How's this for a novel idea: an SUV that acts like an SUV. In this crazy
world where automakers try to woo sport-utility buyers with terms like "car-like
ride" and "nimble handling," it's nice to see Nissan is still making a
truly rugged SUV - not one that just looks the part.
Nissan's Xterra, an oh-so-cool vehicle that seems perfect for
hauling mountain bikes or surfboards on a weekend road trip, and doesn't pretend to be
something it's not. It looks like a truck, and it's got the off-road performance and
hardware to match - perfect for Generation Xers' Xtreme.
Interior style matches the tool-like, industrial look of the
Xterras body, and materials and construction seem top-notch. The cabin can get a
little noisy on the highway because of the off-road tires and a rugged, all-business
Xcursions to the X-games. Okay. So this "X" thing is
getting a little out of hand. Unlike most new mini-SUVs that are essentially tough-looking
station wagons, the Xterra is based on a real body-on-frame truck platform that's meant to
be driven off-road - to the middle of nowhere and beyond. As such, it's got thick skid
plates to protect its underside, a tough leaf-spring suspension in back, and a solid rear
axle, all of which are rare on today's crop of mini sport utes.
Can you feel the hormones? Nissans rugged Xterra oozes
youthful appeal from its tough-looking body, and its off-road performance matches the wild
look. This true truck-based SUV is no pretender, but that means on-road comfort is
That's because all those things contribute to a jaunty ride around
town, and - let's face it - an awful lot of SUVs never leave the concrete jungle. If
you're looking for a cushy vehicle to drive from Starbucks to Nordstroms, forget
about the Xterra.
While there are plenty of more comfortable SUVs for jaunts around
town, like the Ford Escape or Honda CR-V, few in this low-end price range have the
Xterra's unusual blend of mountain-goat capability and hipster attitude.
Its muscular bulges and athletic lines seem full of teen-age
hormones, and its rock-solid suspension will keep going off-road long after its
competitors bite the dust.
And, it may be rugged, but the Xterra is far from unrefined. If you
can look past the bouncy ride and noisy cabin on the highway (thanks to its deeply grooved
tires, no doubt), it's a fine truck with few compromises inside.
Materials and construction appear top-notch, with solid-feeling
panels and switches, and controls are all located perfectly. Seats are comfortable too,
especially with the available lumbar support adjustment on V6 models.
Top-of-the-line Xterras, like the 2003 Xterra XE-V6 4X4, come with a
way-cool supercharged V6 engine, while lesser models have either a four-banger or normally
aspirated V6. Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds with an automatic transmission,
which is considerably more than its car-based competitors.
Anti-lock brakes come standard, and they provide plenty of stopping
power and good feel at the pedal. Other safety features include optional side curtain air
bags and a vehicle stability control system.
Why buy it? Because its designed to go anywhere, any time.
Xterra is one of the last real SUVs, since most of its competitors have essentially become
tough-looking station wagons designed for on-road travel.
Overall, it's refreshing to see an SUV that lives up to its image as
a go anywhere, do-anything vehicle designed for off-road fun. That's Xactly what SUVs are
supposed to be.