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#19

in Affordable Compact SUVs

MSRP: $23,660 - $31,640
Invoice: $22,673 - $29,973
MPG: 16 City / 22 Hwy
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Nissan Xterra Performance

According to automotive journalists, the 2015 Nissan Xterra has a strong engine that puts out plenty of power. Reviewers agree that Xterra PRO-4X models offer excellent off-road performance. However, they generally agree that the Nissan Xterra’s off-road capabilities come at the expense of a stiff on-road ride. Most critics also say the Xterra lacks composure through turns, but others say it offers good steering feedback and feels decently secure.

  • "Drive the Xterra back to back with a contemporary crossover, though, and the aging Nissan seems rudimentary, even crude. It's clumsy when pressed around turns. ..." -- Edmunds
  • "The Xterra is, however, much more powerful than most of the competition, offering a standard 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque.” -- Left Lane News
  • "The ride is definitely firm, but it's also acceptable around town, especially if you explore the off-road payoff on the weekends. The suspension doesn't let the tall body lean too much in corners, and the steering offers good feedback, too." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The 2015 Nissan Xterra has a 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 engine. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, while a six-speed manual transmission is available on four-wheel drive models. The base Xterra gets an EPA-estimated 16/22 mpg city/highway. Models equipped with four-wheel drive and either transmission earn 15/20 mpg city/highway. Those are low estimates for the class, but they’re on par with the estimates of off-road-oriented rivals like the Jeep Wrangler.

While some reviewers say that the Xterra uses a lot of fuel, most agree that it has ample power whether you’re tackling trails off-road or accelerating on the highway. Still, a few say that automatic models could use a bit more highway passing power. The manual transmission also disappoints some reviewers, who say that it can be difficult to use.

  • "The thirsty 4.0-liter V6 has plenty of power and torque when you need it." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 2015 Nissan Xterra's 4.0-liter V6 engine produces plenty of torque, which is an asset whether you're merging onto the expressway or tackling low-speed off-road obstacles." -- Edmunds
  • "Enthusiasts will enjoy the six-speed manual transmission (available only with four-wheel-drive models), which improves fuel economy and acceleration." -- Left Lane News
  • "The automatic transmission reacts quickly enough to throttle inputs, but passing at highway speeds can be a bit labored with either transmission. The manual transmission feels as truck-like as the rest of the vehicle, with balky shifter and clutch action." -- Consumer Guide (2012)

Handling and Braking

The 2015 Xterra’s ride is firmer than most rivals’ and you’re likely to feel most road imperfections, reviewers write. However, a few test drivers say that while the Xterra’s ride is stiff, it’s generally tolerable. Some automotive journalists say there’s body lean in turns and the steering feels slow, though others say the steering is communicative. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the Xterra and four-wheel drive is optional.

  • "For better or worse, the Xterra is very much a truck. The stiffness in the chassis and suspension is easily felt over speed bumps and during cornering." -- AutoTrader
  • "When driving on pavement, you'll likely notice that the ride, while reasonably comfortable, isn't as smooth as that of a typical crossover SUV. Likewise, the Xterra lumbers a bit going around tight turns, and its steering is on the slow side." -- Edmunds
  • "The trade-off for the rock-climbing prowess comes in the form of distinctly truck-like on-road handling that isn't as smooth or precise as that of similarly-sized crossovers." -- Left Lane News
  • "Thankfully Nissan engineers have worked some magic on the Xterra, giving it a firm but livable ride, good feedback from the steering wheel and moderate lean when taking sharp turns. In short, the Xterra rides and drives very much like the Frontier pickup truck." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)

Off-Roading

Nissan Xterra PRO-4X models are set up for the most off-road capability in the 2015 Xterra lineup. They come equipped with a standard electronic locking rear differential, hill start assist, hill descent control, Bilstein shock absorbers, skid plates and larger tires. Automotive writers report that the Xterra’s impressive ground clearance and sturdy body-on-frame design make it a capable off-roader. They agree that PRO-4X models can take on deep streams and muddy ruts with ease. Some test drivers think the only compact SUV more capable off-road is the Jeep Wrangler.

  • "This sturdy, traditional foundation, along with a live rear axle and 8.2 inches of ground clearance, gives the SUV impressive capabilities when the pavement ends - especially in Pro-X form (detailed below). Only hard-core, purpose-built machines like the Jeep Wrangler are better in this regard." -- Left Lane News
  • "The truck-based design makes it as tough as nails, and the available 4-wheel drive (4WD) system lets it crawl over rocks, boulders, ruts, streams, and just about anything nature can throw its way, without ripping its suspension or getting buried up to both axles." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The combination of rugged body-on-frame design, generous ground clearance, a long travel suspension and the four-wheel-drive system's dual-range transfer case guarantees the Xterra's sure-footedness when the pavement ends." -- Edmunds
  • "Where crossovers may ride and handle better, the Xterra is built to venture off-road in a way that few crossover SUVs can." -- AutoTrader
Review Last Updated: 3/20/15

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