Used 2011 Nissan Xterra Review

Edmunds expert review

The 2011 Nissan Xterra may lack the funky styling and unique features of its off-roading competitors, but it's the easiest to live with on those days when you're not rock-crawling and mud-splashing.

What's new for 2011

For 2011, the Nissan Xterra's Off-Road trim level has been renamed Pro-4X, while the SE trim level has been dropped.

Vehicle overview

With an elevated ride height, four-wheel drive and enough roof space to strap down an elk, the SUV certainly was created with the great outdoors in mind. Yet at some point folks in suburbia gained a hankering for them, and the resulting market shift has left traditional off-roading SUVs dying out in favor of tall station wagons known as crossovers. There are only a handful of traditional SUVs left, but thankfully, the remaining models cater to those with a traditional taste for the outdoors. The 2011 Nissan Xterra is the one most easy to live with.

To go along with the Xterra's tough-guy appearance, you'll find sturdy body-on-frame construction, a burly V6, tall ground clearance and an available four-wheel-drive system with low-range gearing. The premium Pro-4X trim further bolsters the Xterra's off-highway credentials with skid plates, a driver-selectable locking rear differential, hill descent control and roof-mounted lights. In other words, this is a serious truck that can take you places when the asphalt and concrete ends.

Of course, other SUVs can do that, too, but the 2011 Nissan Xterra is certainly more sensible for those times when you're stuck in the urban jungle. Its four doors give it a clear practical advantage over the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser, which has access-style rear half doors and blind spots in which you could hide a bus. The Xterra is also more powerful and far more civilized than the 2011 Jeep Wrangler. Of course, the retro-inspired FJ is more stylish and the Wrangler is even more capable off-road, but practicality usually comes with such a price.

It's worth noting that compared to newer crossover SUVs, all of these vehicles come with the inherent downsides of thirsty fuel consumption, a trucklike ride and cabins that aren't exactly cosseting. If this is too much for you, consider the 2011 Kia Sportage, 2011 Mazda CX-7 and 2011 Subaru Forester. All you'll really lose is the off-road ability. Well, that and the easy ability to transport that elk.

Trim levels & features

The 2011 Nissan Xterra is a five-passenger, four-door SUV available with rear- and four-wheel drive. Available trim levels are X, S and Pro-4X. The latter comes only with four-wheel drive.

The Xterra X comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, privacy glass, keyless entry, power locks and mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning, tilt-only steering wheel, and a six-speaker CD sound system. The Xterra S gains 16-inch alloy wheels, off-road tires, a height-adjustable driver seat with lumbar control, a first aid kit and a cargo organization system. The 4X4 S gets a roof rack with crossbars and a gear basket.

The Pro-4X adds an electronic locking rear differential, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, skid plates, different 16-inch alloy wheels, upgraded off-road tires, foglamps, roof-mounted off-road lights, unique cloth upholstery, a fold-flat passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, white-face gauges, an auto-dimming rearview mirror (with built-in compass), Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with a six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, steering-wheel audio controls and satellite radio (with automatic transmission only). The Pro-4X Leather package adds leather upholstery and a passenger seat back pocket, but deletes the passenger seat's flat-folding capability.

Performance & mpg

The 2011 Nissan Xterra is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. The X and S 4x2 are available only with a five-speed automatic transmission, while the S 4x4 and Pro-4X have a choice between the automatic and a six-speed manual transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard on all but the Pro-4X, while the available four-wheel-drive system features a multimode transfer case with low-range gearing.

In Edmunds performance testing, an Xterra 4x4 with an automatic transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds. The rear-drive Xterra returns an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. Opting for four-wheel drive lowers the highway estimate by 1 mpg, while opting for the manual improves the city estimate by 1 mpg.


The 2011 Nissan Xterra is equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Xterra 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-roading SUV.

The Nissan Xterra has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. However, its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to the new methodology) were four out of five stars in a front collision and five stars for side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Xterra its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side tests and a second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the roof strength test.


Thanks to the 2011 Nissan Xterra's powerful V6, performance is sure to satisfy. On the road, the Xterra maneuvers confidently with precise steering and relatively minimal body roll. With its truck-derived underpinnings, the Xterra offers impressive off-road performance due to its long suspension travel and high ground clearance, though its ultimate in-the-dirt capabilities fall short of the Wrangler's. 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 Xterra's interior controls are easy to use and reach. The overall look is marred somewhat by a rather dull design and the predominant use of hard plastics. But the latter aren't really any worse than what's seen in its off-roading competitors. Should you be less interested in off-roading, any number of compact crossover models feature more comfortable and better-appointed cabins.

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 channel-type locating 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 in the cargo area. A gear basket and heavy-duty rails allow you to transport things on the roof that are too big and/or dirty to fit inside.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.