2008 Xterra New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Xterra is the smaller, less-expensive member of Nissan's mid-size, off-road-adventure team. The Pathfinder is bigger, shares the same mechanical platform and similar mud, muck, and trail capability. But Pathfinder stretches six inches longer in wheelbase, to better accommodate seating for six and a more sophisticated rear suspension. The Xterra costs less as well, with more than $4,500 separating the base versions of each model.
More than that, however, what separates the Xterra from the Pathfinder is attitude. The luxurious Pathfinder seems more suburban and settled, while the bare-bones Xterra almost demands youthful, outdoor exuberance, the kind of fun-and-games that Generation-Y so loves to misspell 'Xtreme.' Don't look for leather on the options list. Nissan has kept the Xterra true to its original concept as the rugged outdoors type with everything you need, and nothing you don't.
Well, maybe a few things: For 2008, even the base-grade X model surrenders its window cranks for standard power winders, along with power locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, and cruise control. Similarly, S-models now come with standard step rails and a first aid kit. An available Technology Package includes a Bluetooth hands-free phone system and XM Satellite Radio. If you're going to go Xtreme, you may was well go there comfortably.
The truth is that, like the Pathfinder, the Xterra is substantial, sophisticated, and refined, sharing a well-engineered, fully boxed ladder frame. Sophisticated electronics help maintain traction and stability over all kinds of uncertain terrain. Power comes via a 4.0-liter version of Nissan's acclaimed VQ V6 used in the 350Z.
Still, the Xterra remains one of the few truck-style SUVs available with a manual transmission, and that alone may sway the buying decisions of some enthusiast drivers. In a market crowded with high-posture posers, the Nissan Xterra is the genuine article: a real, Safari-grade adventure vehicle that still handles everyday life on pavement with refinement and aplomb.
The 2008 Nissan Xterra is available in four trim levels: X, S, Off-Road, and SE. Four-wheel drive (4WD) is standard on Off-Road, optional ($2,000) on the others. All models are powered by the 4.0-liter V6. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on all but SE; a five-speed automatic is available ($800-$1,000).
Xterra X ($21,130) comes standard with power windows, mirrors, and door locks; remote keyless entry; cruise control; and sun visor vanity mirrors and extenders, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, engine-speed-sensitive power steering, 60/40 split fold-flat second-row seats, a carpeted cargo area, roof rack side rails, and a security system with engine immobilizer.
Xterra S ($22,880) adds a driver's-seat adjustable lumbar support, upgraded seat fabric, roof rack cross bars and gear basket, and aluminum alloy wheels. The rear cargo area features an adjustable channel system with four moveable hooks and Nissan's Easy Clean surface instead of carpet. Also standard for 2008 are step rails and a first aid kit.
Xterra Off-Road ($26,330) adds exclusive off-road features such as electronic Hill Descent Control and Hill Assist; an electronic locking rear differential; gas-pressurized Bilstein shock absorbers; skid plates; and 265/75R16 B.F. Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A off-road tires. Off-Road models also come with fog lamps, unique blue seat fabric, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a fold-flat front passenger seat. Four-wheel drive is standard on the Off-Road model.
Xterra SE ($26,630) skips the serious rock-climbing gear for a more luxurious ambiance. Tires are 265/65R17 BF Goodrich Long Trails. Automatic transmission is standard. The SE also adds a trip computer, lighted vanity mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, and a 380-watt, eight-speaker-plus-subwoofer Rockford-Fosgate audio system that includes a six-disc in-dash changer, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, steering wheel controls, speed-sensitive volume control, and MP3 capability with an auxiliary jack for an iPod or similar device.
The Rockford-Fosgate stereo is included (with the auto-dimming inside mirror and compass) in the Technology Package ($1,450) for Off-Road models with automatic transmission; a similar package ($1,300) for manual Off-Roads is pre-wired for XM but does not include the receiver. A Tow Package ($455) consisting of a Class III hitch and wiring harness is available on all but X, as are an iPod jack ($290). cargo organizer ($145), retractable cargo cover ($85), and auto-dimming rear-view mirror with compass ($245). Portable navigation ($745) and a dockable DVD player ($1,250) are available as port-installed options on all models.
Safety equipment for all Xterras includes an advanced air bag system, which consists of dual-stage front supplemental air bags with seat belt sensors and a front occupant classification sensor. Also standard are three-point seat belts for all rear seat occupants (including the center-rear position) a child seat anchor system, and a tire-pressure monitor A Supplemental Airbag Package ($700), optional for all models, includes side-impact air bags, a rollover sensor, and side curtain air bags. Active safety features that come standard are Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock (ABS) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD).