Nissan is to be applauded by true off-road fans in that it didn’t discontinue its Xterra 4WD, four-door SUV. It’s one of only three reasonably priced, truly rugged, compact 4-door SUVs remaining on the market. The others being Jeep’s Wrangler Unlimited and Toyota’s FJ Cruiser; although the FJ is not a true 4-door.
The Xterra Pro-4X tested remains off-road tough. Unlike many car-based crossovers on the market that have been homogenized and pasteurized to the point of being station wagons with automatic AWD or 4WD traction capability, Xterra has maintained a manual transfer case that’s dial selectable for 2WD, 4H and 4L gearing with the addition of a 4WD Lock switch on its vertical stack. And its heavy-duty suspension system sets on a truck-based body-on-frame design that provides a stout ride on Goodrich 18-inch tires for an impressive 9.5 inches of undercarriage clearance. With these formidable capabilities, you can’t expect Xterra to ride like Nissan’s luxury Murano crossover. But on smooth roads, the ride is sedan-like.
For 2013, refinements have been primarily in the cabin. Xterra gets a new Rockford Fosgate audio system, satellite radio, GPS nav system, rearview camera, automatic headlights and a slightly upgraded interior. All enhancements to increase driver pleasure without changing any of the vehicle’s dynamics so favored by hunters, backcountry anglers, kayakers and off-road enthusiasts.
Aside from the off-road oriented Pro-4X model, Xterra is also offered in entry-level X and midrange S models with either rear or 4WD. The Pro-4X, however, is 4WD only.
With the Pro-4X comes the electronic locking rear differential, stout Bilstein shocks, skid plates, hill-start, hill-descent control, special off-road tires, fog lights, roof-mounted off-road driving lights, and, with cloth seats in my test vehicle, a fold-flat front passenger seat that comes in handy when extra or longer storage space is needed. That, plus a nifty 29x15-inch rooftop gear basket enclosed within a beefy tubular roof rack allows stowing wet hip boots, wet suits or other muddy gear. Unfortunately, it’s not lockable.
With seating for five, the grey cloth interior in my test vehicle was plain vanilla, but comfy. Ingress/egress into the rear seat requires a bit of a twist as the rear wheel wells protrude into the step-well somewhat. Step-in though, is an easy 21.5 inches whereas cargo load height is 32 inches.
A spacious cargo area with easy clean vinyl floor, measures 46 inches wide, 35 high, 34.5 deep (35 cubic feet) or 67 inches (66 cubic feet) when folding the 60/40 rear seatbacks. To fold the rear seats, the headrests have to be removed. It would be nice if they conveniently flipped downward which would also help increase rear visibility when the seats are upright. The cargo floor also has four moveable tie-down loops for securing cargo. To secure small items out of view, there’s a handy 19x21-inch compartment beneath the cargo floor.
Xterra has adequate power and torque generated from a 4.0L, 261-hp (281 lb/ft of torque) V6 that transfers power to the wheels via a 5-speed automatic transmission. As a relatively heavy vehicle (4,426 pound curb weight), gas mileage is a thirsty 15 city, 20- highway mpg.
As a nicely loaded SUV, the options list is short. Only Pro-4X floor mats ($120) and Nevada towing package ($470) add to the base price of $30,490, for a grand total of $31,925 with delivery. Now that’s an affordable price for a content laden true 4WD SUV.
Safety wise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Xterra its highest “good” rating for frontal-offset and side impact tests and an “acceptable” rating for roof strength.
To check out an Xterra stop by Rothrock Motors at the 15th Street interchange of Route 22 in South Whitehall Township. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.