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2005 Cute Ute Buyer's Guide

2005 Nissan Xterra Review

by Martha Hindes

2005 Nissan Xterra
2005 Nissan Xterra

There's a major clue to Nissan's redesign of its compact Xterra SUV for 2005 by what hasn't been taken out. Yes, the first-aid kit is still there. Read that to mean that while many competitors have fallen all over themselves to remove truck foundations and offer car-based SUVs instead, Xterra can still hunker down for true off-road duty without worrying about getting its undercarriage muddy. In fact, this second generation remains based on a modified "F-Alpha" truck foundation used in other Nissan SUVs and pickups, and includes a specifically-named "Off-Road Grade" version complete with skid plates, trail-rated tires, lock-in low gear, and other heavy duty necessities.

But that's only part of the story of this remake that hasn't ignored customer requests for some refinement despite its tough foundation. Changes include major improvement in ride quality (thanks to more length and width), quietness, improved transmission, more interior space and added amenities, without losing Xterra's distinctive character. Safety gets major attention as well, with an available side-curtain airbag system for rollover protection. All three trim levels are powered by a standard 265-HP, 4.0-liter V-6, whether manual or five-speed automatic, or two- or four-wheel drive.

Perhaps to herald the new year in style, Nissan began production just a week into calendar '05 for sale in February. That could make it harder to find in showrooms for a few weeks. But never fear, Nissan intends to sell a ton of them.