2005 Nissan Xterra Review

Pros & Cons

  • One of the most powerful V6s in the class, above average off-road capability, solid passenger room, innovative cargo features.
  • Still not what we would call refined on the street, a few instances of low-grade interior materials.
List Price Estimate
$3,203 - $5,483

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Edmunds' Expert Review

With newfound power under the hood, a more refined suspension underneath and more passenger space inside, Nissan addresses all the shortcomings of the previous Xterra without taking away any of the appealing attitude that made it a hit in the first place.

2005 Highlights

The Xterra has been fully redesigned for 2005 with a new platform, a more powerful V6 and a more spacious interior.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2005 Nissan Xterra.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

I, too, have experienced the faulty radiator leaking into the transmission and ruining it...I have 109000 miles so it is beyond the 80000 mile warranty and nissan wants thousands to fix it....acknowledging that the faulty radiator caused the problem, not wear, tear, etc.....so now they want me to pay the hefty bill for a new radiator and transmission for a defect in the automobile....Shame on Nissan for not recalling and fixing this problem
Still an excellent, versatile backcountry SUV!
michael sanders,04/08/2016
S 4WD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 6M)
Purchased used in 2009, 48K miles, now 104.5K miles. replaced clutch (premature failure, undersized original clutch, design defect, Nissan would not acknowledge or repair) at about 55K with non-Nissan appropriately-robust clutch parts from Jim Wolf Technology, San Diego, no further clutch issues to date. Original BFG tires replaced at 63K. Replaced radiator at about 75k (early I think, assume due to substandard quality components). Fuel sensor replaced under warranty at about 80K. No other significant issues. Interior fabric holding up very well, plastic in cargo area getting beat up, but as expected given how I use the X. Original sound system crappy, replaced with better set up. For my needs (emphasized), excellent off-road and backcountry vehicle. Very functional multi-use, versatile SUV. For my needs, pluses are: 1) best in class fuel economy for truck-based SUV based on my research, especially with 6-speed standard tranny (typically avg. 23 mpg if kept to 70 mph on highway, 2K rpm in 6th gear). 2) short wheel base, tight turning ratio, fits in my garage and very maneuverable on tight back country trails. Only about 6" longer then our 2004 Honda Civic. 3) Easy to remove back seat bottom cushions (that's called attention to detail!), makes 6.5 foot long flat deck with home-built platform extension. Comfortable for extended camping trip sleeping platform for two people. roof rack compartment handy for solar shower bag! 4) very good 4WD offroad performance in challenging, very rough terrain (SEVERELY tested in Canyonlands NP Maze District and other western locals, and was impressive). 5) Initial research via Consumer Reports indicated very good repair record, similar to Toyota 4 Runner, but comparable Toyota vehicle $5-$6K more expensive, and no standard transmission available. Toyota probably more reliable in hindsite, but Xterra cheaper to buy, so more $$ available for occasional repairs. October 2018 update: X now has 131K+ miles. No other significant mechanical issues since the premature clutch failure other than mostly routine stuff. Replacement clutch with non-Nissan Jim Wolf Technology components has been trouble-free so far. I'm still vy impressed with the overall versatility and attention to detail of this vehicle given my specific needs, and plan to drive it until the "doors fall off". And it still consistently gets an average of about 23 mpg (ranges from 22 to 24+) with the standard tranny, which again is excellent for this type of truck-based 4wd rock crawler type vehicle. Bummer that Nissan stopped making Xterras in 2016, but not enough demand apparently. Maybe the next version will be a hybrid??
trans has design flaw
SE 4WD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)
I have a 2005 Xterra and this a known problem that the radiator leaks into the trans causing both to fail. Nissan was sued over this problem and lost, so they extended the warranty to cover fixing. This problem also exists on the Frontier and Pathfinder. Nissan doesn't tell you this and I found out the hard way.
Love it, Hate it.. It's a good vehicle!
Brian Schott,04/27/2018
S 4WD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)
Purchased mine very much used @ 143K miles recently.. This is a very well built vehicle, with a strong engine. Ok, so the interior isn't fantastic, but it's functional, and mind you I've been happy with my European vehicles (BMW), exclusively, for many years now. Steering is a bit heavy, but I can forgive that. The "S" model doesn't have a rear locker, but who needs that anyhow. Driver's fabric seat has a rip in it, but I don't care, because I'm happy driving it. I wanted a vehicle I can take off road that's reliable, and this is it. But be well aware that there is a fatal flaw a few mention here in the reviews. If your planning on buying one, you'll want to research "SMOD", or "Strawberry milkshake of death". Essentially the trans fluid passes through a small radiator/heat exchanger in the bottom of the vehicles radiator that has a weak point -- the unions, and as such will fail causing the coolant to mix with the trans fluid. Nissan issued a TSB at some point in the past, creative owners bypassed this weakness during that time as a simple DIY, some supplemented this DIY with an auxiliary transmission cooler. I added one as a preventative, not that the vehicle was suffering with any problems. Doing your homework on this will save you gobs of money. Luckily the owner of my vehicle (or Nissan) performed this bypass before a SMOD event occurred. I've performed a full fluid change on this vehicle (including all diff's, transfer cases, engine, and transmission oil) just to cover myself. Other, somewhat minor, area of concern is the acessory belt tensioner as it's essentially weak, thus causing a squealing as the belt slips on the pulleys. Gates makes a kit and supplies you with the tensioner and belt for a reasonable 38 bucks through Amazon. Other minor area of concern is that the hood tends to pull and make noise as wind comes underneath it in heavy frontal winds. Take a 12mm socket and simply loosen the three hood latch bolts, and push the hood latch down, and retighten.. Done, and one. Great vehicle, just do your research. There's reports of people achieving over 360K on the stock vehicle with basic maintenance.. No reason you can achieve the same with a little TLC.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2005 Nissan Xterra features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2005 Nissan Xterra
More About This Model

