2013 Nissan Xterra

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2006 Nissan Xterra

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Youth-oriented Xterra makes no apologies for being a rugged, go-anywhere SUV truck.
Pros:
  • New lower-cost entry-level trim
  • More equipment
  • Off-road prowess
Cons:
  • High step-in
  • Narrow rear door openings
  • Front seats need more side support

The midsize Nissan Xterra is a tough guy SUV, with a rugged design and solid off-road abilities. It leaves the more comfortable car-based SUVs for "softies."

Introduced in 1999, the Xterra got more power, room and utility for 2005. It strongly resembled the original Xterra, but received bolder styling and a longer wheelbase for a better ride and more occupant space. The Xterra also received a stronger, more modern frame, which got rid of the earlier version's shakes and rattles.

Always a good seller, the changes helped Xterra sales in 2005—not a very good year for rugged SUVs—to rise to 72,447 units from 66,690 in the previous year.

Uncompromising Game Plan
The game plan for the Xterra never has been to make it softer to grab more buyers. It's no car-based SUV or crossover vehicle, but a genuine truck for rough use and rugged off-road driving. Nissan offers its Murano and Pathfinder SUVs for those who want more style and comfort.

Extreme active lifestyle people single out the Xterra because it's sort of a sports locker on wheels, with such items as cubbies, nets and a roof-mounted storage compartment for wet, dirty clothes. Rear side bumper steps allow easier access to that compartment.

There also are such outdoor-oriented features as 10 cargo area utility hooks and an adjustable channel system in the cargo floor that makes it easier to secure bike racks and other accessories or gear.

Large Cargo Area
While the hatch lacks a separate glass opening, the cargo area is large and becomes more spacious with the rear seat folded forward. And you can get an Xterra with a folding front passenger seat for even more room. The cargo area is especially easy to clean.

The Xterra has a decent amount of standard equipment, despite its go-anywhere nature. Even the base trim level has air conditioning, a tilt wheel, an AM/FM/CD player, a rear wiper and a full-size spare tire. There's also anti-lock brakes and an anti-skid system.

Higher-line trim levels add such items as a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, an upscale audio system and tubular side steps (spell running boards).

Options include $700 side-curtain airbags, $350 satellite radio and a $440 tow kit.

Forget frills such as leather upholstery or a sunroof because Nissan feels that such items would be out of place for the Xterra.

Quick Acceleration
But there's no stinting on performance: The Xterra has a sophisticated 4.0-liter V6 with 265 horsepower and plenty of torque. The engine sounds gruff during hard acceleration but propels the Xterra to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds and allows quick merging, safe highway passing and easy high-speed cruising.

Rear or 4-wheel drive with low-range gearing are offered.

The V6 works with a 6-speed manual gearbox or crisp-shifting 5-speed automatic transmission.

Decent Handling
The quick steering is rather heavy, and a wide turning circle doesn't help close-quarters maneuverability. Handling is good if the Xterra isn't driven too hard, and the brakes provide short stops. Although improved, the ride is predictably truck-like despite the longer wheelbase and gets choppy over some roads.

High fuel economy can't be expected with a powerful SUV that weighs 4,150 to 4,402 pounds. The Xterra thus delivers only an estimated 16-17 mpg in the city and 21-22 on the highway, with manual transmission rear-wheel-drive models getting the slightly better numbers.

New Affordable Trim Level
The Xterra always has been pretty affordable, which adds to its appeal to younger drivers. The 2006 version is a little more affordable with the debut of a new X trim level, which start at $20,050. (The lowest-cost 2005 Xterra was $20,850.)

Other trim levels are the S, Off-Road (with a tougher suspension and mud-loving tires) and the top-line SE.

List prices stop at $27,750 for the 4-wheel-drive SE with an automatic transmission. (No SE comes with a manual gearbox.) The lowest-priced S is $22,250 with a manual transmission and the lowest-cost Off Road is $23,850 with the manual.

New Standard Power Package
The Power Package has been made standard on the S. It contains cruise control, remote keyless entry, power door locks, mirrors and windows—and an immobilizer with a vehicle security system and alarm. This package is available for the X for $1,100.

Other changes for 2006 include a standard glove box lock and light and available satellite radio.

It requires extra effort to climb in the tall Xterra, and the side steps are too narrow to be helpful to those with large shoe sizes, especially when slippery. Narrow rear door openings also hamper entry—and exit.

Roomy
But there's good room for four tall adults in the utility-oriented interior. Gauges can be quickly read, and controls are easy to reach and use, but look and feel plasticky. Front seats should provide more side support, and rear seat cushions are too flat, although they're raised to give rear occupants a better view of surroundings.

Front cupholders are placed for no-spill use, the console has a roomy storage bin and front doors have pockets with bottle holders.

The Xterra is an honest vehicle because it doesn't pretend to be something it's not. That's comforting when its driver confronts challenging conditions.

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BB01 - 8/21/2014 11:16:14 PM