April 24, 2007 > Nissan Xterra
This week we got to test Nissan's mid-sized SUV, the Xterra; 2007 is the third production year for the Xterra. Our tester was the Off Road model with optional shift-on-the-fly, four-wheel drive system (4WD). It allows you to choose 2WD, 4WD HI, or 4WD LOW. The low speed 4WD is for serious off-road driving, the high speed 4WD for driving on slippery roads up to 60 mph. We didn't encounter any slippery conditions, so we used 2WD at all times. We did not take the Xterra off road either.
All Xterra models use the same 4-liter, DOHC, V-6 that develops 261 HP and 281 foot pounds of torque on regular unleaded gasoline. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, but ours had the 5-speed automatic transmission. Switching off the overdrive made the drive train more responsive around town. EPA mileage ratings are 16 in the city and 21 on the highway.
The interior of the Xterra is great; driving position is very good with lots of adjustability for people of different sizes. Outward vision is excellent and the steering wheel is very comfortable. There is plenty of legroom for the rear seat passengers. Nissan even puts a first aid kit in a storage space in the rear hatch. The cargo area has an easy to clean finish and a track and hook system to tie down your equipment.
Xterra's exterior looks aggressive and well proportioned with a roof rack as standard equipment. An interesting feature is the outside storage compartment as part of the roof rack. Step pads are integrated into the bumpers to allow easy access to the features on the roof.
The Xterra shares its rugged chassis platform with Nissan's full size Titan pickup truck and the Armada SUV. There are a number of options available to optimize off road performance. First is the multi speed 4WD system I mentioned above. High performance gas shock absorbers and off road tires are also available. Then Hill Start Assist and Hill Decent Control are electronic systems that make driving on steep dirt hills safer. Xterra also has an electronic locking rear differential.
From a safety standpoint, Xterra has many standard features including Vehicle Dynamic Control to minimize slides, 4-wheel disk anti-lock brakes, and front air bags. I would buy the $700 side curtain air bag package to supplement the standard complement of air bags. Xterra gets a 5-star side impact rating.
The optional ($900) Rockford Fosgate Audio system was added to our Xterra. It includes 8 speakers, a 6 disc in-dash CD changer, and is mp3 ready. This is a great sound system and performs well.
There are 4 Xterra models. The base price starts at $20,050 and increases up to the $26,200 base price for the Off Road model. As you advance through the model range, more options become standard equipment.
We enjoyed our time driving Xterra. It has a comfortable, quiet ride and responsive handling. Other people must feel the same way, because Xterras are selling well.
By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists