2011 Dodge Nitro SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2011 Dodge Nitro SUV

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Dodge Nitro Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 4.0 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 260 hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 16/21 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2011 Dodge Nitro

  • The 2011 Dodge Nitro has a macho name and styling, but that's about where its appeal ends. Just about any other compact/midsize crossover SUV would be a wiser purchase.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Considerable towing capacity, brawny image.

  • Cons

    Subpar gas mileage; lackluster acceleration with either engine; chintzy interior; vague steering and trucklike handling.

  • What's New for 2011

    For 2011, the Dodge Nitro gets a few new standard and optional features. Among the former are upgraded seat materials, deeply tinted glass and even (on the Detonator and Shock trims) racing stripes. There's also a newly available Heat 4.0 package, which includes the 4.0-liter V6 as well as an upgraded audio system and Bluetooth connectivity.

Full 2011 Dodge Nitro Review

What's New for 2011

For 2011, the Dodge Nitro gets a few new standard and optional features. Among the former are upgraded seat materials, deeply tinted glass and even (on the Detonator and Shock trims) racing stripes. There's also a newly available Heat 4.0 package, which includes the 4.0-liter V6 as well as an upgraded audio system and Bluetooth connectivity.


When you've got the nerve to call yourself Nitro, you'd best be able to back it up. Though it shares its model name with a star from American Gladiators -- that TV show of the 1990s -- the 2011 Dodge Nitro sadly doesn't have what it takes to beat down its rivals among compact/midsize crossovers. Sure, the macho Nitro looks the part with its muscled-up styling, and it can be had with a powerful V6. But when put to the test, it falls short in several key areas.

Underneath the buff bod, the Nitro shares its platform with the Jeep Liberty. The Dodge is tuned more for on-road use and also offers a larger available V6 engine, but otherwise it differs little under the skin. The upsides of this shared DNA are a rugged part-time four-wheel-drive system and a hefty towing capacity. But the downsides are likely more significant for consumers shopping this segment, as they include poor fuel mileage, an unwelcoming interior and unimpressive handling dynamics. Although cargo space is generous and the controls are simple to operate, the cabin's subpar materials and build quality can't hold a pugil stick to what's seen in rivals such as the 2011 GMC Terrain, 2011 Mazda CX-7 and 2011 Subaru Forester. Furthermore, the Nitro's backseat is located very low, which makes for easy ingress and egress but negates the comfort otherwise provided by the ample legroom and reclining seatback.

If the 2011 Dodge Nitro were to compete in the Eliminator obstacle course from American Gladiators, it would probably get caught up in the cargo net and fall off the spinning cylinder. The competition actually provides the sort of performance that the Nitro's styling promises. And should serious off-road prowess be your priority, other macho SUVs such as the 2011 Nissan Xterra and 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser are worth serious consideration. Despite its name, the Nitro fails to blow us away in any significant way.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2011 Dodge Nitro is a five-passenger SUV available in Heat, Detonator and Shock trim levels.

The Heat includes 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, foglamps, roof rails, deep tinted windows, keyless entry, full power accessories, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seat and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The Popular Equipment Group adds cruise control, an outside-temperature gauge and a compass. A sunroof is a stand-alone option. There is also the available Heat 4.0 package that includes a bigger V6 engine, an upgraded nine-speaker audio system and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Detonator includes the stuff from the Popular Equipment Group and also has the more powerful engine, different 20-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, remote ignition, flashier exterior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (includes audio controls), a six-way power driver seat, an upgraded instrument panel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker stereo (with a subwoofer and a six-CD/DVD changer). The Nitro Shock trim adds different 20-inch wheels, a sunroof, leather upholstery and heated seats.

The Media Center upgrade package adds to the Detonator and Shock trim levels navigation, real-time traffic, a touchscreen interface and digital music storage. There is a Towing package available on all trims.

Powertrains and Performance

The Dodge Nitro Heat comes with a 3.7-liter V6 engine that produces 210 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard. Rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available, with the latter being a part-time system with high- and low-range gearing. EPA estimates are an underwhelming 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 16/20/17 with four-wheel drive. In performance testing, the virtually identical Jeep Liberty 4x4 went from zero to 60 mph in a lazy 9.5 seconds.

The Heat 4.0, Nitro Detonator and Shock come with a 4.0-liter V6 good for 260 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard and, again, one may choose between rear- and four-wheel drive. EPA estimates are a similarly poor 16/21/18 with rear-wheel drive and 15/21/17 with 4WD. In performance testing, a rear-drive Nitro with the 4.0-liter engine went from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds while a 4x4 model hit the target speed in 8.2 seconds.


Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control and side curtain airbags. The stability control includes a trailer sway control feature. Rear parking sensors are standard on the Detonator and Shock.

The 2011 Dodge Nitro has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to new 2011 tests) were a top five-star rating in all frontal and side crash categories. Testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Nitro its top score of "Good" in the frontal-offset test and a second-worst "Marginal" in the side test.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Nitro with the optional 20-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet -- good performance for this type of vehicle.

