Aimed at younger, active buyers, the Nissan Xterra is a midsize SUV with enhanced off-road ability. Built with stout body-on-frame construction and available four-wheel drive, the Xterra is a steady seller among those who use their SUV for outdoor recreation -- or those who simply wish to look the part. Its on-road manners might lack the comfort or refinement of its car-based crossover competitors, but we'd recommend the Xterra as one of the better new or used sport-utilities on the market if off-roading figures into your regular routine. It features solid build quality and a reliable nature, which translates into confidence-inspiring peace of mind as you head off into the wilderness of the urban -- or more distant -- jungle.
Current Nissan Xterra
The current Nissan Xterra is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 generating 261 horsepower, paired with either a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. It's available in three trim levels: X, S and Pro-4X. The first two are offered in either rear- or four-wheel-drive versions, while the Pro-4X is offered in 4WD only. The entry-level X comes with full power features, air-conditioning, keyless entry and a six-speaker stereo with CD player. The S adds alloy wheels, step rails, a multi-adjustable driver seat and an easy-to-clean cargo area with enhanced tie-down points, while the Pro-4X model includes off-road tires and shocks, a locking rear differential and optional leather upholstery.
In reviews, our editors have liked the powerful V6 engine and above-average off-road capability. The Xterra doesn't deliver the sharp handling a crossover SUV might, so if you never plan to leave the street, there are better compact or midsize SUV choices. But if trail-busting (or looking like a trail buster) is your thing, you can't do much better than the Xterra at this price point.
Used Nissan Xterra Models
The current-generation Xterra debuted in 2005, marking the first major redesign for the model. It shared not a single part with its predecessor, yet looked vaguely familiar. The second-generation vehicle's overall length didn't change, but the wheelbase stretched by 2 inches. This offered not only a sleeker and better integrated look, but also improved ramp angles for increased off-road clearance. More importantly, the Xterra then clambered up slopes (or suburban driveways) like a mountain goat on amphetamines, thanks to a powerful 4.0-liter V6 that addressed the power shortage of first-generation models.
Buyers looking for a used current-generation Nissan Xterra can't really go wrong, as there have been no significant mechanical changes. But be aware that the X model did not receive basic convenience items like power accessories until 2008. The Xterra received a slight refresh for '09, getting a face-lift and standard front side and side curtain airbags. The airbags were previously optional, so shoppers would be wise to note whether an earlier Xterra of this generation has them.
The first-generation Xterra was unveiled in 2000 as a rugged and functional compact SUV against competitors comprised mostly of more fragile and less capable car-based vehicles. While it sold well initially, early Nissan Xterras did have a few rough edges. The bare interior was constructed of hard plastic panels, the ride was harsh and the modest four-cylinder and 170-hp V6 engines barely had enough oomph to propel the truck-based SUV around town.
Detail upgrades carried through to 2002, when Nissan added a supercharged V6 to boost performance, modified front-end styling -- including a hood bulge on blown models -- and refined controls, cabin trim and audio systems to help bring it up to date. In 2003, both the regular and supercharged V6 engines received slight power boosts, and the Xterra was treated to trim and styling tweaks. Stability control and side curtain airbags also became available.
To avoid the teething problems in 2000-'01 vehicles, shoppers may want to focus on these revised 2002-'04 models, particularly the supercharged versions, when searching for used first-generation Nissan Xterras.
Read the most recent 2013 Nissan Xterra review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Nissan Xterra page.