Wednesday, June 21, 2006
By Don Hammonds, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Saddle up, partners!
Ol' Dodge has two new products, each with names that have the flavor of the wild west -- Caliber and Nitro.
Dodge, certifiably one of the most "macho" brands in the country, shows its true colors with these two, which both are unapologetically rugged bruisers that look as though they will chew the stuffings out of their competition.
Some magazines have described the Caliber, which replaces the Neon, as a two box design. Two box where? With its dramatic fastback roofline, opening hatch, aggressive Dodge Ram-like front end, there's nothing boxy about the Caliber at all.
With a starting price of $13,985, the Caliber's styling serves notice that it's designed for those who want something different in their next compact car purchase.
The sport coupe-like profile covers a flexible interior that has 60/40 fold-flat seats, a washable and removable vinyl load floor, a cooled beverage storage bin on air conditioning equipped models and soil repelling interiors.
Other features include an available nine speaker Boston Acoustics premium sound system with subwoofer that has two articulating speakers in the liftgate. That way, tailgaters and other partiers can swing the speakers down to face rearward for entertainment.
Power comes from three four cylinder engines, depending upon model selected: 1.8 liter, 148 horsepower; 2.0 liter, 158 horsepower; and 172 horsepower, 2.4 liter.
Caliber will be sold in almost 100 countries outside North America.
The Nitro is Dodge's new mid-sized SUV that offers two V-6 engines, a performance suspension, chrome-clad aluminum wheels and 20 inch tires.
It comes in three models: Nitro, Nitro SLT and Nitro R/T.
The Nitro and SLT are powered by a 3.7 liter, 210 horsepower CV-6, and the R/T has a new 4.0 liter, 255 horsepower V-6. There is one manual transmission offered and two automatic transmissions. Nitro has towing capacity of 5,000 pounds when it has the correct equipment.
One feature that I expect to be quite popular on the SLT and R/T is the Load N Go cargo floor, which slides 18 inches rearward to make it easy to load and unload. It can hold up to 400 pounds. A compact utility table is available.
Standard features include electronic stability program, anti-lock brakes, electronic roll mitigation and side-curtain air bags. Base prices will range from $19,985 for the entry level SXT to $25,745 for the top of the line RT.