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By Philip Raphael
Auto Reporter
Jan 18 2007
City of Richmond, British Columbia

Two To Watch In 2007

There are a number of reasons for car buffs to celebrate in 2007.
That’s because as the new year dawned, a bevy of brand new models begin to make an appearance on local streets.

The future looks pretty interesting with vehicles that show innovation and creative thinking that goes beyond the hum drum four wheels and a box over top.

Dodge Nitro

At the top of the list is a snazzy new entry from Dodge called the Nitro.

With upright, squat, and boxy architecture, the Nitro at first looks somewhat like Daimler-Chrysler’s attempt to mimic the underground success of the Scion xB—Toyota’s cube-like van that is only available south of the border but has found fans willing to go through the hoops to import one into Canada.

But where the Scion xB is purposely built to inspire librarians and get the blood racing in tax accountants with its almost flat sides and front, the Nitro—as its name suggests—is designed to create an explosion of excitement.

That starts with the vehicle’s aggressive front grille that shares much with its Dodge Ram truck kin thanks to quartered off radiator slats and rectangular headlamp clusters that meld into the front fenders.

A keen looking side vent placed just fore of the front set of doors also affords the Nitro some sporty points and does enough to break up the body’s flat landscape.

Backing up these promises of performance is the fact the Nitro can pack a punch if you order the top-of-the-line R/T model.

It comes with the 20-inch wheels plus a 4.0-litre, 255-horsepower engine.
Its starting price is $32,390.

But if you opt for the entry level Nitro SE that is equipped with a 3.7 litre V6 that belts out a still respectable 210 horses, the base price is a substantially lower $23,2990.

While that scales you back to 16-inch wheels it still includes all the striking features of the more expensive models, plus the normally expected creature comforts such as keyless remote entry.

For families with young children one feature they will enjoy is the fact the cloth interior of the Nirto can be ordered with what Dodge calls YES Essentials, stain resistant fabric which is advertised as being able to repel spills of all manner.

Owners on the go will also appreciate the fact the Nitro can carry five passengers and be reconfigured to haul a combination of cargo and people thanks to a 65/35 split folding rear seat.

You can even fold the front passenger seat down and end up with not only 2,141 litres of room (75.6 cubic feet) but a configuration that can accommodate long loads for perhaps next year’s Christmas tree or the ladder you will need to take down this year’s outdoor lights.

One of the Nitro’s features that show you where technology is taking car design when it comes to entertainment systems is the MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System.

The optional unit provides 20 gigabytes of hard drive space where you can store up to 1,600 songs.

All in all, the Nitro is definitely a bright spark on the car showroom floor, and one that will likely inspire other manufacturers to raise the bar in terms of contemporary design and incorporation of current technology.
Jeep Wrangler X

Every now and then you come across a vehicle that has a modification added to its familiar form that is so simple and logical that you wonder why the manufacturer didn’t see the light a long time ago.

Case in point is the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited X.

If you’ve ever had to try and squeeze into the rear seat of a Jeep Wrangler—formerly known as the TJ in Canada and the Wrangler in the U.S. market—you’ll understand that adding a set or rear passenger doors is a big deal.
No more having to contort your body into various advanced yoga positions to gain access thanks to the now-four-door SUV that bears all the traditional hallmarks of the Jeep line.

What’s more, the Unlimited X is billed as a five-seater when the old Wrangler could only accommodate four.

And above the convenience and capacity factors the change just looks right.
In my eyes the Wrangler was always a bit too abbreviated. It also tended to drive that way a bit with a short wheelbase that kept your cornering speeds firmly in the front of your mind.

Now it appears to be more balanced. A test drive sometime in the near future should give me a good indication if appearances are a good judge of on-road character.

But on the surface this is a more appealing and functional vehicle that can—like other TJs and Wranglers before them—take the rough going and now also handle the day-to-day chores of malls and school curb pick ups and drop offs in more comfort.

Part of that capability rests with Jeep’s new 3.8 litre, 202 horsepower V6 which is standard in the Wrangler line. The previous choice of powerplant was a 4.0 litre in-line six cylinder which was heavier and delivered less torque.

A six-speed manual transmission, or four-speed automatic, delivers the power to the wheels which run on Jeep’s Command-Trac system. It’s a part-time four-wheel-drive set up that can be shifted—depending on driving conditions—from two to four wheel drive.

On normal road surfaces the power drives the rear wheels. Set on 4 High, the system tackles slippery or loose surfaces and can be engaged at speeds up to 88 km/h.

Another setting, called 4 Lo, allows the Wrangler to traverse severe, low-speed, off-road conditions.

With power and stability issues sorted out, the Wrangler’s new interior features a much more spacious landscape that is now even more flexible thanks to a 60-40 split rear seat. And that means packing away long loads or even just the groceries can be done and still allow passengers to ride along.
Thankfully, some of the Jeep heritage hasn’t been eliminated. And possibly the best characteristics of the line is the fact you can wash out the interior.
A pair of drain plugs can route water away if you feel the need to give the insides a wash and scrub. Just pull up the carpet, turn on the hose, open up the plugs and say bye-by to the trail dirt.

Base price for the “stretch” Wrangler is $24,495, which when you compare to some other vehicles that only “pretend” to be an SUV makes the Jeep a pretty competitive choice.

If you opt for a more optioned out model the price does jump, but not so alarmingly like in some other vehicles which almost double the sticker for all the bells and whistles.

The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara starts at $28,190 and offers some cosmetic upgrades, plus some stability equipment that limits body roll.
The top-of-the-line Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is $29,896 which adds bigger, off-road tires and heavier duty front and rear axles.


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