Available this summer, the new Nissan Xterra is smaller than the Nissan Pathfinder and is targeted at younger active people who like the outdoors. Based on the Frontier pickup, the Xterra has a standard 3.3 litre V6 engine, part-time 4WD, split folding rear seats, air conditioning and AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers. Price is targeted at around $30,000.
‘In your face’ sport-ute designed for active people
Are you a socially-active, well-educated Generation X-er who likes to run, hike, kayak, canoe, surf, dive, snowboard, rock climb, or mountain bike? Are you a trendsetter? Are you cool?
Well, according to Nissan’s marketing department, you’re probably a typical Nissan Xterra buyer. If you believe the marketing experts, the new Nissan Xterra is not just a sport-utility vehicle – it’s a lifestyle vehicle. “Xterra is about what people do with the vehicle, not so much what it might do,” said Jerry Hirshberg, President of Nissan Design International in San Diego. “It’s literally designed to be a toolbox to help its owners attack their active lifestyles,” he says.
That doesn’t mean middle-aged couch potatoes can’t buy one. It’s just that younger, active people are more likely to buy this vehicle (it’s all in the demographics, stupid.)
Why? Because the Xterra is cool, right? I mean, check it out. A removeable roof basket for snow boots or wet suits weighing up to 14 kilograms. An aluminum tubular roof rack designed to hold snowboards or surfboards or other stuff weighing up to 57 kilograms. Tubular step-up bars. There’s an optional interior bike rack, a total of ten tie-down hooks and clips, front and rear 12 volt power outlets, an optional hot/cold storage box, and plenty of small storage bins and seatback pockets. There’s lots of room to put stuff in the Xterra.
And check out the styling, too. Though the Xterra shares the front-end of the Frontier pickup truck from the A-pillars forward, the Xterra looks more aggressive. Broad-shouldered fender bulges and standard P265/70R-15 all-season radials give the Xterra a wider stance, and Xterra styling features such as the stepped roofline above the rear passenger door, the tubular roof rack, high-mounted rear door handles, tubular step bar, rear pod protrusion and stepped rear window all add distinctiveness to what could have been a boring design.
There’s another reason younger people will be attracted to the Xterra – it’s cheaper than the Pathfinder. Though prices weren’t available at press time, it’s expected to be close to $30,000 fully-equipped. That compares with a base price of $31,398 for the Pathfinder.
Unlike a lot of so-called ‘sport-cutes’ which use car platforms with all-wheel-drive, the Xterra has a traditional truck-like ladder frame and a part-time shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system with High and Low ranges. It also has truck-like independent front suspension and solid rear axle with leaf springs. A limited slip differential, and 4-wheel anti-lock brakes are also standard.
In Canada, all Xterra’s come standard with a 170 horsepower 3.3 liter V6 engine, the same one used in the Frontier, Pathfinder and Quest. (In the States it’s available with a four cylinder engine). A 5-speed manual transmission is standard and a 4-speed auto is optional.
I drove the Xterra on and off-road and was pleasantly surprised at how tight the body felt over rough roads, and at how stable the Xterra was during cornering on pavement even though it has a fairly high ride height. The Xterra’s compact size makes it feel more nimble and manoeuverable than mid-sized sport-utility vehicles like the Pathfinder.
The 170 horsepower 3.3 liter V6 engine has lots of low-end torque, a valuable asset for slow off-road driving, and for slow around-town driving. There’s plenty of pickup off the line, and good mid-range passing power. The engine is a little ‘growly’ under acceleration and there’s some wind noise at highway speeds, but otherwise the Xterra’s performance is an excellent compromise between on and off-road capabilities.
The Xterra is well-equipped to go off road. It has plenty of ground clearance (213 mm/8.4 inches), a relatively short wheelbase, short front and rear overhangs, grippy tires, and a good low range gear. However, I would have liked to see an even lower gear for steep downhill runs on slippery surfaces.
With a manual transmission, the Xterra has a maximum towing capacity of 1588 kg (3500 lb.), but with the optional automatic transmission, it rises to 2268 kg (5000 lb.)
The simple but well-finished interior has five seatbelts, but there’s only enough room for four adults because of the Xterra’s narrow width. Front and rear headroom and legroom are adequate – rear passengers have raised ‘theatre seating’ and a stepped roofline which provides plenty of rear headroom. The dashboard design is simple with extra-large, easy-to-read numerals on the gauges and controls.
Due to its tall, boxy design and raised rear roofline, the Xterra has a lot of rear cargo room, and access to the cargo area is via an easy-to-lift-up rear hatchback. To make the cargo area even roomier, the standard split 50/50 rear seatbacks can be folded down – however, to create a flat loading surface, the rear seat cushions have to be removed and stored somewhere else in the vehicle.
A full-size spare tire is stored under the cargo floor to free up interior cargo space. Serious off-road enthusiasts don’t like this because if a rear tire blows and the Xterra is stuck in mud, it’s difficult to get the spare tire out. Personally, I’d rather have the spare under the floor to save space and eliminate the vision-obstruction a rear-mounted tire creates. I’ll take my chances in the mud.
Standard equipment is extensive, including power steering, four-wheel-drive, AM/FM/CD player with six speakers, air conditioning, power windows, power locks, tilt wheel, intermittent wipers, cruise control, remote entry, tachometer, cloth seats, center console with armrest, 50/50 split folding rear seatbacks, rear wiper and defroster, retractable rear cargo cover, and four cup holders.
The Xterra, which is manufactured in Smyrna, Tennessee, should be in showrooms by late summer. Though its estimated price of $30,000 ain’t cheap, I predict it’s going to be enormously popular. The only competitors in its price range with a V6 engine are the Jeep Cherokee, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Chevy Blazer/GMC Jimmy. None of these has as much ‘in your face’ character as the Xterra.