Full 2013 Nissan Xterra Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Nissan Xterra gets a few updates, including a new audio system with auxiliary audio/USB inputs and satellite radio for S models. The top Pro-4X trim level gets automatic headlights, fancier upholstery, an outside temperature display and a navigation system with rearview camera.
Even as most consumers move away from old-school truck-based SUVs, there's still a place for rugged go-anywhere models like the 2013 Nissan Xterra. While it's true that the midsize Xterra isn't the most refined vehicle on the road, there's no denying its suitability for its intended purpose.
With its solid body-on-frame design, available four-wheel-drive system, stout suspension and room for four passengers and their gear, the Xterra is ideal for people who use their vehicles for a lot of outdoor recreation. Whether it's rock climbing, skiing or fishing at the lake, the Xterra will almost certainly get you and your equipment there without breaking a sweat.
There are downsides, of course. For purely urban use, the Xterra's somewhat truckish ride and handling are liabilities. So is its interior, which is pretty underwhelming even with the minor updates this year. Then there's the Xterra's fuel economy, which will likely be in the mid-teens for most people.
That said, the Xterra's two main competitors aren't exactly stellar in these areas either. The 2013 Jeep Wrangler is ultimately more capable off-road than the Xterra and enjoys greater support for aftermarket performance parts, but it's even less comfortable. The 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser has distinctive looks on its side, but its small, reverse-opening rear doors reduce practicality.
Meanwhile, buyers simply looking for greater peace of mind in bad weather would be wise to consider any of the latest generation of all-wheel-drive, car-based SUVs. Something like the 2013 Subaru Forester can still handle light-duty trails while also providing better driving manners. That said, if serious off-road capability is high on your list of must-haves, the 2013 Nissan Xterra deserves a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Nissan Xterra is a four-door, five-passenger SUV that's offered in three trim levels. Entry-level X and midrange S models are both available with a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive, while the off-road-oriented Pro-4X is four-wheel drive only.
The X comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass, roof rack side rails, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, cruise control, a tilt-only steering wheel and a six-speaker CD stereo.
Stepping up to the S gets you 16-inch alloy wheels, off-road tires, a driver seat with adjustable height and lumbar, a first aid kit, a cargo organization system and an upgraded sound system with auxiliary audio input/USB jacks and satellite radio. Four-wheel-drive S models also get a roof rack with crossbars and a gear basket.
The Pro-4X adds a number of off-road-ready features including an electronic locking rear differential, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, Bilstein shock absorbers, skid plates and unique 16-inch alloy wheels with upgraded off-road tires. It also has automatic headlights, foglights and roof-mounted off-road driving lights. Inside upgrades include distinctive cloth upholstery, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, white-face gauges, an auto-dimming rearview mirror (with built-in compass), outside temperature display, a navigation system with rearview camera, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio (automatic transmission models only). The Pro-4X Leather package adds leather upholstery and a passenger seatback map pocket, but deletes the flat-folding front passenger seat.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Nissan Xterra is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. Two-wheel-drive X and S models can only be had with a five-speed automatic transmission, while the four-wheel-drive S and Pro-4X have a choice between the automatic and a six-speed manual. Rear-wheel drive is standard (except on the Pro-4X), and a four-wheel-drive system with a multimode low-range transfer case is available as an option.
In Edmunds performance testing, an Xterra 4x4 with an automatic transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds. The rear-wheel-drive Xterra returns an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. Adding four-wheel drive lowers those numbers to 15/20/17.
The 2013 Nissan Xterra is equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Pro-4X models also come with hill-descent control and hill-start assist. In Edmunds brake testing, an Xterra Pro-4X came to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet -- an average result for an off-road-oriented SUV.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Xterra its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side impact tests and a second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the roof strength test.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the rest of the vehicle, the interior of the 2013 Nissan Xterra has a rough-n-ready vibe. There are lots of hard plastic surfaces which, in a vehicle like this, are actually something of a positive, as it makes everything easier to clean after a long day on the trail. Everything else shows a similarly practical bent, with straightforward gauges and controls. While everything is perfectly serviceable here, keep in mind that most car-based crossover SUVs will offer nicer accommodations along with a more extensive list of creature comforts.
When it comes to hauling gear instead of people, the Xterra shines with a cargo hold boasting nice touches like built-in storage spots for items like a first aid kit and multiple tie-down points for securing your load. Behind the rear seats there are 35 cubic feet of cargo space, which can be expanded to 66 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded down. The standard fold-flat front passenger seat on Pro-4X models makes it possible to squeeze in long items with the rear liftgate closed, and oversize or muddy gear can be toted up on top with the beefy roof rack and gear basket.
With 261 hp on tap, the 3.5-liter V6 under the hood of the 2013 Nissan Xterra gives it plenty of pick-up in everyday use. The engine also develops plenty of torque, which is an asset when tackling slow-speed off-road obstacles.
The combination of rugged body-on-frame design, generous ground clearance, a long-travel suspension and a low-range transfer case only add to the Xterra's sure-footedness when the pavement ends. On the road, the ride and handling are rather trucklike, especially in Pro-4X models. But we suspect buyers looking for this level of off-road capability will find it more tolerable than the average SUV shopper.