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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide


By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Nissan Xterra is like a great friend, both reliable and full of good times. Not much has changed for 2010 year, but that’s the beauty behind this rugged-looking SUV. Loyal drivers like it the way it is, with its flared fenders, high ground clearance and raised roof line.

I drove a 2010 Nissan Xterra 4x4 with the modest S trim and an additional Nevada Tow Package for a total of $28,845. The 261-horsepower 4.0-liter DOHC V6 with 281 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm is still the main engine and features Nissan's Continuous Valve Timing Control (CVTCS). A 5-speed or 6-speed transmission is available and as of this year, manual transmission is no longer an option for the S trim.

The Xterra is named after a series of off-road triathlon races. By far the Off Road trim is the most equipped performance model, featuring BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A off road tires, Bilstein shocks, and Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Your passengers will get great visibility in the second row. Even without the Off Road trim, you still exciting outdoor components, like fog lights, roof rack and step rails. If you expect more in interior comforts, start with the SE trim. The Xterra underwent a long list of revisions with the last model, but the changes are really just subtle inside-and-out facelifts. You’d have trouble telling one year apart from the other. Still, the Xterra modernizes itself with Bluetooth and steering wheel audio controls.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The vehicle stays highly recognized for remaining the same by providing award-winning off-road performance. The 2010 model received NHTSA highest ratings of 5-stars for side-impact crash safety. Xterra safety features on all trims include: Nissan's advanced airbag system; Electronic Brakeforce Distribution; Vehicle Dynamic Control; Front-seat Active Head Restraints; LATCH; Tire pressure monitoring; Zone body construction; and Vehicle security system (and an immobilizer system).

Cost Issues: The most basic X trim starts at $22,450, which is great, but don’t expect much interior-wise beyond power windows and AC. And the Off Road trim starts below $30k. Overall, any year of the Xterra is considered a good buy.

Activity & Performance Ability: I’ve always found the Xterra to be a fun ride and rather welcome the stiff steering than abash it. The 4.0-liter engine is a lot of fearless power. The part-time 4WD modes are self-explanatory and easy to use: 2WD, 4H and 4LO with an electronically controlled transfer case. The 2-speed transfer case allows the vehicle to be switched from 2WD to 4H for rough, sandy or snow-covered roads while driving speeds up to 62 mph. The vehicle must be stopped to shift between 4LO for maximum crawl power. When engaging the 4LO on a steep, boulder-laden inclined hill, the Xterra displays ultimate grip and power and the short front overhang allows for better maneuverability in downhill off-road situations.

The Green Concern: While other makers are focusing on making their engines a little more fuel efficient with each new model year, Nissan appears okay with continuing to allow the Xterra to get 15-city/20-highway driving.

The Nissan Xterra is an attractive all-terrain choice for women because it is easy to understand with a strong history of off-road achievement and reliability. Keep in mind the Xterra doesn’t change all that much, so any model year is a good buy.

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide

©2010 Katrina Ramser