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2011 Dodge Nitro Trims


Avg. Price: $19,801

The 2011 Dodge Nitro carries forward most of the features introduced for the 2010 version, which changed trim names to Heat (base), Detonator (midlevel) and Shock (upper-end). 2011 does, however, present several new features, including standard 20-inch wheels for all trims (with polished and painted aluminum wheels for the Detonator). Racing stripes now adorn the front hood and fender of the Detonator and Shock, adding flair to some new colors. The colors and stripes add to the unique styling of this compact/midsize SUV, which also sports integrated foglamps and deep-tint sunscreen glass. Consumers can also opt for an available power sunroof and chrome accents for the door sills, front fascia, fuel door and side tubular step. With a boxy shape and oversized flared fenders, the Nitro is designed to project a strong and forceful attitude. But does the reality of the Detonator’s ride match the swagger of its style? Most reviews think not.

The Detonator, available with standard rear-wheel drive or optional part-time four-wheel drive, offers a single engine: a 4.0-liter SOHC V6 with 260 hp at 6,000 rpm and 265 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. Paired with a standard 5-speed automatic, the 4.0-liter rear-wheel-drive delivers 16 mpg city/21 highway—numbers that will have you pulling up to the pump on a regular basis. Performance generally receives lukewarm reviews—ironic given the posturing of the exterior—with engine power described as uninspiring, particularly at highway speeds and when merging. The performance-tuned suspension (short and long arm independent front suspension with a solid-axle five-link rear suspension) receives a mixed reception, and the hydraulic power-assisted steering is generally called vague. The Detonator does haul a lot, however, with a payload of 1,150 pounds and a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds with the available Trailer Tow Group.

Safety features are standard across all trim levels, with stability and traction control for the four-wheel disc antilock brakes, as well as advanced airbags in the front, combined with front and rear side-curtain airbags and an occupant classification system, which adjusts front passenger airbag deployment speed depending on passenger weight (or presence). Crash tests of the Nitro offer slightly differing results. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Nitro (2007-2011) its highest Good rating for front crashes and roof strength tests. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration gave the 2010 Nitro (the 2011 has not yet been tested with the NHTSA's new standards) a perfect five-star rating for driver and front passenger front crash protection, as well as side crashes. The rollover test did not fare as well, however, with only three stars given the rear-wheel-drive’s 22.8% chance of a rollover.

Inside, the Nitro receives similarly poor marks for the quality of materials and the fit and finish of their assembly, with hard plastics and faux-metal. The Detonator seats five, with dark-gray cloth seats now adding a color inset down the center (coordinating with the exterior color). Front seats are now six-way power adjustable. The seats are typically described as adequately cushioned, and the ride for passengers in the SUV is quiet and comfortable, with ample headroom and legroom. The rear seats recline for comfort and fold flat to more than double rear cargo storage from 32.1 cubic feet to 75.6 cubic feet—one of the selling features of the Detonator.

Technology gets an upgrade at the Detonator trim level, as well, with an overhead console including a universal remote and a vehicle information center that displays individual tire pressure information, among other data. The ParkSense rear park assist system can sound an audio and visual warning for objects too close the Detonator’s rear—a welcome feature considering the blind spots created by the rear roof pillars. Power windows and cruise control are standard, as are power locks (with remote keyless entry), as well as a remote start function. The now leather-wrapped steering wheel integrates audio controls for the same stereo that arrives standard in other trim levels: an AM/FM stereo with a single CD player. However, the system also includes an extra audio jack, a 1-year trial subscription to Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth technology for streaming audio, all blasted through 8 Infinity speakers with a subwoofer. The Detonator also provides Uconnect, which allows the user to control phone, audio and optional navigation through voice commands. Upgrades to the multimedia system are available with hard disc drives for storage of music and album artwork, as well as the addition of a 6.5-inch touchscreen for a Garmin GPS navigation system and DVD playback.

Detonator 4WD

Avg. Price: $21,210

As in 2010, Dodge rolls out the Detonator as its midlevel Nitro trim. While this compact/midsize SUV is no doubt designed to touch off an explosive driving experience, the reality of the Detonator trim seems be less shock-and-awe inspiring than its name would have you believe.

The engine is a carryover from 2010—a 4.0-liter SOHC V6 delivering 260 hp at 6,000 rpm and 265 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. The engine’s fuel economy, however, is a major weakness, with 16 mpg city/21 highway (identical to that of the rear-wheel-drive Detonator). Its standard 5-speed automatic transmission and performance-tuned suspension receive tepid reviews, with undistinguished acceleration and power and unresponsive steering provided by the hydraulic power-assisted system.

