Living With A Winner
Pitted against such competition as the Kia Borrego, Lexus LX570, Suzuki Grand Vitara, and Toyota Sequoia, the Nissan Xterra walked away with the 2009 Four Wheeler of the Year's top honor (Feb. '09). As with all of our winners, we put in our order for a long-term test vehicle and have been busily rolling on the miles since it was delivered at the office.
For 2009, the Xterra received a freshening that included a new front clip and other visual tweaks, as well as a more refined interior. The Xterra, which is based on Nissan's robust F-Alpha platform, comes packed full of standard features including a 261hp 4.0L V-6 mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission.
We ordered the OR-V-6 4x4 model, which starts at a very reasonable $28,340, plus a destination charge of $800. For the money you get a maneuverable, right-sized, and capable rig that comes ready to play in the dirt. Unique 16-inch wheels wrapped in 265/75R16 BFGoodrich rubber, Bilstein shocks, full skidplating, front tow hooks, auxiliary roof-mounted lighting and an electronic rear locker all help to make the Xterra one of our top choices when heading in to the backcountry.
Because the standard Xterra doesn't include a rear recovery point, we ordered the tow package with its rear hitch ($460). We also added the cool Garmin portable navigation system ($590), iPod interface ($270) and floor mats ($115). The last item checked on the order form was the Technology Package, which normally costs $1,150, but came at no charge thanks to a promotion, allowing us to enjoy our tunes on the eight-speaker Rockford-Fosgate audio system and make hands-free calls on Bluetooth. The stereo comes XM-ready, but for no apparent reason, XM can't be ordered on manual transmission models. Our tester's suggested retail price was only $30,575, making the Xterra one of the best buys in the midsize segment.
During our first quarter with the Xterra, we put over 4,000 miles on it, averaging a very respectable 18 mpg and regularly going over 300 miles between fill-ups. Beyond the normal commutes and around-town driving, our Xterra was used for a few family vacations, including some wheeling and camping in the Sierras. Our testers praised the passenger comfort and interior volume on an SUV that doesn't have a huge footprint.
The Xterra also boasts a flexible cargo area. The hard, flat load floor and adjustable tie-down system makes securing cargo a breeze, and the totally flat load floor, with the second row folded, allows for comfortable car camping. Cargo can also be carried on the modular roof rack or in the roof basket. Surprisingly, the roof-mounted cargo system causes very little additional noise in the cabin.
While we love the torquey V-6, especially when matched to the six-speed manual transmission, we wish First gear was a little shorter and that Sixth was a little taller. Other than that, it has been smooth sailing for our Xterra, which received its first scheduled maintenance at 3,569 miles at Stadium Nissan in Orange, California, which set us back a measly $29.36
There are some more wheeling trips planned for our Xterra, and we can't wait to hit some more difficult trails in our newest test vehicle. The entire staff is looking forward to the remainder of our time with Nissan's best trail rig, and we'll let you know how it goes.
Report: 1 of 4
Previous reports: None
Base price: $28,340
Price as tested: $30,575
Four-wheel-drive system: Two-speed, part-time electronic, shift on the fly
Miles to date: 4,162
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 18.06
Test best tank (mpg): 19.24
Test worst tank (mpg): 17.29
Scheduled Service, 3,569-miles: $29.36
Problem areas: None
What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Affordable price, capability, interior size, features, flexible cargo options
Not: Manual ratios could be spaced better
"Great balance of overall size vs. interior space."
"Wishing for wider-spaced gear ratios."
"Not a huge SUV outside, but can haul a lot of stuff."
"The Garmin nav system is portable, very cool."
"I thought the roof rack would be noisy, I don't even know it is there."