When Nissan debuted its Xterra SUV in 2000, it was clearly hoping to move off the beaten path both literally and figuratively. The unique styling and brawny body-on-frame super structure gave the Xterra an uncompromising reputation as a lifestyle-oriented sport truck and young buyers responded.
The Xterra has undergone a gradual series of upgrades and improvements over the years that have addressed such early deficiencies as refinement, horsepower, and an interior laden with hard, uninviting plastic.
In 2006 the Xterra received its most comprehensive makeover, and although the 2008 version looks very much like the '05, there's nary a part or piece from the previous Xterra that's been held over.
The styling has been revamped to more closely resemble the other trucks in Nissan's lineup but the quirky exterior cues that have become Xterra trademarks, such as the bulging fender flares, split-level roofline, edgy roof rack, and bulbous rear hatch containing a first aid kit are all right where you'd expect them to be.
The Xterra's wheelbase has been extended two inches giving it increased approach and departure angles when climbing over the real rough stuff and thanks to a new fully boxed frame and a 261 horsepower 4-liter V6 with 281 pound feet of torque, the '08 Xterra may be the most trail-capable example Nissan has ever built. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive setups are available and a six-speed manual or five speed automatic transmission rounds out the drivetrain. There are four trim levels available: X, S, Off-road, and SE.
We tested the SE version and enjoyed the impressive level of standard equipment we found such as the tubular step rails and 17" aluminum alloy wheels. And there's much more to consider when ordering from the Xterra's option list.
The interior of the Xterra still has that hardcore ambience that could be described as unrefined compared to many of the car-based SUV's on the market, but adjustable tie-down hooks in the cargo area, plenty of storage up front, and the brawny 300 watt Rockford Fosgate (Fozz-gate) audio system are welcome features.
For safety, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are standard as are electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist. Front side-impact airbags and full length side curtain airbags are optional along with Nissan's VDC stability control system. Crash testing data gave the Xterra excellent ratings for both head-on and side-impact collisions.
The Base MSRP for the 2008 Nissan Xterra in two-wheel drive SE trim is $26,630. Such extras as satellite radio, a towing package, and a supplemental airbag package will get you over the $30,000 mark with a handful of other add-ons also ready to be checked off.
The Nissan Xterra is anything but another bland, cookie-cutter SUV. It's a multi-purpose open-country conveyance for the rugged individualist who still appreciates a little comfort and style.