Rogue and Xterra.
Beauty and the beast -- both from Nissan.
Rogue is blessed with a clever name as well as tantalizing styling on a new compact crossover derived from the Sentra sedan.
Xterra with its rugged looks and truck-based platform is blessed with the ability to tread where Rogue shouldn't go -- off-road through deep snow, thick sand and steep hills. If Rogue should venture off the pavement, Xterra has a 4WD low setting to pull the little one back.
After having tested the fashionable Rogue, had to check out the functional Xterra. Each caters to a different buyer.
Nissan says Xterra appeals to those who like outdoor activities, from off-roading to hiking to biking to camping. It skews more toward male (53 percent) than female buyers. It's about 50/50 for Rogue, a more urban lifestyle vehicle to take you from here to there, looking good all the way.
Xterra is aimed at those looking to haul bikes and camping equipment. They want their trucks to tough and often cross-shop the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Jeep Liberty and Wrangler.
Rogue is geared more toward daily comfort and convenience. A cargo organizer, large console to hold a purse and a spacious cargo hold are designed for groceries, luggage and personal items. Cross-shops are with the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Owners are more likely to move up into a midsize Nissan Murano crossover derived from the Altima sedan than into a midsize truck-based Pathfinder SUV.
Rogue comes with front- or all-wheel-drive, holds four and offers only a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder; Xterra offers a choice of rear- or or four-wheel-drive, seats five and has only a 4-liter V-6.
We tested Xterra in the 4x4 Off Road version, which presents an immediate problem: High clearance for off-roading means high step-in/step-out height. Side steps aren't offered to keep from scraping things when traveling off-road.
Then there's the narrow rear-door opening. You have to slip over the wheel well to get in, then find knee room is snug. Running boards wouldn't help this; a low-carb diet would.
The cargo hold is ample. Rear seats fold flat for more room -- after you remove headrests. There's also some stowage capacity under the cargo floor and side pockets in the cargo walls. Too bad in ensuring so much cargo space someone didn't pay a little more attention to knee room in back.
And as for paying attention, placing a first aid kit in the rear liftgate is noble, if misguided. Someone needing first aid must pull off the road and walk around to the back to lift the gate to get a bandage. Time would be saved and use simplified if the kit was under a seat.
Nice touches include a pair of cupholders and an iPod/cell-phone holder in the center console along with a power plug under the center armrest (one in the dash, too). The seats are covered in a thick, rugged cloth ideal to rough-housing it. Too bad they don't offer more side support.
Xterra is powered by a 4-liter, 261-horsepower V-6 with a 5-speed automatic. Good power for smooth launches from the light or up an incline, but you pay at the pump -- 14 m.p.g. city/20 m.p.g. highway with 4WD.
When snow buried the subdivision, however, 4WD maneuverability was only a twist of the dial low in the dash away. Stability control and traction control helped, of course. If the snow gets very deep or the hill very steep, go can go 4WD low.
It's another story on dry roads, where there's unnecessary suspension bumpiness not noticed on snow. That high ground clearance also comes with some lean in turns and corners you probably wouldn't pay attention to on snow.
The Xterra 4x4 Off Road starts at $27,330. All Xterras offer power windows/locks/mirrors, anti-lock brakes, traction control, remote keyless entry and cruise control, as standard.
Side-curtain air bags run $700 and are a wise investment. An iPod adaptor runs $290, more than twice the $115 for floor mats -- and an indicator of the difference in wants between on- and off-roaders.
A new option is a $1,450 technology package with Rockford Fosgate AM/FM radio with in-dash six-disc CD/MP3 changer and steering-wheel controls, wireless cell-phone link, day/night mirror and compass.
As a member of the struggling midsize SUV market, Xterra sales fall 18 percent last year, to 51,355. Rogue, which competes in the popular compact crossover segment, posted 17,800 sales in only the last three months of the year, a pace that would generate more than 70,000 sales for 2008.
Though not a serious off-roader, we suspect Rogue -- with AWD and 21/26 in city/highway driving, will continue to gain a following at Xterra's expense.
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2008 Nissan Xterra Off Road V-6 4X4
Price as tested: $29,885
Length: 178.7 inches
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Engine: 4-liter, 261-h.p. V-6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 14 m.p.g. city/20 m.p.g. highway
*Dial-up 4WD, with low setting for off-road adventure.
*Ample cargo hold.
*High entry/exit level.
*Makes Rogue look so much more attractive.
$1,450 Technology package with AM/FM radio with six-disc in-dash CD player, wireless cell phone link, satellite radio steering-wheel controls, day/night mirror and compass
$700 Side-curtain air-bag package
$290 iPod adapter
$115 Floor mats
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at email@example.com.