Following the lead of the Frontier pickup, a supercharged engine is now available in Nissans midsize sport utility vehicle, which has boldly proven its popularity with youthful buyers. The Tennessee-built Xterra is based on the Frontier pickup truck and was introduced for the 2000 model year as a basic, lower-cost running mate for the Nissan Pathfinder. During that calendar year, Nissan moved 88,578 of the assertively styled SUVs, according to Automotive News, handily passing up the Pathfinder to become Nissans best-selling sport utility model.
The 2002 model year brings a restyled front end with round headlights and a power-bulge hood, as well as a new instrument panel and enlarged glove box. A foot-operated parking brake replaces the original pull-type unit, which addresses many of the complaints about the awkwardness of the prior setup.
The Xterras 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine makes 143 horsepower, and the 3.3-liter V-6 is rated at 170 hp, but that figure jumps to 210 hp in supercharged form. Its the first supercharged engine in a compact SUV. Part-time four-wheel drive is available, and the interior contains brackets for bikes, tie-down hooks, and racks for kayaks and snowboards. The 2002 Xterra went on sale in August 2001.
Though the Xterra is traditional in overall appearance, it has its own highly noticeable styling touches, including flared fenders, a black grille and a higher roof than some rivals. Nissan starts with the Frontier pickups chassis and 104.3-inch wheelbase. The Xterra measures 178 inches long overall and stands 74 inches tall. A tubular aluminum roof rack holds 125 pounds, and tubular side step rails are installed. This adds another bold detail, even if its not so useful for riders who might really need help climbing aboard. Theres even a built-in basket for carrying up to 30 pounds of wet or dirty clothes, or whatever the owners care to haul.
Each Xterra has seats for five occupants. Split rear seatbacks fold down, and the back cushions are removable. Available accessories include mounting points for two mountain bikes, tie-down hooks, ceiling hooks and a first-aid kit. Storage pockets provide ample places for smaller items. With the seats folded down, cargo volume is 65.6 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine develops 143 horsepower, while the optional 3.3-liter V-6 produces 170 hp in regular form or 210 hp when supercharged. All engines are borrowed from the Frontier pickup, and they team with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The four-cylinder comes only with two-wheel drive, while the V-6 is available with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Nissans 4WD system has shift-on-the-fly capability at speeds of up to 25 mph, as well as true offroad capability. The Xterras towing capacity is 2,500 pounds with the four-cylinder engine and 5,000 pounds with the V-6. Antilock brakes are standard.
If only the Xterra werent so flamboyantly youth-oriented, it might deserve a recommendation for buyers of all ages and backgrounds. In performance, handling and even ride comfort, the Xterra scores strongly.