2007 Nissan XterraPosted on December 1st, 2006
By Jim Woodman
As the only two-time winner of the ALV Best Value Vehicle Off-Road award, the Nissan Xterra is the prototypical active lifestyle vehicle. I hadn’t had a chance to spend more than a day or so in an Xterra since the vehicle’s 2000 model year introduction.
I remember being at a Nissan press introduction in 1999, in Monterrey, Calif., where they presented the Xterra, Maxima, Frontier Crew Cab and Pathfinder. From my perspective, a lot of the focus was on the Xterra and we spent plenty of time taking the Xterra through its off-road paces.
Those first generation Xterras, from 2000 to 2004, sported engine choices between an anemic 4-cylinder 143 hp to a respectable 210 hp 6-cylinder version. In 2005, Nissan went to a standard 4.0 liter 261 hp 6-cylinder that seriously addressed its gripes about a lack of get-up-and-go.
The current generation also shares its F-Alpha platform with the Titan pickup and Armada SUV which makes it a very capable off-road performer.
The 2007 Xterra comes in trim levels — X, S, Off-road and SE – each with the same engine it shares with the 350Z. While there have been minor changes to the Xterra since its 2005 major makeover, the same rugged outdoor nature aspect of this vehicle hasn’t changed a bit. Don’t expect to find leather, navigation or DVD options on an Xterra. This is all about using the vehicle for its intentions and capabilities.
I spent a week with the Off-Road model and was very pleased with the 281 lb-ft of torque for getting me going. I gave some friends a ride who used to own a Pathfinder and they were amazed at how much quieter my “Pathfinder” was than their old Pathfinder. I quickly corrected them by saying this was an Xterra and, yes, many of the newer cars have made huge improvements in terms of noise reduction.
My Xterra felt very solid going over speed bumps and I was just itching to take it off-road. But nowadays finding good off-roading venues, especially in larger cities, is challenging unless you want to really get out of town and out of sight. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take it for an extended off-road test but I did take it down, and back up, a very hilly construction site.
Since I’m not mentioning where or how I did this – no harm, no foul. Okay, I didn’t do anything too technically illegal but I can tell you that the Xterra had no problem climbing out a steep ravine in low four-wheel drive. It literally feels like driving a little Tonka toy up a steep hill.
The Off-Road model is designed for very challenging terrain. A Hill Descent Control allows you to go down steep, slippery hills without constantly applying the brake pedal. Hill Descent Control is engaged by the driver via an HDC switch. It can be activated at speeds up to 31 mph in 4HI and 15 mph in 4LO.
Functional Rear Cargo Area
The rear cargo area was not only very accessible, but I could wipe it down from sand or dirt quickly and my standard 56cm road bike fit in the back easily with just the front wheel removed via quick-release. I would be very comfortable throwing my bike in back, even with its perennially greasy and dirty chain. If I surfed or did a lot of ocean swimming with a wet suit, the back cargo area would be ideal for tossing my wet gear with no worries whatsoever.
As a current minivan owner, and former SUV owner, I mostly appreciated the fact this vehicle made me feel young and a little more hip. It’s got that I’m-headed-outdoors-for-some-fun look and feel that makes you forget you’re middle-aged and driving a minivan to drop-off and pickup children at school every day.
And, speaking of kids, installing a car seat in the back of the Xterra was a snap. I remember, with no fondness, the days when we had our first child and I used to wrestle with the seats and the seatbelts for 15 minutes or more trying to correctly install a simple car seat. Today, I could install the seat in the Xterra in less than two minutes. And that’s without having to look and see where the latches and hooks are before starting. Everything nowadays is very conveniently placed and accessible.
I found all the interior controls conveniently-placed albeit lacking some of the creature comforts such as automatic climate control, navigation and leather. But, as stated earlier, you’re not buying an Xterra to shuttle yourself around in leather-appointed luxury. An Xterra is all about getting you outdoors. And at $28k, with pretty much all the off-road capability I’d ever need, I’m not sure this is a bad thing whatsoever.
My Xterra was also outfitted with a Rockford Fosgate(r) Audio Package. I have no idea what Fosgate means but what I do know is it came with a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, nine speakers, subwoofer and steering wheel audio controls. I’ve become a huge fan of steering wheel audio controls, not only because they’re much safer, but because it’s extremely convenient to adjust volume, change tracks or radio stations without ever removing your hands from the steering wheel. The Fosgate package, which adds another 900 bucks to the sticker, also features speed sensitive volume.
Since the Xterra’s geared to the younger generation, it’s no surprise that many are outfitted with a 5-speed manual transmission. For me, being able to manually shift gears was, well, fun again. It took me back to all the early cars I had through my late teens and 20s. Only difference is they didn’t have cell phones back then and there’s a big reason you need a headset or hands-free dialing when driving a manual transmission.
Though being completely honest, as much as I love driving a stick, there’s nothing worse than sitting in stop-and-go traffic having to engage the clutch over and over. And with better, and more fuel efficient, automatic transmissions the days of full-on manual shifting are going by the wayside. What we’re seeing a lot now is vehicles that offer a manual override in addition to an automatic transmission. I don’t know what it is, but for me I think of those as wannabe manual transmissions.
From a safety perspective, Nissan’s Xterra sorts you out with front and passenger air bags, front and rear crumple zones and pipe-style steel side-door guard beams. As mentioned earlier, child safety standards such as a LATCH (Lower Anchors & Tethers for CHildren) and safety rear door locks are standard.
The Xterra’s all about getting outside and feeling young again. This isn’t the soccer mom’s first choice nor is it what you’d want for lots of highway driving – even though it performs more than adequately well on the highway. Xterra’s for those that don’t just talk about leading active lifestyles, this vehicle is for doers and truly defines what it means to be active.
Base price: $26,200
Price as tested: $28,620
Horsepower: 261 @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 281 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
0 to 60: 7.6 seconds (automatic transmission)
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: N/A
First-aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 17/21 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: Vehicle tested was a 5-speed manual transmission. Automatic transmission EPA fuel is 16/21 mpg city/highway
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