In a world of trendy crossovers that are designed more for shopping malls than muddy trails, the Xterra is a refreshing reminder of the SUV’s origins. The macho styling is a harbinger of the Xterra’s off-road prowess. Built on the same tough F-Alpha platform as trucks like the Titan and the Frontier, the Xterra can easily crawl up rocky hills, splash through mud, and tackle just about anything you can throw at it. Buyers can choose between rear- and four-wheel drive; all models have big approach angles and plentiful ground clearance for bouncing along rough tracks. Although it can’t be hosed out as easily as the Jeep Wrangler, the Xterra’s interior materials are durable and easy to clean should they become splattered with mud. Depending on the trim level, goodies like a locking rear differential, skid plates, roof-mounted lights, ceiling hooks in the cargo area, and even a first aid kit are included. The Xterra’s 4.0-liter V-6 provides an ample 261 hp and can be mated to either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. Because it is so capable, the Xterra is less comfortable and proficient on the road than are similarly priced crossovers. The soft suspension that helps the Xterra excel in the woods can make for a bouncy ride and soggy handling on pavement. Although it’s not the most refined SUV on the market, the Nissan Xterra is an ideal vehicle for those who want a vehicle with macho off-roading ability.
Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: X, S, PRO-4X
Body style: SUV, 5-passenger
Engine: 4.0L V-6, 261 hp, 281 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 5-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 98.8 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 5000 lb; cargo (rear seats
up/down) 36.3/65.7 cu ft
The 2012 Xterra is available in two new exterior colors, metallic blue and brilliant silver.
Front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are stability control, traction control, ABS with brake assist, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Options include hill-start assist and hill-descent control.
All: 15-16 mpg city/20-21 mpg highway
- Very capable off-road
- Durable interior
- Powerful V-6 engine
- Poor on-road handling
- Middling fuel economy
The rugged SUV that looks great when muddy.
- Honda CR-V
- Jeep Wrangler
- Suzuki Grand Vitara
- Toyota 4Runner