Interior Design and Special Features

Inside, the Nitro has a somewhat industrial feel, though faux aluminum accents brighten the place up a bit. Materials quality is below average for this class, with several plastics standing out as unacceptably low-grade. An upright seating position provides a good view out the front, and liberal use of soft cushioning makes it easy to get comfortable. Legroom is ample for adults in the reclining backseat, though the bench is mounted too low for optimal comfort.

There are 32 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, but the lift-over height is high for a compact/midsize SUV. With the rear seats folded, there are 65 cubic feet of cargo space available, about average for this class. The front passenger seat can also fold forward to aid in carrying long items.

Driving Impressions

With its aggressive styling and macho name, you'd think that the 2011 Dodge Nitro offered vigorous power and acceleration. Alas, even with the 4.0-liter V6, the Nitro is slower than a Toyota RAV4 V6. At highway speeds, the cabin is surprisingly quiet and the ride is comfortable for the most part, too. Handling has never been a Nitro strong suit compared to other small SUVs, and the steering is notably vague. Most competitors are better to drive and instill more confidence.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

Not as happy as others

by on
Vehicle: 2011 Dodge Nitro Heat 4dr SUV (3.7L 6cyl 4A)

I bought my Nitro late in the year (Nov). Enjoyed the ride and handling. Reminded me of my 2000 Pathfinder that I miss tremendously. I put over 200k miles on that car in 7 years and never had any issues at all. So far with the Nitro I have 43k in 16 months (I drive 30k a year) and the check engine light comes on occassionally. Not sure why. A/C blower went out right at 36,500 when the warranty ran out. Fortunately the dealership I bought it at fixed it w/o question. At 14k the head gasket blew and was leaking oil like a faucet. Still under warranty the dealership fixed it. I'm still undecided whether I like the car or not. Of course, the engine light is on again.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

Nitro love affair

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Vehicle: 2011 Dodge Nitro Heat 4dr SUV 4WD (3.7L 6cyl 4A)

we have been with the nitro since our new 2008 sxt that we recently lost in a house fire.This was my wifes baby. I didnt think we could find a replacement and after looking at other suvs nothing filled the void like a 2011 nitro heat.we love the vehicle.When I get the chance to drive it I enjoy the way it handles and rides.For us the 3.7 has plenty of power.And living in MN the 4wd is awesome in the winter.My wife loves to shop so the cargo space is great.With the rebates and incentives dodge was offering in november we got into the nitro under 20,000. A great deal for a 4wd suv

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

Best suv for the buck!

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Vehicle: 2011 Dodge Nitro Shock 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

This review is for my 2011 Nitro Heat 4.0 (a model that wasn't listed in your roll-down). The Heat version is Chrysler's former "SXT" trim: decent exterior trim but inexpensive (cloth) interior seating. At model year's end, it was tough to locate a Heat with the rare 4.0 engine option (same engine that the old RT's had). Apparently that's a little-known option on the Heats--even the salesperson was unaware of it. You HAVE to get the 4.0 engine if you want great performance and gas mileage (better than the std. 3.7). I just completed a 300 mile trip (with 400 miles on the odometer) and got over 22mpg at an avg 75mph. The engine's quick off the line, the build quality is great, etc.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Going back to dodge

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Vehicle: 2011 Dodge Nitro Shock 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

This is the first Dodge I've owned since having a Dodge Daytona Shelby Z back in 1992. After experiencing all the problems with that car, I said I wouldn't own another Dodge. Well, I bought my 2011 Nitro Heat 4.0 on Aug 31st and so far, I'm very happy. I had been in the market for a 5 passenger SUV, and after growing tired of looking at all others with no real style or excitement, the Nitro, with it's large grill and huge 20" chrome wheels hit me like a breath of fresh air. I have to thank my wife for helping me find a car that makes me smile again.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Best suv under $40,000

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Vehicle: 2011 Dodge Nitro Detonator 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

The Nitro's appearance creates a response much like the Dodge Ram pickup when it first came out: You either LOVE it or HATE it. I happened to embrace the rugged square "jaw" of the Nitro and having had some driving experience with the original 2007 RT version which featured a very energetic 4.0 liter engine (vs. the horribly anemic 3.7 liter that's found in the Jeep), I was pleasantly impressed. This rugged yet refined truck-like SUV conquers most snowy roads that I've experienced in Michigan, plus affords a reasonable cost to drive based on 20mpg in mixed city/freeway driving. Lots of storage and creature comforts too. Could have used more than 2 cup holders in front though.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Love my 2011 dodge nitro

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Vehicle: 2011 Dodge Nitro Heat 4dr SUV (3.7L 6cyl 4A)

Excellent value for mid-size SUV. I love my Bright Silver Nitro. It's stands out on the road. Comfortable vehicle. Plenty of room for my needs. Fun to drive.

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Gas Mileage


  • 16
  • cty
  • 21
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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