Throughout the test, the Nissan held its own in nearly every category, scoring well enough to consistently find a spot in the top half of the group, but where the Xterra shined brightly was where we think it counts most-in the dirt.
The Nissan, equipped with the Off Road package, truly holds the bar high for the competition with its rear locker, Bilstein shocks, skidplating, and 32-inch BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires. It was clearly the most capable vehicle in this test, partly because of the Off Road equipment package, and partly because of its compact size.
We never had a flat or found ourselves stuck during the course of testing in the Xterra, and in fact it became the vehicle of choice for extractions and scouting out the trail ahead. Because of the confidence it inspired with its good visibility, excellent running ground clearance, and generous approach and departure angles, the Xterra rarely required a spotter. No matter the terrain, the Xterra proved to be a solid performer and one we easily built trust with.
Nissan's Xterra has always been a capable machine, aimed at the true enthusiast and with an as-tested price point of only $30,235, it is one of the best values in the market for those who want a vehicle that can do it all, earning this year's top spot as the 2009 Four Wheeler of the Year.
What's Hot: Built for the enthusiast, real trail credentials, great price
What's Not: Where is the rear tow point?
Our Take: Our 2009 Four Wheeler of the Year
From the Logbook:
* "All-around great performer, does everything well."
* "Interior looks and feels a bit dated, but is very useful."
* "The Xterra is great to just hop in and drive."
* "Had to pull the Kia out from the front, there is no rear hitch or tow point."
* "My choice hands-down for the trail."
Douglas McColloch, Editor
Money's no object to obscenely wealthy dudes like me, so among this year's testers, it's gotta be the Lex.... Then again, after looking at my latest 401k statement, maybe not.
OK, reality check: Like most of you, I'm more budget-conscious these days, too, and that's why I'm giving the nod to the Xterra. It might not be the cushiest long-distance cruiser (the Lexus, hands-down) or the sportiest little canyon runner (Suzukis rock), but for a combination of out-of-the-box trail prowess and acceptable street manners for a very reasonable price, it's a tough ride to beat in any 4x4 class.
Ken Brubaker, Senior Editor
My choice is the rig with the most aggressive tires of this bunch mounted on the smallest diameter wheels. It has a driver-is-king, no-nonsense electronic rear locker; a comfy real-world interior; and a psycho hyperactive V-6. And it looks pretty darn good. It has character. Yep, I'm going with the Xterra. Bonus: It has an affordable as-tested price of 30 grand.
Sean P. Holman, Tech Editor
I am drawn to the technology and industry-leading refinement of the Lexus, but for me you can't deny the Xterra's price of admission, especially when you consider everything Nissan gives you in the Off Road package, heck, you don't even need to go out and buy lights! For my hard-earned money, I'd have to go Xterra.
Robin Stover, Feature Editor
Given the current economic situation in this country and the rising price of fuel I would have to pick the Suzuki. I dig the simple layout of the interior and the way it just feels zippy.
If I owned one it would receive a mild suspension lift, 32-inch tires and some body armor. Otherwise the Grand Vitara provides all that I need for basic transportation and weekend wheeling fun. Greg Smith, Art Director
Boy, I hate to be obvious here, but among this group of so-called 4x4s, my personal pick would have to be the Nissan Xterra. I appreciate its utilitarian functionality and styling, its power output, and its driveability. However, if the Xterra were in my driveway, it would still need a few mods such as more tow hooks and removal of the mud flaps. The fact that the Xterra became our rescue vehicle during Four Wheeler of the Year says a lot.
Jason Gonderman, Online Editor
If I had to choose one vehicle from this year's FWOTY test to take home, it would have to be the Nissan Xterra. The Xterra has a great engine, good suspension, and most importantly a solid rear axle with a real locker. Don't get me wrong-all the electronic gizmos like traction control are cool and most work well, but there is no replacement for the real thing. Of course, if money were no object I would skip right over the Xterra and take the Lexus, but then again, who wouldn't?