2009 Nissan Xterra

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$22,310

starting MSRP

2009 Nissan Xterra

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Strong V-6 engine
  • Automatic transmission shifts
  • Supportive seats
  • Towing capacity

The bad:

  • Poor brake-pedal feel
  • Seat belts can get trapped under backseat
  • Gas mileage

4 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2009 Nissan Xterra trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Standard 261-hp V-6
  • Standard stability system
  • Revised front end
  • Standard side curtain airbags
  • Available leather seats

2009 Nissan Xterra review: Our expert's take

By

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:


The 2009 Nissan Xterra may be more refined, but I just don’t like it.

I want to.

I think it looks really cool when you walk up to it. The straight-line design conveys a kind of high-tech ruggedness. The vehicle’s face is smushed as if a giant grandmother squeezed it just a little too long. There’s an appeal to the Xterra.

And when you see people riding in one, they always look so happy — and young. These are the people who kayak on Monday, bungee jump Wednesday, skydive Saturday and then go clubbing.

While I’m no spring chicken, I don’t consider myself old either. The 40s are the new 30s aren’t they? I could krump, if I knew what it was.

But the Xterra, despite the exterior refresh for this model year — the front end was reworked and an optional roof light package is now available — and a few interior upgrades (I’ll get to those later), it never connected with me. It doesn’t fit my lifestyle of work on Monday, work on Tuesday, sleep in on Saturday and get ready for work on Sunday.

The ride was bumpy and noisy, kind of like my 20s. The interior felt cheap overall and offered too many plastic parts for my liking.

It may have the off-road prowess of a wildebeest, but I’ve never felt the need to drive out to see a wildebeest. If I want wildebeest, I’ll ask the waiter.

Just because I didn’t like this SUV doesn’t mean it’s a bad vehicle. I’m sure there are plenty of people who drive their Xterras and love every minute in them — then again, just because they like them, doesn’t mean it’s a good vehicle either.

The high driving position provides good lines of sight and the seats are very comfortable. Lots of people like trucks. And the Xterra is certainly a truck.

Built on the same platform as the Nissan Frontier pickup, the Xterra uses a fully-boxed steel frame. The double-wishbone front suspension and solid axle leaf spring suspension in back make it ride like a truck. It has more of a truck ride than many pickups. Every bump is hard and jarring.

Along Interstate 75, a road great for testing a vehicle’s suspension, Xterra nudged and jostled me. By the time I got out, I was ready to make an appointment for my benchmark colon check.

Additionally, the high ride limits the vehicle’s speed. You can hit 80 mph pretty easily but then it starts to feel light on the road and the speed-sensitive, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering loosens up. In my 20s, I may have felt indestructible, so that kind of driving wouldn’t bother me. Today, I know better, so I slowed down.

Furthermore, the wind noise leaking into the cabin was extremely high. Fortunately, my test vehicle came equipped with the 300-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo system with eight speakers and a subwoofer. If you can’t have a quiet ride, have a really loud one.

The 4-liter V-6 is an excellent powertrain and provided plenty of power. It produces 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. The five-speed automatic transmission was smooth through upshifts and downshifts. The Xterra never hunts and pecks for a gear, and I liked its confidence.

My test vehicle also came with Nissan’s technology package, a bundled set of options that focus on making the driving experience much more modern. Aside from the Rockford Fosgate stereo, it includes steering wheel audio controls, an auxiliary jack for your personal music device, XM Satellite Radio and a Bluetooth Hands-free phone system. The Bluetooth was easy to connect and worked well, despite the noisy ride.

The interior was comfortable, though, there was just too much shiny plastic throughout the vehicle. I understand the need for some of it — it’s easy to clean and if you’re out rock climbing or mountain biking, you want something that is versatile and wipes up quickly. But the plastic cargo area also means if you put groceries back there, they will slide around at every turn. I imagine the people driving Xterras never have mundane grocery shopping on their activity lists. I do.

Nissan does provide tie-down hooks on the floor and ceiling, but those are made for much bigger items than groceries.

The Xterra offers plenty of space for five adults. The interior volume is impressive and the second row is nearly as comfortable as the front bucket seats.

I can see how it can be a fun vehicle for the right person. It looks cool — the rugged exterior is tamed with a good interior. It can connect to your phone and iPod and carry all of your stuff for those weekend adventures.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like Xterra: I’m jealous of that young, hip lifestyle and the vehicles that carry laughing people off to the woods.

No, after putting in the mandatory 100 miles in the Xterra, I parked it in the driveway and thought it over. I’m not envious, I’ve already enjoyed my 20s — and I’ve got no desire to relive them.

While the Xterra has an extra helping of styling, it doesn’t meet the minimum standard I hold for ride and handling.

Style may get you through the early years, but substance trumps it every day of the week.

sburgess@detnews.com (313) 223-3217

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.1
  • Interior design 4.1
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value for the money 4.5
  • Exterior styling 4.4
  • Reliability 4.6

Most recent consumer reviews

4.7

Most reliable and versatile car I've ever owned

This vehicle is endlessly versatile, reliable and a joy to own. It does everything I require. Great for towing, easy to load, great to drive. Loves bad weather, especially snow. I sure wish Nissan was still making them

5.0

Great car and fun too

I have owned this xTerra for 8 years now. It has been one of the best most versatile vehicles I have owned. I have babied it and the mileage is mostly highway miles as I commute 40 miles per day to work. This will be a great car for anyone. Don't overlook it.

5.0

I have one word, AWESOME.

AWESOME vehicle! One of the best SUV / trucks I have ever had the pleasure of owning or driving. I would recommend the Xterra to anyone.

See all 13 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Nissan
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Corrosion
60 months/unlimited distance
Powertrain
60 months/60,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
6 years/less than 80,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
N/A
Powertrain
84 months/100,000 miles (includes LEAF electric vehicle system and powertrain)
Dealer certification required
167-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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