, and to be honest a blessing when returning to a hot interior. The only features I did miss on board was the lack of electronic adjustment on the driver’s seat with no height adjustment whatsoever, and no onboard computer or compass (which is great for keeping tabs on the outside temperature and the direction you are travelling).

The engine, transmission and part-time 4 wheel drive are generally refined. Our model had the renowned 3. 7litre engine which was sweet sounding with enough power delivered to the drive chain when needed (yep - even the US uses the metric system to express engine sizes). At times the engine sounded a little harsh which perhaps could be improved with a 5th gear in the automatic box. What really impressed me was the electronically controlled 4-wheel drive. A simple turn of a switch would engage/disengage the drive. The fully automatic gearbox (4 gears) works pretty well with smooth changes for the majority of time. It does not however share the same manual change option found in the Jeep Cherokee.

Like most SUVs these days the 4-wheel drive tends to be considered a bit of a fashion statement. However, apart from the extra space, a 4 wheel drive in 4x4 mode is useful in Florida when driving through the long bends that enter and exit highways, and is also great if taking the car onto Daytona beach.

The interior design of the vehicle is functional with good quality switches and controls throughout. I am pretty sure that many of these finer attributes have been uplifted from the company’s ownership of Mercedes-Benz. The dashboard instruments are set back in a ‘retro’ styled shrouded area which actually allows them to be easily read even in direct sunlight. The steering wheel is of a comfortable 4 spoke design and has all of the cruise control functions easy to hand.

The Nitro is not yet a common sight around Orlando (April ’07) and we had a couple of people remark positively on the vehicle when parked. Overall we enjoyed the rental of this vehicle, not quite as luxurious as the Cherokee, but nonetheless fun to drive.

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