The Nissan Xterra is and always has been an oddity in the ever-expanding SUV world. When it was introduced as a 2000 model, the strangely styled off-road-oriented sport-ute was priced to compete with car-based SUVs, yet it packed the rugged body-on-frame construction and hefty drivetrain of a larger and more expensive truck-based hauler. Nissan's plan for the 2000 Xterra was to build an SUV for younger, more active people who needed the space and versatility of a large vehicle but wanted to look edgy and cool when they pulled up to the lake or off-road trails.

While the initial vehicle sold well, the first Nissan Xterra did have a few glaring issues that needed to be dealt with. The interior was spartan and composed mostly of hard plastic panels, the ride was a bit jarring and with only 170 horsepower on tap the diminutive V6 barely had enough oats to propel the midsize SUV around town. Nissan attempted to fix these flaws when the Xterra underwent a midcycle redesign in 2002, and we found it to be a much improved animal in our first drive. A handful of important changes had a big impact on Nissan Xterra sales, and it ended up selling quite a few of these "extreme" SUVs.

With strong sales and an established image under its belt, Nissan didn't want to rock the boat with the completely redesigned 2005 Nissan Xterra. At first glance the new model looks very similar to the previous version, yet there isn't a single part carried over from the old platform. The front end has been styled to match the rest of the Nissan truck lineup, but the rest of the exterior looks much more evolutionary than revolutionary. Giant fender flares? Check. Kicked-up roofline? Check. Tubular roof rack and lumpy rear hatch complete with first aid kit? Check and check.

The overall look is very familiar, but Nissan stylists did a nice job of cleaning things up a bit and giving the new Xterra a tighter overall appearance. The rear bumper is smoother yet now features integrated footholds for easier roof rack access and the new front end is much easier on the eyes than the previous model's buglike snout. Also contributing to the leaner and meaner appearance is a reduction in the front and rear overhangs. The vehicle's overall length is basically unchanged yet the wheelbase has been stretched by 2 inches. This not only netted a tighter look but also improves ramp angles for increased off-road clearance and performance.

Speaking of off-road prowess, the 2005 Nissan Xterra climbs like a rabid mountain goat thanks to all-new underpinnings and a powerful new heart. While the bodywork is a mere evolution of the previous model, chassis development took a giant leap forward on the new SUV thanks to the addition of Nissan's F-Alpha platform. Originally developed for the industrial-strength Nissan Titan full-size pickup, the F-Alpha chassis features fully boxed frame rails constructed out of high-tensile steel for unparalleled durability. This single change has improved the Xterra more than any other feature on the '05 model, as the marshmallow ride that plagued the previous version is long gone. Suspension components are also new with a high-strength rear leaf-spring setup with a "solid" rear axle. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are now standard, and a new speed-sensitive power-assist rack and pinion steering setup gives the Xterra a much more nimble feel on the highway and around town.

Off-road fans will also appreciate three new options, Hill Descent Control that lets the vehicle roll down a steep incline without changing speed, Hill-Start Assist that prevents the vehicle from rolling back when starting up a steep incline and low-range locking four-wheel drive for escaping those hard-to-reach places. Ground clearance has been increased to 9.5 inches, and all of the sensitive undercarriage parts like the transfer case and fuel tank have been tucked up above the bottom of the frame for added protection off-road.

