Xterra debuted for 2000 as a basic, lower-cost running mate for the Pathfinder, and it scored impressive achievements in its first year. It earned the North American Truck of the Year award from a panel of journalists, passed up the Pathfinder as Nissans best-selling SUV and succeeded in attracting younger buyers to the brand.
Based on the Frontier pickup, the Xterra is built in Smyrna, Tenn., at the same plant as the Frontier.
While other manufacturers create sport utility vehicles out of cars, Nissan goes the traditional route with the Xterra, using the Frontiers 104.3-inch wheelbase and truck chassis.
Xterra has its own styling, including flared fenders, a black grille and a higher roof. A tubular aluminum roof rack that holds 125 pounds, a built-in basket for carrying up to 30 pounds of wet or dirty clothes, and tubular side step rails are standard.
Xterra has seats for five, and the split rear seatbacks fold for additional cargo space. The rear cushions also are removable to create more room for gear. Mounting points for two mountain bikes, tie-down hooks, ceiling hooks and a first-aid kit are available as accessories.
Several storage pockets around the interior provide ample places to stash smaller items. A CD player is standard instead of optional this year on the XE.
Under the Hood
Engine choices are a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 143 horsepower and a 3.3-liter V-6 with 170 hp both borrowed from the Frontier pickup. The four-cylinder comes only with two-wheel drive, and the V-6 is available with two-wheel or four-wheel drive. The 4WD system has shift-on-the-fly capability up to 25 mph. Unlike car-based SUVs that are designed mainly for on-road duty, the truck-based Xterra has true offroad capability.
Towing capacity is 2,500 pounds with the four-cylinder engine and 5,000 pounds with the V-6.
Give Nissan credit for calling a truck a truck and not apologizing for it. Unlike most SUVs, which seldom get off the beaten path, Nissan expects Xterras will get dirty often, so it has equipped it accordingly.
The 4WD system is old-fashioned compared to most others because of its limited shift-on-the-fly capability, and both engines are loud and coarse. There is ample cargo and passenger room, and the prices are reasonable.
If you want comfort and luxury, look elsewhere. If you want a vehicle designed for banging over unpaved roads and hauling dirt bikes, check out the Xterra.