The Nissan Xterra is a true original, and a successful original at that. The Xterra is a sport utility vehicle engineered for serious off-road sport and real utility over suburban shopping duty. It is a truck SUV, not a crossover SUV. Its body is attached to a boxed-in steel ladder frame, and it rides on the same rugged suspension as the Nissan Frontier pickup, with double wishbones up front and a solid axle on leaf springs in the rear.
The 2010 Nissan Xterra comes in four models. Most offer a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. All are powered by Nissan's award-winning aluminum V6, stroked to 4.0 liters and making 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. With 4WD and the smooth (optional) five-speed automatic transmission, the Xterra achieves 15 city and 20 highway miles per gallon, a bit more with 2WD or the standard six-speed manual transmission.
An Off-Road model is available that will go pretty much anywhere. It comes with Hill Descent Control, heavy duty trail tires, and skid plates. The electronic 4WD system is part time, with three functions available: 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low.
Last year (2009) Nissan freshened the Xterra's appearance a bit and, more importantly, made front-seat side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags standard on all models. The Xterra now rates four of five stars in NHTSA crash tests for frontal impact, and three stars for rollover. For 2010, Nissan has made last year's Gear Package standard on S and SE models, and what was the Technology Package is now standard on SE and Off Road.
The base-level Xterra X 2WD ($22,450) comes with a six-speed manual transmission, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control, six-speaker sound system with single CD, three 12-volt DC outlets, power windows, 60/40 folding rear seat, cargo-area carpeting, roof rails with an air dam, and 16-inch steel wheels. The Xterra X 4WD ($24,500) adds an electronically controlled transfer case with three functions: 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low. A five-speed automatic transmission is available, although Nissan lists the X 2WD automatic ($23,250) and X 4WD automatic ($25,300) as separate models. Manual-shift X 4WD's come with BFGoodrich Long Trail tires.
The Xterra S 2WD ($25,420) and 4WD ($27,470) come with the automatic transmission only, and add an eight-way adjustable driver's seat, power mirrors, an interior microfilter, fog lamps, aluminum step rails, roof rack crossbars and gear basket, and alloy wheels with BFG Long Trail tires. The X-model's cargo-area carpeting is replaced by an easy-to-clean plastic cargo floor with two C-channels and four moveable hooks to strap down mountain bikes and things, plus additional hooks in the ceiling and side panels.
The Terri SE 2WD ($28,350) and 4WD ($30,400) upgrade further with leather seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel with Bluetooth and audio controls; Rockford Fosgate audio with 6CD changer, MP3 capability, auxiliary input, and XM Satellite Radio; auto-dimming inside mirror with compass; illuminated vanity mirrors; first aid kit; cargo net; and 17-inch alloy wheels. Mirrors and door handles are body color instead of black.
The Xterra Off-Road comes only with 4WD, but with a choice of manual ($29,200) or automatic ($30,400) transmission. Equipment is similar to SE, except that the Off-Road skips the step rails and leather seats. (It features its own unique red-and-gray rugged fabric upholstery.) Off Road adds roof-mounted driving lights, a front passenger seat that folds flat, an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein gas shocks, and skid plates for the oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case. The automatic transmission version comes with Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist as well. Either way, Off Road rolls on BFG Rugged Trail tires mounted to 6-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels.
Splash guards ($135) for the X are the only factory option, but port-installed accessories range from a tow hitch ($460) to a dockable DVD player ($495) and Garmin portable navigation. But not all accessories are available on all models, so check with your dealer for details.
Safety equipment on all 2010 Xterra models includes dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags in front, roof-mounted airbag curtains with a rollover sensor, and the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren). Vehicle Dynamic Control and vented disc brakes with ABS and EBD also come standard, along with the government-mandated tire pressure monitor.