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3/4 Front Glamour 2012 Nissan Xterra

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Expert's Rating


MPG 16 City / 21 Highway
  • Good power from V6 engine
  • Smooth-shifting transmission
  • High towing capacity
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Unconfident brake pedal feel
  • Seats can be uncomfortable on long trips
Automotive Editor -
The Nissan Xterra is aimed at people who want the ability to go anywhere and want an SUV that doesn't make claims it's a device for going between malls. Rather, it appeals more to the set who regularly venture out in the mountains, strap snowboards to the top of it, or take it in muddy trails or down to the sandy beaches. And for that reason, it comes with a powerful engine and lots of interior space that puts practicality first. If you're an active type looking for an SUV, the Xterra could be a wise buy.


The base Xterra is known as the X trim, aimed at people who want a rugged midsize SUV. It comes standard, like all Xterras, with a 4.0-liter V6 good for 270 horsepower. The X gets a standard five-speed automatic and rear wheel drive. Four-wheel drive with a low-speed transfer case is available.

Amenities include power windows, locks and cruise control, 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, split-folding rear seat and folding front passenger's seatback and a six-speaker audio system. The S adds a height-adjustable driver's seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, wipe-down cargo area and offers a six-speed manual with four-wheel drive models. The off-road ready Pro-4X comes standard with four-wheel drive, along with a six-speed manual, electronic locking rear differential, hill holder clutch, hill descent control, 16-inch alloy wheels with off-road tires, skid plates, Bluetooth, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and a 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with AUX input, satellite radio and a six-disc CD changer.

The Jeep Liberty has many similar off-road abilities and is available with more luxury features, but it has a weaker powertrain and the interior is cramped and poorly made. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is even more capable off road and offers a removable top for open-air fun, but gets expensive and doesn't stay composed on the road. The Toyota 4Runner has more space and available features with good off-road ability, but it costs much more and is cumbersome to drive on the road. And a Land Rover LR2 is more refined on road and has decent off-road ability, but it costs much more and isn't as rugged looking as the Nissan.

The Xterra is definitely a good buy for those who need something to match their high-adventure lifestyle and want an SUV that definitely won't leave them stranded. There are far better choices for people who want to pose in town and look active, and even some off-road minded competitors offer comfort features and better availability of modern features like Bluetooth and satellite radio, but as a package the Xterra is tough to beat if you also need your SUV to be tough.

Which Style To Buy?

2012 Nissan Xterra
Starting price

2012 Nissan Xterra S

Recommended for: Buyers who want more appearance features

The S adds a few more appearance features to add style touches to the rugged outside of the Xterra. Standard are 16-inch alloy wheels with off-road tires, black side moldings, power mirrors, front map lights, dual vanity mirrors and a first-aid kid. Four-wheel drive models get a standard six-speed manual transmission with a Dana rear axle. Also included are a covered gear box, front tow hook and splash guards.

2012 Nissan Xterra
Starting price

2012 Nissan Xterra X

Recommended for: Buyers looking for an inexpensive and tough SUV

The base Xterra still comes with the most essential features, living up to the Xterra's role in life. It starts with the 4.0-liter V6 engine with 270 horsepower. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission available on the X and it comes standard with rear-wheel drive, though four-wheel drive is available. Also included are 16-inch steel wheels, a skid plate, privacy glass, air conditioning, power windows, locks with remote keyless entry, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, split-folding rear seats and a six-speaker audio system. Other than four-wheel drive, the only options are step rails and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

2012 Nissan Xterra
Starting price

2012 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X

Recommended for: Off-road drivers who want a go-anywhere tool with standard four-wheel drive

The Pro-4X is the most off-road ready Xterra. It comes standard with four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual, hill-start assist and a hill descent control, electronically locking rear differential, special 16-inch alloy wheels, off-road lights, crossbars for the roof rack, front fog lights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, folding front passenger's seatback and a Rockford Fosgate sound system with 8 speakers and an AUX input. Leather upholstery is available for models equipped with an automatic transmission.

Used Nissan Xterra in 20149