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2011 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X

I had never heard of this particular trim level of the Xterra, the PRO-4X, but it turns out that it's new for 2011, replacing last year's Off-Road trim. That makes sense, because one glance at our test vehicle was all it took to know that this is the one that's maximized for off-roading. Specifically, the PRO-4X offers the following equipment, as described in the Xterra media kit:

Roof-Mounted Off-Road Lights in the air dam, silver headlight inner color, black bodyside molding, fold-down front passenger seat with backboard, unique gray/red cloth seat fabric, sunglasses holder (overhead console), PRO-4X badge on tailgate and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Unique PRO-4X performance equipment includes P265/75R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A off-road tires, rugged 16-inch wheels, Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist (automatic transmission only), electronic locking rear differential, high performance Bilstein gas-filled shocks and oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case skid plates.

For 2011, the Xterra SE has been dropped, leaving three simplified trim levels: Xterra X, offered only with the 5-speed automatic; Xterra S, offered with either the 5-speed auto or a 6-speed manual; and Xterra PRO-4X, also available with either gearbox. The only available option is the PRO-4X leather package, which our test vehicle had and which gets you some quite comfortable front buckets with black leather and red stitching.

It was fun and refreshing to get into a traditional 4x4 SUV. The Xterra is an old fashioned SUV that's been updated reasonably well. The Xterra has far better steering feel and body control than it did when it debuted back in the 1990s. It's not a crossover and doesn't pretend to be; it's trying to be a rugged, outdoorsy vehicle and I think it pulls it off quite well. It's affordable, it's reasonably satisfying to drive. The engine is adequate; there's nothing special about it, nor should there be, really.

The Xterra looks very appealing both inside and out. The integrated footstep in the rear bumper, the plastic rear cargo compartment liner, and the substantial roof rack with integrated driving lights are all tools for someone who actually uses this SUV as an SUV. Good for them, I say.

It's a simple, honest, 4x4 for people who still want that.
- Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

I agree with Joe that this SUV does not pretend to be anything more than the outdoorsy vehicle that it is. I do feel though the suspension is a bit too roly-poly when driving quickly and cornering. Then again, part of the fun of off-roading is being bounced around.
- Kelly Murphy, Creative Director

The world seems to be running out of no-nonsense SUVs that are capable of hauling a few people and some gear off-road. Perhaps that's a good thing for those of us who enjoy driving sports cars and can't see around these monstrous vehicles, but there will always be a place in my heart for off-road vehicles. Before I was ever interested in driving fast cars on a track, I was out crawling along muddy trails in my Wrangler and learning about how engines, transmissions, and differentials worked. Some of the most beautiful places I've ever seen have been along a trail that's inaccessible without four-wheel drive and a good pair of boots.

Nissan's Xterra is a very competent SUV for the sort of people who enjoy moderate off-road driving and want to bring along some friends, a cooler, and other niceties without moving up to a huge vehicle. The Xterra doesn't ride or handle like a crossover and it shouldn't be confused with one. The original Xterra wasn't as comfortable and didn't offer as many modern conveniences as this one does. Satellite radio is great when you're out on an open trail and also makes for a much more enjoyable ride to and from the trail. Leather seating may be a bit less interesting than the neoprene seat covers Nissan offered when the Xterra launched, but it was quite nice nonetheless.
- Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

Nissan's been on a decade-long roll when it comes to building niche cars, from the 350Z and GT-R to the Cube and Juke, and it can all be traced back directly to the Xterra. It's easy to forget that at the beginning of the millenium, Nissan was a rather bloated and boring company with a lineup of anonymous looking cars. Along came the Xterra, with its high-volume styling and real off-road capability. Cue videos of young hip people fording streams and climbing rocks to Lenny Kravitz music. It even came with a first aid kit. It definitely was an image changer for Nissan at the time, at least to this impressionable young person.

Ten years later, the evolved Xterra naturally has lost some its visual shock value, but still looks good in the parking lot. Its steering and handling, as others note, are good for an SUV but will never be confused with that of a car or crossover. For that reason, there are better vehicle choices if you're merely interested in posing as an active lifestyle person - in fact Nissan sells several of them. The Xterra, though, is the real deal, along the lines of a Jeep Wrangler.
- David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

Base price (with destination): $30,900
Price as tested: $32,725

Standard Equipment:
4.0-liter V-6 engine
5-speed automatic transmission
4-wheel ABS
High performance Bilstein shocks
Electronic locking rear differential
Hill descent control
Hill start assist
Full size spare tire
Vehicle dynamic control
Tire pressure monitoring system
60/40-split rear seat
Cruise control
Tilt steering column
Rockford Fosgate audio AM/FM/6-disc CD changer
8 speakers and subwoofer
MP3/WMA capability
XM satellite radio
Auxiliary audio input jack
Bluetooth connectivity
Air conditioning
Power windows/locks/mirrors
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Fog lights
Front tow hooks
Underbody skid plates

Options on this vehicle:
Pro-4X leather package -- $1000
Leather seating surfaces
Driver seat-back pocket
Nevada tow package -- $460
Tow hitch
IPod interface -- $250
Pro-4X floor mats -- $115

Key options not on vehicle:
Retractable cargo cover -- $100
6-speed manual transmission - no charge

Fuel economy: 15/20/17 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 4.0L DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 261 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 281 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Drive: Four-wheel
Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Curb weight: 4432 lb

Wheels/tires: 16 x 7.0-inch machined-alloy wheels, 265/75R16 BF Goodrich Rugged Trail all-terrain tires