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2013 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X
Rocky Mountain Review

2013 Nissan Xterra
	Pro-4X (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X

...I find myself highly recommending the Xterra, its mix of decent on-road manners with proper off-road capability is a good one, particularly in the Mountain West...

By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

To be a human being is to make mistakes, and to be a decent human being is to acknowledge mistakes when you make them. When I received the specs of the 2013 Nissan Xterra, I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed. An old-school, body-on-frame SUV with no major refresh since 2005 – can you blame me for not looking forward to a week with this vehicle?

But I’ll say it. I was wrong, I’m more than happy to admit it. I had more fun with the Xterra than I’ve had driving in quite some time.

Let’s get one thing out of the way – Don’t call it a crossover. Although the word has supplanted the use of “Sport-Utility Vehicle” – the Xterra truly is an SUV, with a proper four-wheel drive system with low-range gearing, a locakable differential, and a substantial 9.5 inches of ground clearance to tackle just about any trail passable to a vehicle of its size. On the utility front, its boxy shape makes it an excellent cargo hauler, accommodating a spacious 65.7 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats laid down, and the front passenger seat will also fold flat if needed to transport particularly long items – and to say nothing of the substantial roof rack and integrated roof cargo box.

Upon first sight, there’s something instantly familiar about the Xterra’s styling. Unsurprising, again given only minor changes since 2005 – even prior to that, other than a dalliance with round headlights for short time, the Xterra has retained its same basic look since its inception for the 2000 model year. Our tester was a PRO-4X variant, which adds some distinctive exterior and mechanical features like roof-mounted off-road lights, upgraded tires mounted on 16-inch alloy wheels, and Bilstein shocks. It looks good. It looks aggressive, ready for what the world can throw at it. Yes, it’s been in its current form for quite some time, but it looks GOOD – an angular, chiseled body needing nothing in the way of update or modification.

Inside, we find a basic but serviceable interior. Not many gadgets, even the comfortable cloth seats are manually-controlled (although the driver does receive quite a decent variety of adjustment, including lumbar and height). But the Xterra has it where it counts – the white-faced gauges are clear and easy to read, and controls logical and in reach. Additional features provided at the PRO-4X trim level are evident here, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel, controls for that locking rear differential, and a Rockford Fosgate audio system with a 5.8” color display for navigation and entertainment control. The infotainment setup is not only easy to control but also great sounding, with deep bass – the only quibble worth mentioning is that roads would disappear from the GPS display unless zoomed in tight – an inconvenience when out on forest service roads and trails.

In driving the Xterra, it has something of a split personality depending on the need. On the highway, it’s competent and connected – surprisingly so. It’s a body-on-frame vehicle with off-road shocks and tires, so it does bounce and rock a bit, but not annoyingly so – the motion is almost soothing, a throwback to the pre-unibody days. Nonetheless, control inputs are easy, with good response to accelerator, steering, and brake. In fact, it’s probably somewhat more comfortable and serviceable for around-town, day-to-day driving than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. (See my 2013 Jeep Wrangler Review

Offroad, however, is where the Xterra shines. The ample 9.5-inch ground clearance enables it to clear all but the most extreme obstacles, and a good time was had in determining that it did a great job on some fairly harsh terrain in the national forests southwest of Denver.

Regardless of off-road or on-road, visibility is excellent, owing to the driver’s high, truck-like seating position, and four adults can be comfortable, with five a squeeze. The torque from the 4.0L V6 delivers when it’s needed. All told, the Xterra managed an average of 17 mpg, mediocre relative to the market as a whole but on par with similar offerings from other manufacturers. The Xterra’s 5,000-pound towing capacity also shouldn’t be overlooked, more than adequate for a camper on the weekends.

Much to my own surprise, I find myself highly recommending the Xterra. The mix of decent on-road manners with proper off-road capability is a good one, particularly in the Mountain West where weekends will find you from the home improvement store to the national forests, and everywhere in between. I’m willing to admit that my first judgment was wrong, and I’m happy about that fact.


2013 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X
Base Price: $22,940.00
Price as Tested: $31,925.00
Engine Type: DOHC V6
Engine Size: 4.0 Liter
Horsepower: 261
Torque (lb-ft): 281
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length (in): 106.3 / 178.7
Curb Weight: 4,425
Pounds per HP: 16.96
Fuel Capacity (gal): 21.1
Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded
Tires: BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A; 265/75P16 114T
Brakes: Ventilated disc 
Suspension, front/rear: Double wishbone / solid live axle
Ground clearance (in): 9.5
Drivetrain: 4-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 15 / 20 / 17
Towing capacity (lb): 5,000
Base Trim Price: $30,490.00

Options and Charges

PRO-4X Floor Mats (3-pc set): $120.00
Nevada Tow Package: $470.00
Delivery: $845.00
Price as tested: $31,925.00