The Nissan Xterra is a true original, and a successful original at that. The Xterra is a sport utility vehicle engineered for serious off-road sport and real utility over suburban shopping duty. It is a truck SUV, not a crossover SUV. Its body is attached to a boxed-in steel ladder frame, and it rides on the same rugged suspension as the Nissan Frontier pickup, with double wishbones up front and a solid axle on leaf springs in the rear.
The 2010 Nissan Xterra comes in four models. Most offer a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. All are powered by Nissan's award-winning aluminum V6, stroked to 4.0 liters and making 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. With 4WD and the smooth (optional) five-speed automatic transmission, the Xterra achieves 15 city and 20 highway miles per gallon, a bit more with 2WD or the standard six-speed manual transmission.
An Off-Road model is available that will go pretty much anywhere. It comes with Hill Descent Control, heavy duty trail tires, and skid plates. The electronic 4WD system is part time, with three functions available: 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low.
Last year (2009) Nissan freshened the Xterra's appearance a bit and, more importantly, made front-seat side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags standard on all models. The Xterra now rates four of five stars in NHTSA crash tests for frontal impact, and three stars for rollover. For 2010, Nissan has made last year's Gear Package standard on S and SE models, and what was the Technology Package is now standard on SE and Off Road.