- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

The reorganization of Nissan is one that is being watched closely and applauded by many, both in and out of the automotive business. Though Nissan seemed to have lost its way, we all wanted Nissan to find the trail. How could we allow the company that brought us the 240Z and promised a new updated Z-car go the way of many early car companies.

Part of Nissan's recent success can be attributed to the Xterra sport utility. This aggressively styled and capable off-roader is more aggressively styled for 2002, taking on a closer family tie to the Frontier pickup truck. The front end is restyled yet the front fenders were retained.

Changes include a muscular front grille and bumper treatment and higher hood bulge to accommodate the installation of the power-enhancing supercharger.

The Xterra interior has also gone through a complete redesign, here again increasing the aggressive appearance and sporting flavor. The instrument panel has a sportier set of gauges and the center stack area receives a bold new design to accentuate the heater/air conditioning and sound system controls.

I found the seating and steering wheel adjustments to be a bit limited. Finding a comfortable driving position was difficult. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive, but the rear seat is limited in its ability to make large-framed bodies comfortable.

The popularity of the early Xterra came from its ability to project the active lifestyle of its owner. No matter your age, the Xterra continues to tell people you are involved with your life and not one to just sit and let life pass you by.

The large rails of the beefy roof rack come with a cargo net that is the perfect place for dirty or wet equipment, or just stuff you don't want inside the passenger compartment. The only caveat is with net in place you cannot open the sunroof. So if open-air motoring is your favor leave the cargo net at home.

Adding performance was a main goal for the new Xterra and one way to achieve more power without developing a new engine or installing a larger one was to look at increasing output of the current power plant. The later choice is what Nissan engineers did.

By examining what was going on in the aftermarket they came up with the idea of installing a supercharger. This was being done by customizers with incredible success and seemed to be perfect for this sport utility. Don't expect high g-force power here. However, you will get exceedingly better performance than the previous model. Going with a supercharger over a turbocharger eliminates the typical lag that accompanies turbos.

The Xterra does have excellent acceleration from stops and during passing maneuvers. Xterra is a major factor in the re-emergence of Nissan. For a while we thought Nissan might just slink back to Asia, ceasing to provide the United States with its capable vehicles. That has all changed, and though Nissan may not be as formidable as it once was, this well-known marque has turned the corner and is coming back strong.

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