Changes to the Nissan Xterra for 2005 are big ones, literally. Nissan’s midsize SUV is completely redesigned, and this second-generation model is bigger, beefier and stronger than the 2004 edition, with a price tag that starts at $2,900 over the previous base model.

The new Xterra is based on the company’s F-Alpha platform, which also forms the basis of the full-size Armada SUV and Titan pickup truck, and underpins the Pathfinder. Its body-on-frame construction, electronically-controlled transfer case and high ground clearance make it a viable wild-wilderness vehicle, especially when ordered with the Off-Road package, which includes hill descent control and start assist.

The 2004 Xterra’s 3.3-litre is replaced with a 265 horsepower 4.0-litre V6; transmission choices are a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. All versions use the part-time transfer case, and feature four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake distribution and brake assist.

The wheelbase has been extended 50 mm; it’s also 17 mm longer and 61 mm wider. Front legroom has been increased 22.8 mm, while rear-seat passengers enjoy an additional 91.4 mm of legroom and 58.4 mm of headroom. The new and brawnier styling incorporates a new grille, new flared fenders, a new roof rack with latchable lid, and a new rear bumper with side steps. But the old Xterra’s signature stepped-roof design remains, giving it a unique styling edge on the straight-box design used by competitors.

The base S comes with the manual transmission, air conditioning, power windows, power mirrors, cloth upholstery, cruise control, CD player with six speakers, floor mats, tire pressure monitor, power locks with keyless entry, 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, and variable intermittent wipers.

The Off-Road comes with the manual transmission, and adds a Rockford Fosgate six-CD/MP3 system with nine speakers and wheel-mounted audio controls, fog lights, and underbody protection for fuel tank, transfer case and engine.

The top-line SE comes with an automatic, and adds 17-inch alloy wheels to the Off-Road’s features.

Built like a truck, the Xterra behaves like one: handling is more truck-like than the car-like characteristics of some of its unibody competition. Still, that’s not a bad thing: when you’re looking at a steep mountain road or you want to haul a trailer, “car” is seldom the first thing that comes to mind.

The Xterra is assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee.

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