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#19

in 2009 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $11,403 - $15,487
Original MSRP: $22,310 - $29,340
MPG: 16 City / 20 Hwy
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2009 Nissan Xterra Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2009 Nissan Xterra is a good option for those who want utility and space. With a 4.0-liter V6 engine, it's got plenty of power. However, the Xterra's on-road ride isn't as car-like as many of its crossover competitors.

  • "Xterra makes no apologies for being a rugged, go-anywhere SUV truck." -- MSN
  • "The Xterra's ride, though not rough, is a far cry from the car-like comfort provided by the Honda CR-V and Toyota Highlander." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 2009 Nissan Xterra fits the role of adventure sherpa to a "T." This trail-capable and highly configurable hauler was made with fun-seekers in mind. But unlike some off-road-capable trucks and SUVs, the Xterra is also at home in urban settings, with a fair amount of suspension compliance for a comfortable ride." -- Edmunds  

Acceleration and Power

With a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, the 2009 Xterra has plenty of power for any situation and a 5,000-pound towing capacity. However, its fuel economy is a major drawback. According to the EPA, the 2WD model nets 16/20 mpg city/highway with the six-speed manual transmission and 15/21 mpg with the five-speed automatic. The 4WD model nets 16/20 mpg and 15/21 mpg with the manual and automatic, respectively.

  • "The 4.0-liter is a gutsy motor with a growl for an engine note." -- Car and Driver
  • "Strong from a stop and around town. A 2WD SE did 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds in our test. The automatic reacts quickly enough to throttle inputs, but passing at highway speeds can be a bit labored with either transmission." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The smooth-shifting electronic 5-speed automatic also is impressive; although down on gearing, the computer does soften the shift points and throttle sensitivity in low range." -- Motor Trend
  • "When merging on the freeway, we had the initial sensation of not being able to accelerate fast enough, then discovered several seconds later that we had somehow reached 80mph with ease." -- CNET
  • "The Xterra jumps off the line enthusiastically, with the V6 pulling consistently up to its 6,250-rpm redline. Upshifts are quick and surprisingly smooth, but during passing maneuvers the automatic transmission inconsistently downshifts one or two gears, accompanied by an awkward pause after throttle application." -- Edmunds  

Handling and Braking

The Xterra's frame was redesigned to be fully boxed, and the wheelbase was stretched two inches in a 2005 redesign. Despite the refinement over older models, reviewers find the Xterra's on-road ride and handling falls short compared with others in its class.

  • "Xterra's off-road-ready suspension and short wheelbase make the ride choppy except on the smoothest roads. Some patches and sharp bumps register more as body shudder than thumpy harshness, and there's some truck-like bounding over even moderate humps and ruts." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Handling is good if the Xterra isn't driven too hard, and the brakes provide short stops. Although improved, the ride is predictably truck-like despite the longer wheelbase and gets choppy over some roads." -- MSN
  • "Around town and on the highway, the ... Nissan Xterra rides and handles impressively; it tracks straight, rides smooth and handles even higher-speed sweeping turns as calmly and confidently as a solid sedan." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "When taken off-road, our Xterra displayed its ravenous appetite for rocks and mud that would leave crossover SUVs stranded. We initially approached obstacles with caution and the Xterra climbed and conquered, barely acknowledging the tough terrain, thanks to its 9.5 inches of clearance. Pushing harder over more challenging inclines, the low-range 4WD proved its merit with an uninterrupted and steady crawl over the top, while the hill ascent control ensures no loss of ground should you need a break halfway up a difficult peak." -- Edmunds  

Next Steps: 2009 Nissan Xterra

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