The Nissan Xterra, a successful and original formula for some time, undergoes modest changes for 2009. The grille and front fascia is changed a bit, along with the center console panel, to go along with the rugged and attractive standard fabric upholstery. Standard equipment now includes side-impact airbags in front and full-length airbag curtains. It achieves four of five stars in NHTSA crash tests for frontal impact, and three stars for rollover.
The Xterra is a truck SUV, not a crossover SUV, meaning its body is attached to a boxed-in steel ladder frame and uses a rugged suspension, double-wishbone front and solid axle with leaf springs in rear. It's the same chassis as the Nissan Frontier pickup.
All Xterras use a 4.0-liter V6 that is powerful and well proven. In 4WD with the optional smooth five-speed automatic transmission it achieves 15 city and 20 highway miles per gallon, a bit more with 2WD or the standard six-speed manual transmission.
An Off-Road model is available that will go pretty much anywhere. It comes with Hill Descent Control, heavy duty trail tires, and skid plates. The electronic 4WD system is part time, with three functions available: 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low.
The 2009 Nissan Xterra comes in four models, all using Nissan's award-winning aluminum V6, stroked to 4.0 liters from its 3.5 liters as used in other Nissans; it makes 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Most models offer a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
The Nissan Xterra X ($22,310) comes with cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control, six-speaker sound system with single CD, 12-volt DC outlets, driver seat lumbar support, power windows and doors, 60/40 rear seat, 16-inch steel wheels, aluminum step rails, and easy-to-clean cargo floor with a C-channel and four moveable hooks to strap down mountain bikes and things. The Xterra X 4WD ($24,360) model features a 4WD electronically controlled transfer case with three functions available: 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low. The Xterra X comes with steel wheels.
The Xterra S ($23,810) and 4WD ($26,060) upgrades to alloy wheels and BFG Long Trail tires. The S comes with the manual transmission or the automatic ($24,860).
The Nissan Xterra SE ($27,340) comes with leather upholstery, automatic transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels with BFG Long Trail tires. The exterior trim has body-colored side moldings and Satin Chrome trim, as opposed to mere Sandblast Aluminum on the X and S models.
The Xterra Off-Road 4WD ($28,340) has roof-mounted lights, black molding, rugged fabric upholstery, a front passenger seat that folds flat, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. It features Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist, an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein gas shocks, and skid plates for the oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case. It rides on BFG Rugged Trail T/A tires mounted to 6-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels.
Safety equipment on all 2009 Xterra models includes dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags in front and roof-mounted airbag curtains, and the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren). Vehicle Dynamic Control and vented disc brakes with ABS and EBD come standard, along with the government-mandated tire pressure monitor.
Two option packages are available: the Technology Package with a premium eight-speaker 6CD system, XM radio, and Bluetooth; and the Gear Package, with roof rack crossbars, fog lights, first aid kit, cargo net and gear basket.