If you're looking for a midsize SUV that has true off-road capability, the Nissan Xterra is worth a look. From the time it hit the market in 1999, the Xterra was geared toward outdoor enthusiasts who wanted a vehicle that could carry five passengers and their gear to the most remote locations imaginable. The tradeoff was a bouncy ride and poor fuel mileage, but if you want a rugged weekend companion, the Xterra was a great choice.
Aimed at younger, active buyers, the Nissan Xterra was a midsize SUV that debuted in the 2000 model year and remained in the lineup through 2015. Thanks to its stout body-on-frame construction and available four-wheel drive, the Xterra was always a steady seller among those who used their SUV for outdoor recreation — or those who simply wished to look the part. Its on-road manners lacked the comfort or refinement of its car-based crossover competitors, but we'd recommend the Xterra as one of the better used sport-utilities on the market if off-roading figures into your regular routine. It's a vehicle that consistently inspires confidence as you head off into the wilderness of the urban — or more distant — jungle.
Used Nissan Xterra Models The second-generation Xterra debuted in 2005, marking the first major redesign for the model; this version lasted through the 2015 model year. It shared not a single part with its predecessor, yet it looked vaguely familiar. While the overall length didn't change, the wheelbase was stretched by 2 inches. The reinvented Xterra could clamber up slopes (or suburban driveways) like a mountain goat on amphetamines, thanks to a powerful 4.0-liter V6 that was easily the model's strongest engine.
The Xterra's V6 generated 261 horsepower, and was paired with either a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. In reviews, our editors have praised the Xterra's powerful V6 engine and above-average off-road capability. The Xterra didn't deliver the sharp handling a crossover SUV might, so if you never plan to leave the street, there are better compact or midsize SUV choices. But if trail-busting (or looking like a trail-buster) is your thing, you can't do much better than the Xterra.
Buyers looking for a used second-generation Nissan Xterra can't really go wrong, as there were no significant mechanical changes over its lifespan. But be aware that the entry-level X model did not receive basic convenience items such as power accessories until 2008. The Xterra received a slight refresh for '09, getting a face-lift and standard front side and side curtain airbags. The airbags were previously optional, so shoppers would be wise to note whether an earlier Xterra of this generation has them. The Pro-4X trim also lacked some of the high-tech comfort and convenience items later featured as standard, but many were available as options. The 2013 and '14 model years saw the arrival of additional standard features, including USB connectivity for the S trim ('13) and Bluetooth for all trims ('14).
Nissan offered the Xterra in three trim levels: X, S and Pro-4X. The first two were offered in either rear- or four-wheel-drive versions, while the Pro-4X was 4WD-only. In later years, the entry-level X came with full power accessories, air-conditioning, keyless entry and a six-speaker stereo with an auxiliary input jack. The S added alloy wheels, step rails, a multiadjustable driver seat, an upgraded audio interface with USB connectivity and an easy-to-clean cargo area with enhanced tie-down points. The Pro-4X model offered off-road tires and shocks, a locking rear differential and additional comfort and convenience features such as a navigation system, a rearview camera and a Rockford Fosgate sound system.
The first-generation Xterra was unveiled in 2000 as a rugged, trucklike compact SUV. While it sold well initially, early Nissan Xterras did have a few rough edges. The bare interior was constructed of hard plastic panels, the ride was harsh and the modest four-cylinder and 170-hp V6 engines barely had enough oomph to propel the Xterra around town.
That changed for 2002, when Nissan added a supercharged V6 to boost performance. The Xterra also received modified front-end styling — including a hood bulge on supercharged models — and refined controls, cabin trim and audio systems to help bring it up to date. In 2003, both the regular and supercharged V6 engines received slight power boosts, and the Xterra was treated to trim and styling tweaks. Stability control and side curtain airbags also became available.
To avoid the teething problems in 2000-'01 vehicles, shoppers may want to focus on the revised 2002-'04 models, particularly the supercharged versions, when searching for used first-generation Nissan Xterras.