Redesigned in 2005, the Nissan Xterra undergoes only minor changes for 2006. Vehicle Dynamic Control is added to the S trim level, making it standard on all models; there’s a standard glovebox lock, lamp and damper; a Charcoal interior is available for the Off-Road line; and there’s a new Majestic Blue exterior colour.

The Xterra is based on Nissan’s F-Alpha platform, which also underpins the Armada, Pathfinder and Titan. 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 hill start assist.

Available in three trim lines, the Xterra uses a 4.0-litre V6 with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. All use a part-time, two-speed transfer case.

The base S includes the manual transmission (the automatic is optional), 16-inch aluminum wheels, privacy glass, roof rack with crossbars, front tow hook, cloth seats, 60/40 split rear seat, air conditioning, CD player with six speakers, easy-clean cargo floor trim, cruise control, power locks with keyless entry, eight-way manual driver’s seat with height adjustment, power windows, and variable intermittent wipers.

The Off-Road package includes the manual transmission with optional automatic, Bilstein high-performance shocks, skid plates, BF Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, spare tire mounted on matching aluminum wheel, fog lights, Off-Road-specific seat fabric, driver’s seatback pocket, Vehicle Dynamic Control with hill descent control and hill start assist, Rockford Fosgate six-CD/MP3 stereo with eight speakers and subwoofer, and first aid kit.

The SE uses the automatic transmission only, and adds a transmission cooler, 17-inch aluminum wheels, aluminum tubular step rails, trip computer, leather-wrapped wheel, and side and curtain airbags.

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.

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