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2012 Nissan Xterra - Road & Travel Magazine's 2012 SUV Buyer's Guide

2012 Nissan Xterra Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 SUV Buyer's Guide - Road & Travel's Top 10 Picks

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Extreme seems to be one of the most popular concepts in some reality television show lately. Makeovers, survival contests, dating venues have been added to extreme sports. So if you're going to have the capability of going to the extreme, what's better than giving yourself a name to show it? That's what the 2012 Nissan Xterra sport utility vehicle is all about. If you're looking for an SUV with teeth, its name will tell you what it is. After all, “extreme” and “terra” (which stands for earth)  seems a perfect combination if your intent is to go places the average vehicle wouldn't be expected to drive.

Having gutsy DNA fits Xterra just fine. Unlike a growing number of crossover- style vehicles, it doesn't make claim to cushier, carlike driving dynamics but retains a true truck foundation as its base, with the high ground clearance that can scramble off road with ease. Get an Xterra and you have the ability to stay out of trouble or get out of it if you maneuver the wrong way. No worries that a snow bank, sandy hill or unexpected swale can derail your intended travel route. That's called confidence.

Appearance-wise, this is no patsy. What you get is a beefy, burly; no nonsense powerhouse that announces it can slog through just about anything. Just about everything on this sturdy frame is there for a reason, like the rear bumper notches designed as a footwell boost to access the overhead roof rack. The 2012 rear hatch retains the bulge designed to house an emergency first aid kit (an option for 2012) when the Xterra was first launched with an extreme capability. (Maybe those off-road bikers or kayakers get banged up during sporting events.)

Xterra comes in X and S models in two or four wheel drive and top-line PRO-4 X (4WD only) for enthusiasts. For those who wish to announce their off-road intentions, the PRO-4X has standard roof-mounted off-road sport lights, sports a compass and has 9.5 inches of ground clearance.

The Xterra's credentials back its purpose, which Nissan describes as an ability to “attack life.” The 4.0-liter, V-6 that generates 261-horsepower, and 281 lb-ft of scramble-capable torque, the quality in a vehicle to get out of bad situations quickly when that extra oomph is needed. Transmissions are 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual (available only on S and PRO-4X). Best fuel economy is 16 city and 22 highway (2WD, with automatic).

Inside, the needs of an active lifestyle haven't been overlooked. An available Easy Clean cargo area just makes sense for someone who intends to put the Xterra's inherent gutsy character to full use. That's one of the traits that repeatedly gets high marks. A foldable front passenger seat expands interior space, and an adjustable channel can be added to the cargo floor to help secure bikes or other sports equipment. Remote keyless entry and power mirrors satisfies a techy requirement for some pampering. And premium 300-watt Rockford Fosgard audio with eight speakers plus Bluetooth phone connectivity can be added.

If you see an Xterra in your future, expect base pricing at $25,210, or about $30 K for the PRO-4X.

How does Road & Travel view the Xterra? With a lot of muscle and a lot of heft to boast about, we think it can handle just about any down and dirty task assigned to it, if we needed an ability to grunt our way through life. And we think if sport utilities ever get their own survival show on primetime TV as a challenge to family comedy, the Xterra will be one of the headliners in the cast.

For more info on Nissan brands, click here.