Chicago Auto ShowGet ready to learn another cutesy but potentially game-changing auto industry trade name.

Load ’N Go, which debuts this week on Dodge’s first-ever midsize SUV at the Chicago Auto Show, is a back-saving cargo system that deploys like the slide-out drawers of a kitchen cabinet.

And just as Chrysler Group’s Stow ’N Go second-row seating system re-ignited interest in its minivans, the all-new ’07 Dodge Nitro is poised to shake up the midsize SUV segment.

Standard equipment on the top two of three Nitro trim levels, Load ’N Go extends 18 ins. (46 cm), creating a shelf that can hold up to 400 lbs. (181 kg).

Nitro’s Load ’N Go feature will save backs.

Takers not only can expect less back pain, but lower dry-cleaning costs, offers veteran Chrysler designer Geoffrey Godshall. The conventional SUV loading posture – bent over with legs braced against a bumper – invites dirt and stains, Godshall notes.

Demonstrating Load ’N Go for reporters at a Nitro preview, he adds: “This saves your pants.”

Retractable cargo holds may be rare in series production, but suppliers have been pitching the concept to auto makers for years.

For the Frankfurt auto show in 2001 and again this past September, Webasto AG displayed concept vehicles equipped with such a feature. (See related story: Webasto Scores Functionality With Hattrick)

Load ’N Go’s rollout continues Chrysler’s tradition of using feature content to separate its vehicles from the pack. It began with Stow ’N Go’s introduction on the auto maker’s ’05 model-year minivans.

Stow ’N Go conceals a van’s second-row seats beneath its floor. As a result, the vehicle’s cargo space is enlarged considerably.

And when the seats are in use, the space beneath the floor can store items ranging from toys to tools.

Likewise, the ’07 Dodge Caliber, Chrysler’s all-new C-car entry, will attempt to woo customers with innovation.

The Caliber, expected in U.S. showrooms next month, features potential “must-have” content such as articulating rear speakers and a beverage cooler known as MusicGate and ChillZone, respectively.

Load ’N Go is not the Nitro’s only interior story. When it debuts in North America later this year – early 2007 in outside markets such as Europe – the SUV will offer prospective buyers a choice of two V-6s.

Chrysler’s 3.7L SOHC V-6 will be available on the Nitro and Nitro SLT models. The engine will make 210 hp at 5,200 rpm and 235 lb.-ft. (319 Nm) of torque at 4,000 rpm.

’07 Dodge Nitro midsize SUV

New to the auto maker is a 4.0L V-6. Available on the Nitro’s R/T model, it will generate 255 hp at 5,800 rpm and 275 lb.-ft. (360 Nm) of torque at 4,000 rpm.

The base-model Nitro will come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. The SLT model will come standard with a 4-speed automatic, which is optional on the base model.

And the R/T will come standard with a 5-speed manual.

Electronic stability control, antilock brakes, electronic roll mitigation and side-curtain airbags are standard across all models.

Other options include 4-wheel drive, DVD-based navigation system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system and Sirius satellite radio.

Chrysler will build the Nitro in Toledo, OH, on the same line as the Jeep Liberty. The vehicles share a common platform, but the auto maker predicts they will appeal to different customers.(See related story: Nitro Will Not Compete for Sales with Liberty)

emayne@wardsauto.com