2009 Nissan Xterra Review

Pros & Cons

  • Serious off-road prowess, powerful V6, innovative cargo features.
  • Second-rate interior plastics, mushy brake pedal.
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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2009 Nissan Xterra makes an excellent choice for the weekend off-road warrior who still needs an SUV civilized enough for the Monday-through-Friday commute.

Vehicle overview

When the Nissan Xterra debuted nearly a decade ago, this SUV -- named after an off-road triathlon series -- immediately became popular with outdoor-loving Gen Xers. Extreme sports enthusiasts found the Xterra to be the perfect vehicle for snow, surf and all points between. Today, the 2009 Nissan Xterra proudly upholds the reputation built by its predecessor.

Although car-based crossovers have become increasingly popular for tackling highways and boulevards, most have no business going off the beaten path. The truck-based Xterra, on the other hand, thrives under tough conditions with its high ground clearance, lack of protruding underbody parts and off-road machinery and assists. The Xterra's ride might not be as refined as a crossover's, but the Nissan is by no means a bull in a china shop, either. A long commute or road trip keeps occupants comfortable, while precise steering and an abundance of V6 power make for a satisfying driving experience.

Admittedly, few SUV owners take their vehicles off-road, so if you fall into this category, quality on-roaders like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 would be better choices. Other options include the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited for its superior trail-blazing prowess or the Toyota FJ Cruiser for its eye-catching style. All said, though, if you need an affordable SUV that is as at home in the wilderness as it is in the city, the 2009 Nissan Xterra is a solid choice.

2009 Nissan Xterra models

The 2009 Nissan Xterra is a midsize SUV that seats five passengers. It is offered in four trim levels: X, S, Off Road and SE. These models are offered in either two- or four-wheel drive, except for the Off Road, which is only offered in 4WD.

Standard equipment for the Xterra X includes 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player. The S trim level adds alloy wheels, step rails, an eight-way adjustable driver seat, a cargo channel system and a rubberized, easy-to-clean surface on the floor of the cargo area.

The Xterra SE steps up to17-inch alloy wheels and adds even more standard features, including leather seats and trim and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Many of these items can be tacked onto the Off Road version as part of a technology package. The Off Road model includes 17-inch alloy wheels with rugged trail tires, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, skid plates, an electronically locking rear differential, cloth seats specific to this trim level and a fold-down passenger seat.

Like most of Nissan's lineup, options are offered in large packages and not à la carte. The optional eight-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system includes a six-CD/MP3 changer, an auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth and satellite radio. For added off-road functionality, the X Gear package is offered and includes roof rack crossbars, foglights, a first aid kit, a cargo net and a gear basket. Nissan also offers a dockable rear entertainment system and a portable Garmin navigation system.

2009 Highlights

The 2009 Nissan Xterra returns with a new face-lift for the front end, roof-mounted lights for the Off Road model, various exterior and interior trim enhancements and standard side curtain airbags.

Performance & mpg

All 2009 Nissan Xterras are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed through a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional five speed automatic (except in the SE, which comes standard with the automatic). We managed to accelerate a 4WD Xterra to 60 mph in a respectable 7.6 seconds.

Four-wheel-drive models offer plenty of traction in varying conditions, thanks to a multimode transfer case with low-range gearing. A 2009 Nissan Xterra 2WD with the manual transmission turns in an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. Mileage for 4WD and automatic transmissions varies only slightly.


The 2009 Nissan Xterra is equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Xterra Off Road models also come with hill descent control and hill start assist.

In crash testing conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Xterra earned four out of five stars for frontal impact protection and a perfect five out of five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Xterra its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal and side impact protection. Rollover ratings are mediocre, however; the 2009 Nissan Xterra gets a three-star rollover rating from the NHTSA and falls just to the low side of the middle when compared to all SUVs combined.


Thanks to the 2009 Nissan Xterra's powerful V6, performance is sure to satisfy. On the road, the Xterra maneuvers confidently with precise steering, while also keeping body roll in check. With its truck-derived underpinnings, the Xterra offers impressive off-road performance due to its long suspension travel and high ground clearance. The engine further enhances off-road prowess with its prodigious low-end power. The compromises of handling and ride quality in the city are minor, considering the Xterra's versatility.


