Giving the Nissan some altitude
As we reluctantly watch the boob tube, the ads for Nissan's Xterra are one of the few elements that pique our interest. Images of mud and rocks dancing to a rock-and-roll soundtrack announce, "I want to get away!" And we are so there, dude.
But as rugged and versatile as Nissan's Xterra purports to be, it's not really a hard-core trail rig. An independent front suspension doesn't make much of a case for it, nor does a transfer-case low-range gearing of 2.02:1. Never mind that plastic front bumper, or a number of other factors. So we decided that what we--or you--can't buy, we'll build. We've taken our bright-yellow '01 Xterra and subjected it to the Four Wheeler treatment. Over the course of the next few months we'll chronicle this SUV's transition from dealership dream to trail-ready rig--something even you might want to drive.
Our first step was getting more clearance for bigger tires. Searching for a proper lift kit, we settled on Rancho's 2 ½-inch lift for the Xterra. With some fender trimming, this kit gives us enough room to clear a set of 31x11.5x16LT Mickey Thompson Baja Claws mounted on a set of bitchin' Mickey Thompson Classic II polished alloy wheels. These tires really aren't much taller than the X's stock tires, but the Mickeys won't fit at stock height because they're wider than the stockers. Even as it is, they still rub some. Also, we wanted some additional ground clearance.
Rancho's kit replaces our stock upper control arms and adds bumpstop spacers and an add-a-leaf to each rear spring. The kit also replaces the Nissan's wimpy rear shackles. Also, we further enhanced our suspension with a set of adjustable Rancho RS 9000 shocks. While at Rancho, we installed the in-cab controls so that we could adjust our nine-position shocks easily from the X's cockpit. The stock Xterra achieves an RTI of 422 on a 20-degree ramp. With this kit we've decreased that number to 412.
Hmmm. Not good. So we whipped on a set of rear antiroll-bar disconnects from Nissan specialist Automotive Customizers in Florida. That brought the RTI on the usual 20-degree ramp to a very agreeable 522.
Up next for our Xterra: an ARB front bumper, lights, a Warn winch and a snorkel. Meanwhile, follow along as we bring our Xterra to new heights.