Alas, most of the changes to the 2011 Detonator 4WD are minor aesthetic ones, with hood-to-fender racing stripes added as a standard feature, as well as 20-inch painted/polished wheels and four new colors. The styling of the Detonator, in fact, has been a love-it-or-leave-it proposition, with its bright colors, boxy shape and exaggerated fender flares. Combined with standard deep-tint sunscreen glass, an optional power sunroof and available chrome accent package, the Detonator 4WD tries hard to deliver attitude on wheels.

Despite its available part-time four-wheel drive, the Detonator 4WD remains a vehicle for on-road driving. While providing the ability to switch from rear-wheel to four-wheel drive while in motion (shift-on-the-fly), both experts and owners note the lack of a low range, which would increase the Detonator’s off-road capabilities. Others note that its 8.1-inch ground clearance is another hindrance to tackling rugged terrain in the vehicle. The Detonator does, however, haul a lot. With rear seats folded flat, you can pack in 75.6 cubic feet and, with the Trailer Tow Group of options, towing capacity increases to 5,000 pounds.

Safety features in the Detonator 4WD trim match those found at the other trim levels, including antilock disc brakes for all wheels, electronic stability and traction control, advanced multistage front airbags, and supplemental side-curtain airbags. An occupant classification system senses the front passenger’s weight and adjusts the deployment of that airbag accordingly. The Detonator trim level introduces a standard ParkSense system, which gives auditory and visual alerts for objects near the rear of the vehicle when traveling in reverse. Although the 2011 has not been tested, the federal National Highway Transportation Safety Administration gave the 2010 Nitro a perfect score for driver and passenger front crash protection, as well as for front and rear side crashes. The rollover test earned the Nitro only three stars, since the 4WD had a 21.9% chance of a rollover (slightly lower than the rear-wheel-drive's). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety differed in its ratings, giving the Nitro a Good rating for front crashes and roof strength tests, but only Marginal for side impact crashes.

Inside, the Detonator seats five. Described as comfortable and quiet for passengers, the cloth seats are covered in dark gray fabric with a colored centered inset, coordinated with the exterior color of the vehicle. The Detonator offers 6-way power adjustment for the driver's seat, with the standard tilt, leather-wrapped steering wheel integrating audio controls. The rear, although designed for three, may be a tight squeeze for long trips. Head and legroom are spacious, however, and the rear seats recline for additional comfort, although their position low to the floor may be uncomfortable for some. The Detonator also provides a standard electronic vehicle information center (which includes information about individual tire pressure), remote start, a universal garage door opener, power windows and power locks with remote keyless entry. The stereo includes 8 Infinity speakers, Sirius satellite radio (with a one-year trial subscription), Uconnect with Voice command for hands-free phone use, and Bluetooth for streaming audio with compatible players. Additional music players can be plugged into an auxiliary audio jack. Available upgrades can add a hard disc drive for music storage, a touchscreen (6.5 inches), DVD playback and Garmin GPS for navigation.


Avg. Price: $17,851

The 2011 Dodge Nitro returns this year with few changes to the lineup. The Heat continues to represent the base trim for this midsize SUV, offering an appealing MSRP of $22,245. Now riding on standard 20-inch wheels at all trim levels, the Heat carries over its standard 3.7-liter V6. Paired with a 4-speed automatic, the 3.7-liter produces 210 hp at 5,200 rpm and 235 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The Heat’s engine has taken some, well, heat for its lack of power and responsiveness, particularly noticeable during acceleration at highway speeds and merging. The rear-wheel-drive Heat makes unimpressive fuel economy numbers compared to competitors, with an estimated 16 mpg city/22 highway. Using a short and long arm front suspension with a trailing arm rear suspension, the Heat offers a ride that receives mixed reviews, with some admiring the way the suspension smoothes out the bumps, while others find it too jarring. The hydraulic, power-assisted steering is not a strong suit for the Nitro, either, with handling and steering described as vague and unresponsive.

The interior of the Heat, although quiet, comes under fire for substandard materials, cheap-looking hard plastics, and big blind spots in the rear (due to the large roof pillars). Standard features inside the Heat include manual air conditioning, power doorlocks with remote keyless entry, power windows and a tilt steering wheel. Seating five, the Heat offers manual four-way adjustment for the driver’s and front passenger’s seat, and a rear seat that reclines as well as folding forward for huge cargo space in the rear (75.6 cubic feet). The seats in the Nitro are generally described as nicely cushioned and comfortable, but the rear seat has been criticized for being too low to the ground, reducing support.

