- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

Xterra became an image vehicle for Nissan when it first rolled onto the streets and trails of America. It symbolized the free-spirited attitude of the adventurous and became the vehicle for kayakers, rock climbers and bicycle riders. The Xterra’s personality hasn’t changed; it has, however, grown.

The new Xterra is stretched a few inches both in wheelbase and interior room. The rear seats get the lion’s share of that increase with more legroom for rear passengers. There is an increase to the overall length.

While the increase in size mainly benefits the rear-seat passengers, this larger size also aids in making the front-seat occupants more comfortable. As a driver, I was able to find a very comfortable position even with a passenger seated directly behind me. It is a complement to the design of a compact vehicle of any style.

Additional features expand the usefulness of the Xterra. One addition I particularly appreciated is the rail-type tie-down system. This is a more compact version of the system introduced on the Titan pickup truck; however, here it is smaller and not movable. There are also extra metal tie-down loops mounted on the rear headliner panel. Because these are fastened right to the steel structure of the roof, they will withstand up to 150 pounds of force. They appear plenty strong enough to handle most anchoring jobs.

The interior is just as well designed as the structure. Taking cues from the Armada and Pathfinder, the Xterra offers a comfortable setting in which to enjoy your adventures.

Do not become dismayed by the Xterra’s finer attributes. This Nissan becomes much more capable as it becomes more comfortable. While the four-wheel-drive version is more refined, it increases its ability to get you to the back country. Added to the many features that have made Xterra a practical choice are Hill Descent and Brake Roll Back systems. The Hill Descent aids in slowing the vehicle to a slow crawl while descending a steep hill. The system works only in four-wheel-drive mode and under very slow conditions.

The hill brake system senses that you have stopped on an incline and retains brake force upon startup. This keeps the vehicle from rolling down the hill in the first few seconds when you transfer your foot from brake pedal to accelerator.

A new 4.0-liter V-6 engine is the power source for Xterra, giving it a very healthy 265 horsepower and 284 foot-pounds of torque. The new engine extends the Xterra’s versatility and usefulness. More power and torque add excellent acceleration and passing capabilities on the road, while enhancing off-road trail-crawling abilities.

The electronically operated transfer case makes switching from two-wheel drive to four-wheel high and four-wheel low an extremely easy task. Rotate the dash-mounted switch and you’ve completed your move. A small indicator on the instrument panel displays which drive configuration you’ve chosen.

Adding to the safety functions are anti-locking brake system traction control and a available stability control that aids the driver in retaining control in the rare occurrence of a skid or out-of-control situation.

Obviously, avoiding a collision is the priority here, but in the off-chance of a collision, front dual-stage air bags are standard, as are active head restraints. An option I normally recommend is a stability-control system. Nissan offers its Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) that helps the driver maintain control of the vehicle in case of an emergency situation. As with most of these stability controls, when the VDC senses a possible out-of-control condition, it applies the necessary braking to the appropriate wheel to keep the vehicle under control. After Anti Locking Brakes, it is the next most important feature I recommend to buyers.

The updated Xterra is more contemporary and more capable than before, making it an attractive vehicle for those who enjoy off-the-paved-road adventures.

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