SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: Nissan Xterra SE ENGINE: 3.3-liter V-6 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 170 hp @4800 rpm/200 lb-ft @2800 rpm TRANSMISSION: Five-speed manual FUEL ECONOMY: 16 mpg city, 18 mpg highway, 15.3 mpg test WHEELBASE: 104.3 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 178.0 x 70.4 x 69.6 in. CURB WEIGHT: 4042 lbs. FUEL CAPACITY: 19.4 gal. LUGGAGE CAPACITY: 44.5/65.6 cu. ft. (seats up/down) TIRES: 235/70R15 INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, water temperature, digital clock,oil pressure, battery voltage. EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors,power seats, sunroof, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radiowith in-dash cassette player, anti-lock brakes, dual front air bags. STICKER PRICE: $26,800 (est.)
In an obvious attempt to lure the "X Generation" to its showroom floors, Nissan recently introduced the Xterra sport utility vehicle.
Nissan already has a perfectly good sport utility in the Pathfinder. But there are a few things wrong with the Pathfinder for a company seeking to create more excitement in its vehicles.
First, the Pathfinder is "vanilla." There's very little to distinguish the Pathfinder externally from all the other sport utilities on the road today. It has pleasant lines and a good combination of features; it simply looks like all the others.
Secondly, the Pathfinder is a "female" vehicle. I mean this in two ways. First, women drive most Pathfinders. Second, the styling, if anything, is less masculine than some of the other vehicles.
Both of these problems will be eliminated with the Xterra. Styling is very much in your face, with a ruggedness you're not going to find on any other vehicles except perhaps a Land Rover chugging through the African veldt. Front-end styling has a certain toughness to it, and the combination roof rack and cargo carrier over the driver's portion of the cab adds a dimension to roof styling that the competition doesn't have.
I think it's because of the styling that the Xterra attracted a lot of attention in the company parking lot. Nissan has also mounted a substantial advertising campaign for the Xterra that has helped attract attention.
The powerplant on our SE model was Nissan's popular 3.3-liter V-6 that develops 170 horsepower. This was connected to a five-speed manual transmission, which isn't something you see these days in the "standard" SUV. Once I familiarized myself with the manual I had no problems, but I was surprised to see it.
My only complaint with the Xterra was with the "umbrella handle" hand brake that extended out from under the dash, just like in your father's Oldsmobile. This brake was inconvenient and a pain in the neck to release (you pulled, pushed a button and pushed the lever). A simple lever-type pull hand brake would have been much better.
Now the good news, and there's a lot. The Xterra performs with a ruggedness that matches its styling. I classify it something like a four-door Jeep Wrangler. The ride is harsher than the Pathfinder's, but it's not uncomfortable. The front bucket seats add comfort and make any harshness of the suspension palatable.
I liked the carrying tray over the driver's compartment. It holds 30 pounds of cargo and it's in a convenient spot. Of course, that's only necessary if the rear cargo compartment is filled. One feature of our tester, though, was a sunroof that was inoperable because of the cargo box.
Nissan advertises an optional internal bike rack for the Xterra, which wasn't included in our tester. Several people who came over to "kick the tires" and take the Xterra for a ride were looking for the racks, though. I guess the advertising works. Must be the tag line.
Xterra adds a new dimension to Nissan's sport utilities. It's a rugged vehicle with a toughness you can't find from most mainline manufacturers. It has appeal to a younger audience, at least based on the people who came over to look at it, and it should be popular with these drivers.