I settled on the XTerra after driving way too many mid-sized SUVs. I drove the XTerra first, and I kept coming back to it. It beats competitors hands down. The powertrain is excellent (smooth, powerful, responsive). Comfortable. Good looking in a geekish kind of way. A great dog vehicle--fold down the rear, and there's no fabric touching the dogs, so its easy to clean. The dogs get a great view, too. Great handling in snow, mud, and sand (haven't had it on rock yet). I wouldn't recommend this for commuters--this is a true 4WD so expect to feel bumps (and pain and the pump, but that's expected, so no downgrade there). If you like to play outside, and have a lot of toys, you want this
Powertrain. Cleanable interior (yes, the plastic is hard. That's the point). Handling is awesome for an SUV--nimble, tight. Great Rockford Fosgate sound system. Best SUV for dogs on the market. Steps on the side of the bumpers are truly functional (loading, cleaning snow off the top).
I'll nit-pick: auto-down on the power windows is good, auto-up is better. I'd feel better if the rear hatch had a solid handle--everytime I open it, I feel like I'm going to break the combo latch/handle. The interior bike rack is only available through your dealer.
† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.