Standard technology in the Heat is limited, with Sirius AM/FM satellite radio (provided with a 1-year trial subscription), a single-CD player and MP3 capability with an audio jack and 6 speakers. A sound system upgrade is available, supplying a 6.5-inch touchscreen that can operate audio and DVD playback as well as a 30GB hard drive that can save approximately 6,700 songs with album artwork.

Outside, the Heat offers foglamps and tinted sunscreen glass as standard features, in addition to power-heated mirrors. The unique exterior styling of the Nitro offers the crosshair design of the front grille, as well as strongly flared fenders that reflect the aggressive stance of the SUV. The Chrome Accents group of options adds Mopar chrome door sills, fuel door, tubular side steps, and a front fascia detail. A power sunroof is also available for the Heat. The most discussed options package, however, is the Trailer Tow Group. Adding a Class III hitch, full-size spare tire, heavy-duty engine and power steering cooler and trailer sway damping technology, the combination of optional features allows the Nitro to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Safety features in the Heat mirror upper-end trims, with advanced, multistage front airbags and supplemental side-curtain front and rear airbags, as well as an occupant classification system to turn off the front passenger side airbag if no one is sitting in that seat or to release the airbag based on passenger weight. Antilock disc brakes are standard in the front and rear, and work with electronic stability control, traction control and electronic roll mitigation to enhance stability and control while driving. Crash test results by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety were mixed. The NHTSA has not tested the 2011 Nitro (using more rigorous criteria), but the 2010 earned a perfect score for front and side crashes, but only three (out of five) stars for rollover tests (with a 22.8% chance of a rollover for the rear-wheel-drive version). The IIHS awarded a Good rating for 2007-2011 Nitros for front-offset and roof strength tests, but the side impact test scored only Marginal.

Although the Heat has returned relatively unchanged for 2011, it does now offer an upgraded version of the trim—a lifestyle package (as Dodge calls it) named Heat 4.0. This version of the base ups the engine to match that of the Detonator and Shock trims: a 4.0-liter V6 SOHC engine with 260 hp at 6,000 rpm and 265 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. Paired with a 5-speed transmission, the cost is almost $2,000 more, and the fuel economy virtually identical (16 mpg city/21 highway). The upgraded package adds 8 Infinity speakers with a subwoofer, as well as the Uconnect system for hands-free phone use and Bluetooth for streaming audio.

If the Heat’s style appeals, the cargo room, comfort and sticker price only serve to sweeten the deal. The true test will be to sit behind the wheel and see whether the performance, handling and acceleration measure up to your standards.

Heat 4WD

Avg. Price: $19,167

The Dodge Nitro returns in 2011 with three trim levels—the entry-level Heat, the midrange Detonator, and the upper-end Shock. All trims arrive with a standard rear-wheel-drive or available part-time, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system. Although the Nitro shares a platform with the Jeep Liberty, the Nitro, even with the four-wheel drive option, seems more suited to on-road driving. While both expert and owner reviews would prefer a low-range option for the four-wheel drive, as well as a higher ground clearance for better off-road abilities, alas, the Nitro does not deliver.

The 4WD Heat brings its engine forward from last year, with a standard 3.7-liter V6 that delivers 210 hp at 5,200 rpm and 235 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, combined with a four-speed automatic transmission. Unimpressive fuel economy estimates present another issue for both reviewers and owners, with the 4WD Heat making 15 mpg city/21 highway. New for 2011, however, is a Heat 4.0 lifestyle package, which allows buyers to upgrade the engine to a 4.0-liter V6 with a 5-speed automatic (found in the Detonator and Shock trims, as well). The Heat 4.0 delivers more power (260 hp at 6,000 rpm and 265 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm), as well as upgraded stereo and Bluetooth connectivity, but retains lackluster fuel economy: 16/21.

The Heat stands out, however, when it comes to hauling, with a maximum of 5,000 pounds with the available Trailer Tow Group of options. Rear cargo room is spacious, with 32.1 cubic feet available with the rear seats upright and almost 76 cubic feet of available space when the seats are folded flat in a 60/40 split.

The ride, on a performance-tuned short and long arm independent front suspension and solid-axle five-link rear suspension, receives mixed reviews, with some admiring the way the SUV absorbs the bumps, while others feel the ride is too rough. The Heat 4WD seats five with cushioned, cloth-covered seats that provide a comfortable ride in reclining rear seats. The driver and front passenger seating positions give a clear view out the front (although their rear view is impeded by bulky roof pillars). Front seats have manual 4-way adjustment.

