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Weidel on Wheels: Xterra's ready for Mother Nature

Mid-size SUV can handle the outdoors and has plenty of cargo room
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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This burly sport utility vehicle is definitely not designed for the masses. Yet Nissan has a nice thing going, targeting youthful, active car buyers who want a versatile SUV that can take them on some exciting adventures. The Xterra was introduced to the North American market in 2000 and remains a viable choice when it comes to rugged SUVs. A decade ago the slogan was – “Everything you need, nothing you don’t.” That’s not exactly the case any longer with the evolution leading up to the 2010 model. Yet it’s not too far off the mark for a vehicle that was designed for people who love heading into the outdoors. Xterra owners are still driving this SUV through the mud and carrying everything from mountain bikes, surfboards to hiking gear. Besides being a great cargo hauler, the Xterra is a pretty fair off-road vehicle as well, with high ground clearance so it can slither over rocks or power its way through sand dunes. That explains why many times when one encounters an Xterra, which has a truck-based underpinning, one of the initial thoughts is – this is a car that seriously needs a bath. Speaking of baths, that has always been one of the cool aspects of the Xterra. A very large, accommodating cargo area (35 cubic feet of space, 66 feet when the seats are folded down) makes the Xterra’s hard-plastic floor easy to clean. The interior also features handy utility hooks and a way to tightly secure bikes and other gear to the floor. If that’s not enough, among the Xterra’s options is a one-gallon water jug, first aid kit, and for the true off-roaders, hill descent control and hill start assist. By now you clearly get the picture - this is one rugged SUV that can take you into the wilderness and back. But what about the every-day trips, the mundane commute to work or just running errands around town? Although it can’t match most of its mid-size SUV competitors for every-day usage, the Xterra handles adequately, corners better than expected, and is fairly comfortable. All three Xterra trims feature a 4.0-liter, V-6 engine that produces 261 horsepower. If one is looking for four-by-four capability, that’s an extra that will hike the price. The model test driven here had it and cost $27,470, which is about $5,000 above the base model that only has two-wheel drive. Gas mileage is a respectable 15 to 20 miles per gallon. __________ 2010 Nissan Xterra 4x4 Price: $27,470 Power: 4.0-liter, V-6 engine with 261 horsepower Mileage estimate: 15 mpg city; 20 mpg highway Standard features include: 16-inch steel wheels; rear tinted glass; roof rails; keyless entry; tilt steering wheel; six-speaker stereo, CD player; tire pressure monitor; center console; power windows, doors, mirrors; rear defogger; full spare tire; driver seat height, lumbar adjustment; side steps, fog lights