Full 2014 Nissan Xterra Review
What's New for 2014
All 2014 Nissan Xterras get Bluetooth phone connectivity and steering wheel-mounted audio controls as standard equipment. In addition, heated cloth seats and smartphone app integration (with Internet radio streaming) are now standard on the Pro-4X model, while heated leather seats are a new option. There are also new alloy wheel designs this year.
Although crossover SUVs make more sense for the majority of today's shoppers, traditional, truck-based utility vehicles like the 2014 Nissan Xterra still have their place. The Xterra is a function-over-form, midsize five-passenger SUV aimed at buyers who truly enjoy the great outdoors and want a vehicle that can take them well off the beaten path. With that mission in mind, the Xterra has a simple, easy-to-clean interior with compartments for muddy gear. It also has quite a bit of off-road capability thanks to a rugged suspension and an available four-wheel-drive system.
For buyers who regularly seek out dirt- and snow-packed trails, the 2014 Xterra offers a pretty compelling package. It also has a pretty comfortable and civilized ride compared with other off-road-themed body-on-frame SUVs. And with a standard 4.0-liter V6 engine, it's certainly not slow. But if you drive it back to back with any of the more modern crossovers in this price range, it's bound to feel rudimentary, even crude. Handling around turns is rather clumsy, and inside, there's no disguising the Nissan's abundance of hard plastic surfaces. The availability of Bluetooth across the line this year is certainly welcome, though, and if you spring for the 2014 Xterra Pro-4X, you'll have the ability to stream Pandora and iHeartRadio -- provided your smartphone has cell service in whatever remote location you're exploring.
If you're shopping for a serious four-wheeling SUV, there are only a few options in this price range. The 2014 Jeep Wrangler is even more capable off-road and enjoys a much wider selection of available aftermarket performance parts. It's not as well suited for daily use on pavement, though, mainly due to its loud cabin. The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser is in its final year of production and nearly as capable off-road as the Wrangler, but its reverse-opening rear doors can be a pain to deal with if you have kids riding in back.
Meanwhile, buyers simply looking for peace of mind in bad weather would be wise to consider any of the latest generation of all-wheel-drive, car-based crossover SUVs. Vehicles like the Jeep Cherokee and Subaru Forester can still handle light-duty trails while also providing better driving manners than any of the above vehicles. That said, if serious off-road capability is high on your list of must-haves, the 2014 Nissan Xterra deserves a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 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, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a six-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary input.
Stepping up to the S gets you 16-inch alloy wheels, a front tow hook, a driver seat with adjustable height and lumbar, a first-aid kit, a cargo organization system, and an upgraded sound system with a USB input 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, heated front seats (with fold-flat capability for the front-passenger seat), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror (with built-in compass), a navigation system with a rearview camera, a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system, and Nissan's suite of smartphone-connected services with voice control and Internet radio. 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 2014 Nissan Xterra is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine 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 4WD with an automatic transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, which is average for a midsize SUV with a V6 engine. The rear-wheel-drive Xterra is rated an EPA-estimated 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway). Add four-wheel drive and the manual transmission, and the estimates drop to 17 combined (16 city/20 highway). With the automatic transmission and 4WD, the Xterra still earns 17 mpg for combined driving but has a 15-mpg city rating.
The 2014 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 139 feet, which is typical for an off-road-oriented SUV with all-terrain tires.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Xterra its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests and a second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the roof strength test.The Nissan's seat/head restraint design was rated "Marginal" (the second-lowest rating on a four-point scale) for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the rest of the vehicle, the interior of the 2014 Nissan Xterra has a rough-and-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. While there's ample room for four adults, 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 36.3 cubic feet of cargo space, and folding the seats expands that to 65.7 cubic feet -- a solid number for this class. 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.
The 4.0-liter V6 under the hood of every 2014 Nissan Xterra develops plenty of torque, which is an asset whether you're merging onto the expressway or tackling low-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. When driving on pavement, you'll likely notice that the ride, while reasonably comfortable, isn't as smooth and refined as on typical crossover SUVs in this price range. Likewise, the Xterra feels a bit clumsy going around tight turns, and its steering is on the slow side.
Shoppers who are looking to the 2014 Nissan Xterra primarily for its off-road capability likely won't be surprised by any of these tradeoffs, but if you just want a utility vehicle to drive to work, there are better options out there.