Other interior features of the Nitro Heat 4WD include manual air conditioning, power windows and locks (with remote keyless entry), and a tilt-only steering wheel. The Heat’s standard stereo offering matches that of the upper trims, with a CD player, radio (and a 1-year trial subscription to Sirius satellite radio), MP3 playback capability with an audio jack, and 6 speakers. One upgrade is available at this trim level: a 6.5-inch touchscreen to play back DVDs and a 30GB hard drive to store up to 6,700 songs and album artwork. The interior quality, however, in both build and materials, repeatedly comes into question.

Standard safety features in the Heat include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with stability and traction control for the standard 20-inch wheels. The Nitro’s airbags at all trim levels include supplemental side-curtain airbags (front and rear) as well as multistage front airbags with an occupant classification system to monitor front passenger weight and adjust deployment force accordingly. The 2010 Nitro earned five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for front and side crash tests (it has not yet been tested using the new 2011 criteria), but only three stars for the NHTSA’s rollover test (given the 21.9% chance of rollover for the 4WD). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Nitro mixed scores for its crash tests: a Good rating for the frontal-offset and roof strength tests, but only Marginal for side impact tests.

The style of the Nitro is not for everyone. With an angular shape, boldly flared fenders, and crosshair billeted grille, the Nitro presents an aggressive profile. The exterior of the Heat 4WD comes with standard foglamps and tinted sunscreen glass in addition to power heated mirrors. Possible options to upgrade the exterior include a power sunroof, as well as the Chrome Accents Group, which adds chrome details to the door sills, fuel door, front fascia and tubular side steps.


Avg. Price: $15,209


Avg. Price: $16,221


Avg. Price: $16,130


Avg. Price: $16,958


Avg. Price: $20,205

The Shock returns as Dodge’s high-end trim for its 2011 Nitro compact/midsize SUV. There are few differences between the Shock and the less-pricey Detonator trim, although the Shock adds leather-trimmed seating (heated in the front) with contrast stitching and a power sunroof to the lineup of Detonator features. New for 2011, both the Shock and Detonator now sport racing stripes across the hood and front fender, as well as standard 20-inch painted/polished wheels, and offer new color choices.

The Shock’s 4.0-liter SOHC matches the engine found in the Heat 4.0 and Detonator trims, producing 260 hp at 6,000 rpm and 265 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. Combined with a standard five-speed automatic transmission, the rear-wheel-drive Shock generates 16 mpg city/21 highway—fuel economy numbers which are often highlighted as one of the major drawbacks of the Nitro. The Shock shares its suspension setup with the other trims, as well. The short and long arm front suspension and a trailing rear suspension leave some wishing for a smoother ride, while others feel the system absorbs the bumps nicely. The hydraulic rack-and-pinion power steering and overall handling, however, have many looking for better control of the vehicle. On the upside, however, even the high-end Shock comes with an MSRP consumers may find reasonable, and the compact/midsize SUV offers admirable towing capabilities, particularly when equipped with the available trailer tow group, which increases towing capacity to 5,000 pounds.

The exterior of the Shock presents a unique combination of boxy and round, with its exaggerated flared fenders and squared-off rear. The front grille boasts the Dodge crosshair design, with foglamps integrated into the front bumper. Dark-tint sunscreen glass in the windows and a standard power sunroof add to the macho look of this SUV. The optional Chrome Accents Group can add to the Shock’s bling, with an additional chrome front fascia detail, fuel door, door sills and tubular side steps.

With seating for five, the front offers a high-seated view of what’s ahead. Significant blind spots from rear roof pillars, however, impede the rear view and make the standard ParkSense rear parking assist system a welcome feature. The rear seats in the Shock recline for comfort and offer ample leg- and headroom. However, these seats are low to the ground, which may leave some wishing for more support. The rear seats also split to fold forward, increasing the rear cargo room from 32.1 cubic feet to a substantial 75.6 cubic feet—one of the advantages of the Nitro over its competitors. The interior of the Shock includes a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, with mounted cruise and audio controls for the standard single-CD/radio system. The high-end trim comes with 8 standard Infinity speakers and a subwoofer, Bluetooth for streaming audio, an auxiliary audio jack and a 1-year trial subscription to Sirius satellite radio. A 6.5-inch touchscreen is available with upgraded stereo packages, which can also add DVD playback, a hard disc drive for music storage and a Garmin GPS system for navigation. A standard overhead console includes controls for both the universal remote and the power sunroof, and an electronic vehicle information system includes a tire pressure monitor. The Shock trim level also provides remote keyless entry with a keyfob for standard power locks, combined with a remote start feature. Manual air conditioning and power windows also appear as standard features in the Shock, whose interior is often criticized for fit and finish issues and hard plastics throughout. Despite these critiques, the ride is, according to most, extremely comfortable and quiet, despite the cheap-feeling interior materials.

