While other manufacturers fashion sport utility vehicles out of cars, Nissan goes the traditional route with the Xterra, using its Frontier pickup truck to create this SUV. The Xterra went on sale in May 1999 as a tough, sporty vehicle that is short on frills and no substitute for a luxury car. The Xterra is built in Smyrna, Tenn., at the same plant as the Frontier. The company is positioning the car to really emphasize the sport in sport utility vehicle, with special features for those with an active lifestyle.
The Xterra has seats for five, but you also can remove the rear cushions to create more room for your mountain bike. Mounts for two bikes, tie-down hooks, ceiling hooks and a first aid kit are available as accessories. More is on the way, including racks for kayaks and snowboards. Several storage pockets around the interior provide ample places to stash smaller items. Audiophiles will be happy to know that among the options is a six-speaker sound system with a CD player.
This SUV uses the Frontier's 104.3-inch wheelbase and truck chassis and some of the pickup's body panels, such as the hood and front doors. Xterra gets its own flared fenders, black grille, higher roof and all panels behind the front doors. A tubular aluminum roof rack that holds 125 pounds and tubular side step rails are standard, and there's a built-in basket for carrying up to 30 pounds of wet or dirty clothes.
Under the Hood
Engine choices are a 143-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 170-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6, both borrowed from the Frontier pickup. The four-cylinder comes only with 2WD, but the V-6 is available with 2WD or 4WD. Towing capacity is 2,500 pounds with the smaller engine and 5,000 with the V-6.
Give Nissan credit for calling a truck a truck and not apologizing for it. Unlike most SUVs, which seldom get off the beaten path, Nissan expects Xterras will get dirty often, so the automaker equipped it accordingly. If you want comfort and luxury, look elsewhere. If you want a vehicle designed for banging over unpaved roads and hauling dirt bikes, check this one out.