Nissan Xterra Seriously Seeks Adventure | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 August 2012 11:47

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The “F-Alpha” truck platform of the 2012 Nissan Xterra is shared with the full-size Titan pickup and Armada SUV.

By Steve Schaefer

San Leandro Times

The Nissan Xterra isn’t shy about being a truck. Based on the same platform as the company’s Titan pickup and Armada SUV, it’s long on utility and short on coddling. No car-based crossover, its mission in life is to haul you and your stuff to your next adventure.

The Xterra is named after the XTERRA off-road triathlon race that Nissan was sponsoring at the time the vehicle was introduced in 2000. The new off-roader won Motor Trend’s Sport Utility of the Year that year — and it collected the calipers trophy again in 2006 with the second generation. A third generation should be right around the corner.

Since day one, the Xterra, besides having an odd name, has had odd proportions. The roofline jumps up on the sides at the second row and cargo area and the tailgate is asymmetrical. While many off-road vehicles originally had spare wheels mounted off-center on the back, this vestigial hump leaves room for a first-aid kit (accessed from inside) — and looks more jaunty. The bold grille and bulging wheelwells clearly say “tough off-road vehicle” to other drivers, on- and off-road.

082312a2The Xterra’s predominantly hard plastic interior easily holds five adults and their gear, with plenty of legroom, headroom and cargo space. A standard 60/40-split folding rear seat with removable bottom cushions and an optional fold-down front passenger seat give you added utility for hauling skis, surfboards, tents, or what have you.

You can order an Xterra in the base X, midrange S or top-level PRO-4X model. I had the PRO-4X, in one of two new colors for 2012 — Metallic Blue. Standard interior features include reclining front bucket seats, left foot dead pedal, dual front and rear 20-ounce cupholders, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry and cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls.

The Xterra comes with a roof rack and, in PRO-4X guise, it includes roof-mounted off-road lights (with snap-off covers) and a gear basket. From the beginning, this latter option has provided the perfect spot for those muddy clothes and boots from a day of exploring. If you do mess up the interior, in the S and PRO-4X versions, you have the Easy-Clean Cargo Area surface. There are also 10 utility hooks in the cargo area to hold your bike or other gear firmly in place — and the ones in the floor are set in channels so you can adjust their position.

Under the hood lives a standard 4.0-liter DOHC V6, rated at 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft torque. As a Nissan engine, it boasts advanced design features such as a lightweight aluminum block and cylinder heads, Continuous Valve Timing Control, the Nissan variable Induction Control System (NICS), silent timing chain, and microfinished camshaft and crankshaft surfaces. You also get Teflon®-coated pistons, a resin intake manifold, a digital knock control system, spark plugs that will go 105,000 miles before replacement and a high-capacity muffler.

I am not an adventure seeker, but the Xterra does find its way around town and on the freeway with no problem. Of course, the muscular, high-tech V6 is much more than you really need for picking up your dry cleaning or going to the train station. I averaged just 14.8 miles per gallon, while EPA numbers are 15 City, 20 Highway (average 17). My low number likely reflects that I spent most of my driving week in town. EPA Green Vehicle Guide numbers are a decent 6 for Air Pollution but just a 2 for Greenhouse Gas.

You can match the V6 with either a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission (only an automatic in the base model).

You also have the option of two-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive (4x4). The 4x4 models feature a part-time 4WD system with 2WD/4HI/4LO modes and an electronically controlled transfer case. PRO-4X models include two advanced off-road technologies — Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist (automatic transmission only) — as well as an electronic locking rear differential. You might expect to find features like this on a Land Rover (at much greater expense).

Pricing varies from $26,035 for the base, two-wheel-drive X to the PRO-4X automatic, like my tester, at $32,245. Both prices include $825 for shipping. There are a few extra pieces you can add at the factory or port of delivery, including a handy iPod interface, special PRO-4X floor mats (worth the $120) and for the PRO-4X only, leather seats (although why you’d really need them is a good question).

Despite its poor fuel economy, less than stellar environmental numbers and parking challenges, I enjoyed the rugged feel of driving the Xterra, and I’m sure it would be perfect for someone a little more outdoorsy than I am. It’s the real deal for those kinds of activities.

 

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