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2009 Nissan Xterra

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2009 Nissan Xterra Review

Tough enough for off-roading and civilized enough for city commuters.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 2009 Nissan Xterra gets its name from an offroad triathlon series and the model has been around since 2000. Its introduction was an immediate hit, as it is popular with extreme sports lovers who have found it be the perfect vehicle for surfing, winter sports, and all other outdoor activities. The midsize SUV comfortably seats five passengers.

While a lot of SUVs secretly like staying on the road, the Xterra is built to handle tough conditions. It has high ground clearance and offroad machinery. It's not as refined as some of the more recent crossovers, but it still remains comfortable for long drives and, with a V-6 engine, it offers a satisfying drive.

It can be driven around town during the week and in the wilderness on the weekends; however, the best use for the Xterra is as an offroad vehicle. It comes in four different trim levels, but has just one choice of engine: a 4.0-liter V-6. Nissan makes the model with either two- or four-wheel drive, except for the Off-Road version, which only comes with four-wheel drive.

The Range

Body styles: midsize SUV
Engines: 4.0-liter V-6
Transmissions: six-speed manual, five-speed automatic
Models: Nissan Xterra X, Nissan Xterra S, Nissan Xterra SE, Nissan Xterra Off-Road

What's New

The 2009 model of the Nissan Xterra shows a bit of a makeover, with roof-mounted lights for the Off-Road model, standard side-curtain airbags, and various trim enhancements.


The Nissan Xterra, as evident by its appearance, is a rugged, capable offroad vehicle. It is a truck-based SUV that is largely appealing to younger and more active buyers or to those who want to give that impression. It has a standard tubular roof rack and an attractive stepped roofline. The X model comes with 16-inch steel wheels, whereas the S model has 16-inch alloy wheels. The SE has 17-inch alloy wheels, as does the Off-Road model. The Off-Road model also comes with more rugged tires, offroad shock absorbers, and skid plates. The X Gear package offers several additional offroad extras, such as roof rack crossbars and foglights.


Nissans gain recognition for their well-designed cabins and the Xterra offers no exception. However, it does have a lot of hard plastic finishes that make it look and feel slightly cheap. The cargo area offers 35 cubic feet of space, but this expands to 66 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. Apart from the X model, all of the Xterras have easy-to-clean floors and sturdy utility hooks mounted on the ceiling and to the side of the floors. An adjustable channel system is built into the floor, allowing bike racks and other gear to be firmly secured. Other built-in storage space includes room for a first aid kit and space for a one-gallon water container.

Standard equipment on the base X model includes air-conditioning, cruise control, and a six-speaker audio system. The S model comes with an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat. The SE has leather seats and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. These features can be added to the Off-Road model, which comes with cloth seats and a fold-down passenger seat. Optional extras include an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer and MP3 playback, Bluetooth, and satellite radio. Additionally, Nissan offers a dockable rear entertainment system and a portable Garmin navigation system.

Performance & Handling

The 4.0-liter V-6 engine produces 261 hp and 281lb-ft torque. The models come fitted with a standard six-speed manual transmission or Nissan offers an optional five-speed automatic transmission. The Xterra experiences reasonable acceleration and four-wheel-drive models offer plenty of traction. The SUV has precise steering and good handling, which is especially impressive offroad.


The Xterra comes with anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), stability control, front-seat side airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags. Off-Road models come with hill start assist and hill descent control. This SUV scores very high in crash tests, earning four stars out of five for frontal impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. It achieves the highest rating possible for frontal and side-impact protection. However, its rollover ratings remain a little low compared to other SUVs.

EPA Fuel Economy

Nissan Xterra X: 16/20 mpg city/highway
Nissan Xterra S: 16/20 mpg city/highway
Nissan Xterra SE: 16/20 mpg city/highway
Nissan Xterra Off-Road: 16/20 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Offroad capability
  • Powerful engine
  • Innovative storage space

You Won't Like

  • Hard plastic interior finishes

Sum Up

Tough enough for off-roading and civilized enough for city commuters.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Toyota FJ Cruiser
  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota RAV4

See the New 2015 Xterra.

Front & Driver Side View