Safety features in the Shock include antilock disc brakes for both the front and rear wheels, combined with traction and stability control. Advanced multistage airbags keep the driver and front passenger safe, while supplemental side-curtain airbags protect both the front and rear occupants, and an occupant classification system adjusts the force of the front passenger airbag’s deployment based on the amount of weight sensed in the passenger seat. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration has not yet tested the 2011 Nitro, but the 2010 model earned a perfect five-star rating for front and side crash tests and a lower three-star rating for rollovers, with a 22.8% risk of a rollover for the rear-wheel-drive Nitro. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the SUV Good for front and rollover crash tests, but only Marginal (its second-lowest rating) for side crashes.

Shock 4WD

Avg. Price: $21,665

A carryover from 2010, 2011 sees few changes in the Dodge Nitro Shock 4WD, the high-end trim for this compact/midsize SUV. This year, the part-time four-wheel-drive Shock gets racing stripes on its hood and front fender, as well as standard 20-inch wheels and four new exterior color choices. The Shock distinguishes itself from the other trim levels with standard heated leather-trimmed seats and a power sunroof.

The Shock’s engine matches that of the Heat 4.0 and Detonator, with a 4.0-liter SOHC engine generating 260 hp at 6,000 rpm and 265 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. The part-time four-wheel-drive system offers shift-on-the-fly capability so drivers can engage the four-wheel drive system as needed. However, critics note that the lack of a low range limits the SUV’s true off-road ability, as does its 8 inches of ground clearance. The standard 5-speed automatic transmission is combined with hydraulic power-assisted steering (with a tilt, leather-wrapped steering wheel integrating cruise and audio controls). However, the handling of the vehicle leaves something to be desired, with the steering often called vague and unresponsive. Fuel economy, however, receives universally bad grades, with the Shock 4WD producing the same low numbers as its rear-wheel-drive cousin: 16 mpg city/21 highway.

The Shock 4WD does, however, please most consumers with its price and ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds with the available Trailer Tow group package. Seating five, the Shock’s strengths include interior passenger comfort with a quiet cabin, reclining rear seats and plenty of head- and legroom (although the rear seats’ low position may not provide the support that some passengers need). The front passenger seat folds flat to offer a front table-like surface, while the bench rear seat splits, folding flat to increase the rear cargo room from 32.1 cubic feet to an ample 75.6 cubic feet.

The exterior styling of the Shock 4WD may also be a selling feature for some, with deep-tint sunscreen windows, bold crosshair design on the front billeted grille, exaggerated rounded and flared fenders, integrated front foglamps and a boxy, squared rear. The Shock also includes a standard power sunroof controlled from an interior overhead console (which includes a standard universal remote). The available Chrome Accents Group can add extra pizzazz to the exterior with fascia detail, door sills, side steps and a fuel filler door in chrome.

Inside, the driver’s seat, while high enough to offer a view out the front, has a rear view blocked by substantial roof pillars. The Shock, however, comes with the standard ParkSense system to help compensate for blind spots by providing a visual and auditory alert for objects behind the SUV (although there is no backup camera).

Other standard technology in the Shock 4WD includes an electronic vehicle information display (for individual tire pressure information, among other data). The Shock trim includes standard power windows and locks (with remote keyless access), as well as manually controlled air conditioning and remote start. The Shock’s audio system matches the one found in all trim levels: a single-CD/radio with an auxiliary audio jack for remote MP3 players, Bluetooth for audio streaming, and a year’s trial subscription to Sirius satellite radio. The Shock does, however, include 8 Infinity speakers with a subwoofer. Upgrades can include a 6.5-inch touchscreen to control audio and DVD playback, as well as a 30GB hard disk drive for music and album artwork storage. A Garmin GPS navigation system is an additional option for this trim level. Despite the technology, both owners and experts note the interior has hard plastics and a cheap feel to it, as well as some fit and finish issues.

The Shock employs standard safety features available in the other Nitro trims: antilock disc brakes on all four wheels, traction and stability control, and multistage airbags in the front (monitored by a passenger occupant classification system). Side-curtain supplemental airbags are standard for both the front and rear of the Shock. Both the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (which has only tested the 2010 Nitro by the NHSTA’s old standards), as well as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety give the Nitro mixed results for crash tests. The NHTSA gives the 2010 Nitro five-stars for front and side crashes, but a lower rating (3 stars) for rollovers (given that the 4WD tested had a 21.9% chance of a rollover). The IIHS, on the other hand, gave the Nitro (for 2007-2011 models) its highest Good rating for frontal and roof strength tests, but a much lower Marginal for side impact tests.