OK, this Nissan Xterra is nice with a bit of different styling, and although it was no surprise it’s Motor Trends choice for new Sport Utility Vehicle of the year. However, when you look at the competition below and you compare it with Jeep Cherokee Limited for example you may still lean toward the long time leader – Jeep.
For about the same money you get more power in the Jeep and I feel that is perhaps the major drawback of the Xterra.
I drove the Xterra in the boring 80-90 degree fall weather of California where the alarm clock for my 6AM flight to Denver was the 2:45 AM, 7.0 earthquake of October 16, 1999. Then when I got off the plane in Denver and picked up my Xterra I had the thrill of driving it in a snow storm. The weather conditions are ever changing in the Colorado Rockies, so this gave me the opportunity to put it through its paces in winter like conditions from mile high Denver to the 8000 cold feet of Evergreen.
Xterra and Jeep are good values and are in good company but at altitude the Nissan Xterra was a gutless wonder. Price Cobb, my race driving buddy, and I took it on a trek to the high plains of Nebraska. Most of the ice and snow melted from the time we left Evergreen to about ten miles north of Denver on highway 76. We could now use the window washers, that had finally thawed, to clean the windshield. You know how guys are. They won’t stop for anything once they get on the road. Well, I take that back – we did stop at Mac Donalds for some good old American fast food.
Price made a great observation that I pose to Nissan for their consideration. Why didn’t they put the Maxima engine in the Xterra so it wouldn’t be such a dog? Price didn’t say dog… that was my interpretation.
The climb from Denver to Evergreen is about 3000 feet and Price would push the overdrive button to turn it off when I wasn’t looking. I was more interested in talking and he wanted more speed. The point is you have to keep the RPM’s up just to keep up with traffic.
On the optimistic side of the coin, however, “the lack of horsepower and torque will likely keep you out of trouble when driving in snow”, Price said. The Xterra we tested in Colorado had the roof rack with a safari basket. The problem is that it sat over the moon roof so it couldn’t be lifted. You wouldn’t opt for both in the real world. I personally couldn’t find a use for the safari basket but it can be used for drying wet gear or securing it.
The drastic change in temperature from California to Colorado points out the need to consider what uses you’ll make of your SUV. The heated mirrors and 4X4 have little application in Los Angeles but they become obvious necessities in freezing conditions.
Xterra is based on Nissan’s Frontier pickup truck and they say it targets younger people who lead active lifestyles and find Pathfinder more expensive. The Xterra is built in Smyrna, TN and is available in five trims: XE 2WD with standard 4-cylinder or optional V6; SE 2WD V6; XE and SE 4WD V6. In other words the engine option is for slow or slower.
Chevrolet Tracker $13,925 – $16,250, Honda Passport $22,700 – $28,950, Isuzu Rodeo $18,180 – $30,650, Jeep Cherokee $16,445 – $25,210, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $22,527 – $31,357, Subaru Forester $20,095 – $22,595, Toyota RAV4 $16,668 – $18,078.
Another lower cost SUV to put pressure on pricey competitors. It does everything others do and is in fact larger than the Jeep, for one.
Not enough engine for my taste, even with the V6, poor mileage, step rails on the side only get in the way.
3.3 liter 170 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed automatic trans, 4-wheel drive, skid plates, dual airbags, front disc/ rear drum anti-lock brake system (ABS), power steering, child safety locks, air conditioning, privacy glass, rear step bumper, fog lamps, a full-size spare tire, AM/FM stereo with CD player & cassette, security system with keyless remote entry, power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, intermittent wipers, a limited-slip differential, step rails and roof rack.
15 City and 19 Highway MPG.
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