Auto Review: The Xterra soldiers on

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Fri., Nov. 8, 2013
- Contributed Photo

There’s something to be said for traditional, tried and true technology, especially if the most critical qualities you need in a vehicle are ruggedness and durability. That’s not to say modern technology doesn’t have its place in durable, off-road capable SUVs, but it’s nice to know the designers and engineers on such vehicles are trying to keep things as simple and bulletproof as possible.

A great example of a vehicle that uses older engineering solutions because they’re reliable and proven is the Nissan Xterra, for while this vehicle has evolved over time since it was first introduced into the U.S. market for the 2000 model year, the basic body-on frame, straight rear axle simplicity is still intact. But the electronics, equipment options and drivetrain have been improved over time so the vehicle is more capable than ever, all while designed to be low-maintenance and capable of getting you through the most difficult driving conditions and home again in comfort.

The Xterra rides on a fully-boxed truck frame and is powered by Nissan’s proven 4-liter V6 that generates 261 horsepower and is available with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. You can outfit your Xterra with either rear-wheel or 4WD, the latter being a part-time system. We had the automatic with 4WD, which proved to be both versatile and a great mix of quick response on the road (60 mph arrived in under 8 seconds) and strong, tractable off-road performance. The traditional 4WD transfer case is electronically operated and has 2WD/4WD High/4WD Low settings, accessible on the fly. Our PRO-4X model also featured an electronic locking rear differential, as well as Hill Descent and Hill Start Assist controls to enhance both terrain management and safety. Ride quality is on the firm side, which should surprise no one given the PRO-4X’s Bilstein shocks and off-road suspension. Steering precision is good, and the tight, 37-foot turning radius comes in mighty handy on road or off. 

The interior of the Xterra is designed to be not only versatile but easy to care for, considering it’s likely to bear the brunt of active lifestyles where the outdoors often gets indoors. At this trim level, the driver gets an eight-way adjustable seat with generous side bolsters to help keep you firmly in place during extreme off-road adventuring. The cargo area (like the rest of the vehicle) is designed to be easy to clean, and the only fault with the interior is that access to the rear seat is a bit cramped, given the smallish doors, and the room is less than cavernous once you get there. The cargo area is generous, though, and there’s an unusually stout roof rack that can handle all manner of tools and toys. It’s all part of the functional nature of this SUV, and a big reason why it’s so popular.

The 2013 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X A/T is EPA rated 15 MPG city/20 highway and has a base price of $30,490. With options, our sticker came to $31,925.

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