The 2009 Nissan Xterra's interior is well designed, with excellent ergonomics. However, the overall impression is marred by the use of subpar hard plastics. The cargo area offers 35 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up and 66 cubes with the seats folded. All Xterras (except for the base X model) feature cargo areas that have an easy-to-clean floor, as well as sturdy utility hooks mounted to the sides of the floor and ceiling. An innovative, adjustable channel system for securing bike racks and gear is also built into the floor. There are also built-in spaces for an optional first aid kit and a 1-gallon water jug.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2009 Nissan Xterra.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Happy Camper
Jack Kansas,08/27/2010
A solid unit that tows like there is nothing behind. Two road trips of 2500 miles and was very pleased with the comfort for a truck that also is a tank off road. Handles much better in snow than my old G Cherokee. I looked at the fj, H3 and others but the visibility on the X was a huge selling point. If you want an "out door" vehicle it's nice to see it. I would recommend and buy again. A good value.
Second Xterra
This is my second xterra. First was a 05 off-road 6speed. The new one is the same. 6 speed off-roads are soooo rare, had to jump at a new one. Still the best all around choice in a respectable 4x4 suv that can go "off-road" for real. But would like lower gears and a little more ground clearance. On the road, if you like power, this is the suv for the money.
Great Vehicle With Minor Flaws
S 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 6M)
Overall, this has been a great vehicle since being purchased used with 56,000 miles. Our Xterra is currently ready to hit 90,000 miles, and we have been happy with the reliability and performance of the vehicle. The engine provides sufficient power to get up and go. The Xterra can tow up to 5,500 pounds, although we have yet to use ours for this purpose. Handling in the snow is perfect when in 4WD (can be a bit sketchy in 2WD due to being RWD). We have had zero problems with the drivetrain, however, this Xterra had the issue with coolant leaking into the transmission prior to our purchase. The radiator, transaxle, and differential were all replaced by the previous owner. If you do purchase an Xterra, make sure this problem was resolved or you could end up paying big money to fix these issues. Our only other complaint about the Xterra has been some electrical issues. We had to replace an airbag sensor that went bad and Nissan refused to pay for it because the VIN of our Xterra was not included in the recall on this even though it fell within the years that were recalled for this issue. The lock on the hatch quit working and the motor on the driver's door also quit. As many have mentioned, the interior quality is pretty cheap (plastics scratch easily), but that is not a big issue for our family. These things will last 200,000 plus if you take care of them and provide the necessary maintenance. UPDATE 12/31/19 The Xterra continues to perform beyond my expectations. Since my last review, we have had 0 problems with the SUV. We replaced a pair of horrible Yokohama Geolander HTS tires (like ice skates in the snow) with a set of Nokian WRG3 tires. This has made a world of difference when driving in snowy weather conditions. Getting ready to change the spark plugs and serpentine belt. The reliability and cost of maintenance have made this an exceptional vehicle. Don't hesitate to purchase one if it has been taken care of by previous owners.
2009 Xterra
I have the S with tech package, 4WD, 6M. I rented a 2006 and traveled 2000+ miles and it was a rough ride at that time. Nissan has made some wonderful changes in the suspension and engine power. The 2009 is more sports car than SUV. A true joy to drive. Very little road noise. Hands free blue tooth is great. The Rockford Fosgate music system is out of this world 8 speakers and a sub-woofer. The back seats are stadium placed so that the back seats are higher than the front. Lots of cargo area. This is my 3rd Nissan the other 2 (Stanza & Altima) I got 190,000+ miles out of them. I know that this one will do the same. A week is hard to tell much about a car, but it's long enough to say it's great

Features & Specs

See all Used 2009 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
    Rollover3 / 5
    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 2009 Nissan Xterra

Used 2009 Nissan Xterra Overview

The Used 2009 Nissan Xterra is offered in the following submodels: Xterra SUV. Available styles include S 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SE 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), Off-Road 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), X 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SE 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), S 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 6M), X 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 6M), S 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 6M), X 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 6M), and Off-Road 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 6M).

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    Should I lease or buy a 2009 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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