Named after the off-road triathlon race series that began in 1996 as the Aquaterra, the Nissan Xterra was introduced in 2000 as a compact sport utility. Nissan ended its sponsorship of the multi-sport event in 2006, but the vehicle bearing the same name remains.
It's now in its fourth generation, the 2012 edition is largely unchanged from the previous year's model.
The Xterra was Nissan's entry-level SUV until the arrival of the 2008 Nissan Rogue. In the model lineup, the Xterra is priced between the Rogue and the Murano.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
For my week's test, I drove the PRO-4X edition, the most off-road geared of three Xtrerra trims. It feature all-terrain tires, skid plates, locking rear differential, and, with automatic transmission, hill ascent and descent control. Leather upholstery is an option exclusive to PRO-4X models equipped with the automatic transmission.
The PRO-4X upholds the Xterra's rugged reputation. For outdoors types who hunt and fish or run and mountain bike or do nearly anything away from road, the Xterra is what you're seeking. All trims have a 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 engine. Safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain-side airbags, and front-side airbags.
Makes a lot of sense for off-road driving.
Spacious, well designed interior.
Cargo area versatile and logical.
Gas mileage low for vehicle segment.
Poor side and rear visibility.
Hard to maneuver in parking lots, other tight situations.
Facts & Figures: 2012 Nissan Xtrerra
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, not available.
Airbags: Front, side and side curtain.
Fuel economy: 15 mpg (city), 20 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Frontal and side crash, not tested; Rollover, 3 out of 5 stars.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $30,720.00
Manufacturer's Web site: www.nissanusa.com
Price As tested: $31,910.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
What Others Say:
"The Nissan Xterra may lack the funky styling and unique features of its off-roading competitors, but it's the easiest to live with on those days when you're not rock-crawling and mud-splashing." —- Edmunds.com
"Xterra is slightly smaller than most in the midsize-SUV class, hence the somewhat-tight interior space. Its off-road orientation accounts for sub par ride comfort, and its backwoods-ready avoidance of luxury touches makes it seem relatively unrefined. Indeed, its main appeal is that rugged demeanor, cargo versatility, and youthful attitude." —- Consumer Guide
What The Wife Says:
"It has a surprisingly spacious interior and very comfortable seats."
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
"If you're an off-road type, have at it. It's all there. But to use the Xterra, especially the PRO-4X as an everyday driver or for any reason other than off-road, doesn't make a lot of sense."
Article Last Updated: January 19, 2012.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.