When you put 20,000-plus miles on a vehicle in a single year, you know you’ve really worked it. When you put on those same 20,000-plus miles on a media fleet vehicle, you know you’ve worked it hard. Thus it was for our long-term Xterra during its time in our test stable. Over the 13-month test period, the Nissan did everything we asked of it, and then some. It carried us, and all our gear, to Moab (twice), and wheeled like a champ on trails like Behind the Rocks and Fins & Things once it got there. It took us to Hollister Hills for Top Truck Challenge, to Vegas for the SEMA Show, and throughout southern and central California on myriad highway commutes and holiday fun runs. It ran across dry, dusty deserts, through white-out snowstorms, and every kind of tractive condition in between.
In brief, our Xterra was a staff workhorse in its time with us, and a versatile one at that—the one vehicle in our fleet that every staffer seemed to want on the weekend, whether for trips to the ski resort, exploring backcountry mining roads, or hauling furniture and boxes to new digs. While it’s already showing its age, design-wise the Xterra is still one of the best pound-for-pound buys in production 4x4s—there’s really no other vehicle in its class that’s as capable in the dirt that isn’t a JK Wrangler—and its optional Off-Road package, with selectable rear locker, Bilstein shocks, and 32-inch BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, is the next best thing to a Dana 44 and BFG Mud-Terrains.
After a year at the helm, we’ve learned a few things about this vehicle, and have made a few adjustments to accommodate its peculiarities. Reverse gear could be balky and often required double-clutching to engage, particularly on cold mornings. The cloth bucket seats were sufficiently comfortable for around-town jaunts but could use a little more lower-back bolstering for longer trips. Our BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/As, recently rotated before the end of our test, displayed some signs of tread wear, but appeared to be good for another five to ten grand.
Mileage throughout the test period held fairly steady at approximately 20 highway/17 city, and just a tad over 18 mpg overall. In addition, our Xterra required no trips to the shop beyond the OE maintenance schedule, with total costs for the year a shade over $80.
At this point, our only real concern with the Xterra is with its gradually declining market appeal. It’s been seven model years since the vehicle was subjected to a substantial redesign, and it—and its interior in particular—is starting to look stale and outdated compared to the competition (even Wrangler JK interiors have been substantially spiffed-up in the interim). As it shares the same awesome F-Alpha platform as the Frontier and Titan pickups, we’ll likely have to wait a bit longer before we see a “new” Xterra, most likely for 2013. We sincerely hope that Nissan doesn’t sacrifice any of its considerable trail manners in the process. fw
Report: 4 OF 4
Previous reports: Jan. ’10, Aug. ’10, Nov. ’10
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: 22,877
Miles since last report: 8,482
Average mpg (this report): 18.21
Test best tank (mpg): 21.23
Test worst tank (mpg): 15.71
20,000-mile service (fluid, filter changes, tire rotation): $58.60
Problem areas: None
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Rear locker, good tires, lots of interior storage space
Not: Dated interior, abundance of hard plastics, balky trans shifter
“Ample space for four Pelican boxes, two coolers, cameras, and luggage for TTC.”
“IFS tuning’s a bit harsh for washboard and rocky trails.”
“You can chirp the tires off idle in Third gear with this thing.”
“Sure-footed traction in high-range through a nasty Utah snowstorm. Impresssive!”
“Seats, controls and hard-plastic switchgear look very dated; time for a re-launch.”
“Rear locker inspires confidence in the dirt.”