NEW FOR 2014:

– New wheel designs
– S trim level receives standard five-speed automatic and transmission cooler, illuminated steering wheel controls
– PRO-4X trim receives standard leather upholstery, heated seats, navigation, reverse camera, and hands-free text messaging assistant

When it comes to SUVs with solid off-roading abilities, only a few vehicles come to mind. Jeep’s Wrangler is an obvious answer, and it’s difficult to overlook the Toyota 4Runner and FJ Cruiser. But Nissan’s Xterra SUV is another good choice – especially if you happen to be a weekend warrior.

Beyond the tough body-on-frame platform and small exterior dimensions, it’s jam-packed with useful details including an available flat-folding front seat, wipe-down cargo bay with pickup-inspired latch-down points, hidden storage, and a roof rack that’ll hold up to 150 pounds worth of mountain bikes, surf boards, and other gear. And yes, you can still get an integrated first-aid kit.

For its fifth year in production, Xterra changes are limited to equipment level adjustments. Both the base S and PRO-4X trim get new wheel designs, with the S receiving the automatic transmission as standard, plus illuminated steering wheel controls. The PRO-4X receives more gear as standard – cloth upholstery gives way to heated leather seats, while last year’s optional navigation package becomes standard. The 5.8-inch screen boasts a text-messaging assistant, navigation, apps, and a reverse camera.

Riding on the F-Alpha platform that underpins everything from the Titan half-ton pickup and full-size Armada SUV, to the Frontier midsize truck, the Xterra is as tough as they come. All trims use a 4.0-litre V6 engine that develops 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque; the S trim receives a five-speed automatic as standard, while the PRO-4X gets a six-speed manual as standard. The PRO-4X’s optional automatic is a five-speed unit, but gets an off-road oriented final-drive ratio, plus hill-descent control and hill-start assist. Handling is decidedly truck-like, and the ride is choppy due in part to the short wheelbase and live, leaf-sprung rear axle. This is especially so with the PRO-4X, which features off-road Bilstein shocks. The Xterra features a two-speed transfer case with low-range mode, with the PRO-4X model gaining an electronic locking rear differential.

Features on the S include 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, tubular roof rack with covered gear box, crossbars and air dam, tubular step rails, rear bumper steps, front tow hook, heated mirrors, privacy glass, tire pressure monitoring system, power windows with auto-down driver’s side, power locks with keyless entry, cruise control, illuminated steering wheel controls, ancillary gauges (voltage, oil pressure), overhead console storage, tilt steering column, sun visors with vanity mirrors, four 12-volt power outlets, variable intermittent wipers, rear wiper, cargo channel system with tie-downs, under-floor cargo bay storage, eight-way manually adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, four-way manually adjustable front passenger’s seat, cloth upholstery, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and 4.3-inch six-speaker display audio system with AM/FM/CD/MP3, satellite radio, aux-in jack, USB port, and Bluetooth.

The PRO-4X deletes five-speed automatic and adds close-ratio six-speed manual. Adds machine-finished alloy wheels with off-road tires, electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shocks, automatic headlights, roof-rack-mounted off-road lights, skid plates, black side mouldings, fog lights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with exterior temperature display and compass, cargo net, first aid kit, leather upholstery, heated front seats, flat-folding front passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob with contrast stitching, white-faced instruments, embroidered floor mats, 380-watt Rockford Fosgate nine-speaker audio system, 5.8-inch navigation display system with voice recognition, NissanConnect Apps, reverse camera, and hands-free text messaging assistant.

When ordered with the automatic transmission, the PRO-4X also includes transmission cooler, hill descent control, and hill start assist.

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