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IL Insider: Dodge Readies Nitro For SEMA, Mulls Special "Buzz" Models

Already a good-looking SUV, the Dodge Nitro will get the full tuner treatment at this year's SEMA show. (Photo courtesy of Dodge)​

Date posted: 06-23-2006
CHELSEA, Mich. — Dodge is about to make a final decision on which customizer it will turn to for its new Nitro R/T SEMA show vehicle, Inside Line has learned.

The automaker has told those competing for the post that it wants hood scoops, ground effects, an edgy roof rack, atypical paint finishes — including "liquid chrome" — as well as larger wheels and tires, up to 22-inchers.

"We want to make a stronger statement at SEMA," said Ron Zarowitz, senior manager for Dodge truck marketing. "We want the market to quickly understand what Nitro is. That is, we're going after people who don't want a bland, soft SUV. After SEMA, suppliers could market parts for Nitro individually or Mopar could come up with designs that could be factory approved. In addition, we are looking at special 'buzz' model in low-volume runs like the (Dodge) Ram Rumble Bee. The Rumble Bee created a cult and there is the opportunity to do that again."

Rick Reuter, Nitro chief engineer, said Dodge recently completed its testing of the top-of-the-line Nitro R/T, which is equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 that makes 255 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. The Nitro R/T's 0-60 time is an estimated 8.3 seconds, Reuter said, while the vehicle has a top speed of 112 mph.

Reuter said the one thing consumers will not see on the Nitro is a Hemi engine. While the Hemi fits into Nitro's engine compartment, Reuter said "we can't make it meet crash standards. The vehicle would have to be 4 inches longer."

Zarowitz said the Nitro R/T will go on sale in late December and be priced "close to $30,000."

What this means to you: As long as the customizers don't spend too much time on the "edgy roof rack," these Nitros should turn out sweet.
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