Dodge Nitro = Jeep Liberty = Jeep Cherokee

Daimler Chrysler (DCX) in it's infinite wisdom, has decided to further push the very slightly updated Jeep Cherokee again in new sheet metal with the new Dodge Nitro.

Basically, it appears to be a downmarket Jeep Liberty. Base prices are lower, starting at $19,225 vs. $21,365. This is deceptive though, as Jeep has been offering some crazy financing options to try and boost lagging sales.

You may have seen the TV ads for this small truck where the owner of Nitro gives an ailing car owner a jump - and ends up blowing the car into the sky. This is to demonstrate the supposedly AWESOME POWER of it's 3.7L V6. Honestly, I think this is a candidate for biggest bullshit ad of the year.

Per Edmunds, the Dodge Nitro weighs in a nearly 4000 lbs (3932 for a manual SXT to be exact). It has 210 hp and 235 ft/lbs of torque. This works out to 18.72 lbs/hp.

Lets compare it to a 2000 Jeep Cherokee. Curb weight of 3145 lbs, 190 hp, 225 ft/lbs of torque. This works out to 16.55 lbs/hp.

Sure the Nitro is bigger. Sure, it can tow more. But where it really counts to most people - acceleration - it's a real dog. Truck trend estimates that it's 0-60 is 9.6 seconds and it's quarter mile is 16.9 seconds. Hardly what I would call powerful.

Let's look at a superior competitor for comparison - the 2007 Nissan Xterra. Base X style manual starts at $20,050, and you can get discounts from there. It weighs in at a hefty 4150 lbs, but it's 4.0 liter V6 produces an impressive 261 hp and 281 ft/lbs. This works out to 15.9 lbs/hp. For the same price, you get Japanese reliability, a bigger truck, MUCH more power, and you can tow more. Even the gas mileage is comparable - 17/22 for the Xterra, 18/22 for the Liberty (and most likely, the Nitro).

I am a big fan of the Cherokee. But unless Daimler Chrysler can start knocking out engines with more power and less weight, I don't see how they will ever revive the winner of a truck that they used to have. No one wants a slow truck, no matter how much bigger or "tougher" looking it is than the previous generation.