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.