Auburn Hills, Mich. – TheCarConnection.com picked the Dodge Nitro as the best new concept at the Chicago Auto Show last week. The unveiling of the Nitro also got honors for best press conference.DaimlerChrysler hopes the Dodge Nitro concept will ignite an automotive segment more typically characterized by bland styling. The Nitro would be the first mid-size SUV for Dodge, completing the brand’s current lineup, which now consists of passenger cars, minivans, trucks and a full-size SUV. “The Dodge Nitro concept is brimming with character; it evokes emotion through its rugged styling and dominant stance,” said Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President – Chrysler Group Design. “This is more than just another typical mid-size SUV design statement.” Exterior Styling The Dodge Nitro sports a bright “Anodized Red” exterior color, confident stance and unique full exterior style featuring the signature chrome Dodge crosshair grille flanked by jewel-like rectangular headlamps. The imposing hood, crisp lines and substantial body size create a brawny character not found in any mid-size SUV on the road today. The vehicle’s exterior also features 20-inch cast-aluminum wheels, an integrated trailer tow hitch, chrome dual exhaust tail pipes, and a brushed silver license plate visor. Interior StylingThe Nitro concept’s spacious interior is both functional and flexible for people and cargo. A three-pod, four-gauge instrument cluster with electroluminescent lighting featuring white gauges with red pointers is accented by silver bands, giving the interior a sense of technical precision. The vehicle’s satin silver center console houses a DVD-based navigation radio with a seven-inch fixed LED screen. Control buttons, shifter knob, door handles, gauges, speakers and assist handles are also satin silver. The seats are black leather with rugged bright red inserts and black netting placed in the center of the headrests. Front passenger and rear seats fold flat, allowing for ample cargo capacity. The rear cargo floor is made of rugged-textured vinyl and is easy to clean. With the rear hatch open, the cargo floor slides rearward for easy and convenient loading and unloading of packages. Modular storage bins and a first-aid kit are located in the rear quarters of the vehicle. PerformanceThe Dodge Nitro concept’s estimated performance figures include a top speed of 108 mph, standing 1⁄4 mile at 16.9 seconds, and can go from 0 – 60 mph in 9.6 seconds. The Nitro concept incorporates existing Chrysler Group components including the 3.7-liter SOHC V-6 engine, which generates 210 hp (157 kW) @ 5200 rpm and 235 lb.-ft. torque (319 N•m) @ 4000 rpm, the 42RLE four-speed automatic transmission and independent SLA front and five-link rear suspension system. The vehicle has full-time four-wheel drive and weighs in at 4115 pounds (1867 kg). Dodge sold more than 1.4 million vehicles worldwide in 2004. With a 6.9 percent market share, Dodge is the fifth largest nameplate in the United States and will arrive in European volume segments in 2006.