All of that chassis development wouldn't be worth much if the 2005 Xterra was still motivated by the same tired, old 3.3-liter V6, so the decision was made to redesign the power plant as well. Looking to improve on an already winning formula, Nissan engineers started with the highly refined 3.5 V6 out of the 350Z and bumped the displacement up to 4.0 liters, then retuned the induction system and variable timing control to provide maximum torque and bottom-end power. The result is a big-bore V6 that cranks out 265 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful standard six-cylinder in any SUV on the American market. All that extra grunt would have obliterated the old transmission, so a new electronically controlled five-speed automatic was designed to mate with the new mill, and a new six-speed manual is available for those who like to do the shifting on their own. No matter which way you go, either transmission offers tight ratios and smooth shifts that make the most of the available power.

While the chassis and drivetrain offer the most dramatic changes for '05, the redesigned interior is nothing to sneeze at. Improvements include stadium-style second-row seating; increased shoulder, hip-, leg- and headroom; fold-flat front-passenger and rear seats; and a nifty cargo area packed with useful features. Utility was definitely the goal for the Xterra's cabin, as cupholders, water bottle holders, storage compartments (including a double-decker glovebox) and power outlets abound. Behind the rear seat lies the new "multiflex" cargo area, which is shrouded in textured vinyl and hard plastic designed for easy cleanup. A Utili-trak channel tie-down system similar to the one employed in the Nissan Titan bed has been integrated into the floor, and 10 tie-down hooks have been placed on the floor, sides and ceiling of the cargo area for maximum versatility. Overall, the new interior may not coddle the driver in opulent luxury like some of the more expensive SUVs on the market, but it offers an unparalleled degree of access and utility for those who would rather spend their weekends bombing down a mountain on a dirt bike than hitting the links at the local country club.

The four-cylinder version has been nixed for 2005, so the 4.0L V6 is the only engine available in the new Xterra. Trim levels include the standard S, the upscale SE and the rugged Off Road (OR) edition. We spent time in both an SE and an Off Road, and didn't notice much difference between the two. Both models were four-wheel drive, and while the latter model comes with bigger tires, Bilstein shocks and undercarriage skid plates, they didn't affect the way the vehicle drove in most situations. Only those looking for serious rock-climbing performance need bother with the OR.

Otherwise, we were pleasantly surprised by the new Nissan Xterra's available power and chassis refinement. For a relatively tall body-on-frame SUV, it doesn't tip or roll much in the corners, and the highway handling is nimble and confidence-inspiring. The ride over busted-up asphalt highways was a bit harsh, which we suspect is a concession to the stiffly sprung rear suspension. It took a bit of getting used to, but the firmer suspension paid off in spades on the dirt, where the SUV was so secure it made us feel like we were gliding over obstacles in the Baja 1000. The 4.0 V6 provides so much bottom-end punch that it feels like a V8 has taken roost under the hood, and both transmissions do a nice job of evenly distributing the power all the way up to about 100 mph, where the motor starts to lose steam. That isn't a bad thing, however, since we wouldn't recommend taking a relatively large SUV over that velocity anyway.

Behind the nicely contoured steering wheel, we found all of the switches and secondary controls within easy reach. The turn signal/wiper/cruise control stalks are typical Nissan — easy to understand and effortless to operate — and the climate control and audio systems both featured simple knobs and excellent functionality. Speaking of the stereo, SE and OR versions are available with a Rockford Fosgate audio system complete with pre-amp and underseat subwoofer that can really crank out the sound, especially if you're a fan of gut-busting bass. The seats feature a combination of soft fabric and an interesting open-weave fabric, giving them a sporty albeit somewhat utilitarian look. The front buckets are extremely comfortable, however, and the fold-down rear bench offers plenty of back support and legroom. The cabin is relatively quiet for an SUV in this price range, and our only real complaint about the entire vehicle is that the interior materials look and feel cheap. Hard plastic is everywhere, from the dashboard and door panels to the center console and even the barely padded armrests. We don't expect Infiniti-like leather-lined luxury in a hard-core off-road SUV, but a bit of soft-touch material here and there would go a long way. However, the fit and finish of said panels is top-notch, and we suspect all that plastic would be easy to wipe down if you have a propensity for collecting dirt, grime and all that other nasty stuff that goes along with being "extreme."

The midsize SUV market has changed quite a bit in the five years since Nissan Xterra made its first appearance, but we think it should make an interesting and capable contender in several market segments, thanks to its competitive price tag and long list of available features. It may not be the prettiest or plushest vehicle in the Nissan stable, but the 2005 Nissan Xterra should serve as a capable, practical and fun-to-drive tool for the action hero set.

Used 2005 Nissan Xterra Overview

The Used 2005 Nissan Xterra is offered in the following submodels: Xterra SUV. Available styles include Off-Road 4WD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), Off-Road Rwd 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S 4WD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S Rwd 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SE 4WD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SE Rwd 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), Off-Road 4WD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 6M), S 4WD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 6M), Off-Road Rwd 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 6M), and S Rwd 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 6M).

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Should I lease or buy a 2005 Nissan Xterra?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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