HOLLISTER HILLS, Calif. — Four-wheel-drive expert Daphne Greene, of Ross, California, motions me to come forward, with an extended arm and cupped hand. I apply gentle pressure to the Xterra’s throttle and low-range gearing deftly powers this all-new SUV across the gully and up the steep incline at a slow crawl. Her face is serious as she gestures first right, and then left.
Tight steering and capable tires allow me to nimbly traverse the angled sidehill. Now, through one of the most difficult stretches of this rigorous off-road vehicle recreational park, there are smiles for all. Especially for Nissan’s latest entry into the 4x4 market: the brand-new Nissan Xterra.
Although the venerable Nissan Pathfinder became the import SUV of choice during the late 1980s and early '90s, this Japanese automaker has suffered falling market share ever since, especially in the SUV and light truck segment. If Nissan North America plans to survive in today's SUV-crazed climate, it needs to sell a vehicle even more successful than its original hit.
2000 Nissan Xterra 2
Base Xterras have four-cylinder engines, two-wheel drive, and five-speed manual gearboxes: a V-6, four-wheel drive, and an automatic are available.
According to the company, the all-new Xterra will be just what the doctor ordered. Available in June 1999 as a 2000 model, this full-fledged sport-utility vehicle isn't a conformist. While the industry is shifting to vehicles that drive like cars yet carry a truckload of gear (witness, for example, the success of Subaru's Outback, Mercedes' M-Class, and the array of car-based mini-utes), the Xterra is proud of its trucklike character and doesn't try to hide it.