With its fully boxed ladder frame and hardy four-wheel drive, Xterra is ready to hit the rocky trail, and the new 265-horsepower V-6 provides plenty of pull for scaling ridges or passing on the freeway.
The beefy engine comes standard in all Xterras, right down to the $20,000, two-wheel-drive base model.
Xterra was first introduced in 1999 as an alternative to the bigger, fancier SUVs that were taking over the market. Designed for younger drivers who actually use the SUV for treks into the wilderness, Xterra came with the capability, the simplicity and the look that evoked images of backwoods camping, kayaking or hiking trips.
Nissan pushed the adventure-truck image for the updated version. The bolder body style has ferociously flared fenders and a broadened hood. The rear bumper has built-in steps so you can reach the huge tubular roof rack. It's like something you'd take on safari.
Of course, there are tradeoffs. With the booming popularity of car-based crossover SUVs, drivers are getting used to adventurous-looking vehicles that drive like sedans. Xterra drives like a truck, heavy and somewhat ponderous, and you have to adjust accordingly. Gas mileage is modest, at best.
The only direct competitor is the Jeep Liberty, which also makes no bones about being a truck, with similar compromises. And it also feels at home off the pavement.
Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door sport utility, four-wheel drive.
Engine: 4-liter V-6, 265 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, 284 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed automatic.
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches.
Overall length: 178.7 inches.
Curb weight: 4,347 pounds.
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds.
EPA rating: 16 city, 21 highway.
Highs: Engine power, moderate price, adventure image.
Lows: Heavy handling, tight interior, modest gas mileage.