- Fashionably rugged styling
- Responsive V-6 engine and smooth automatic transmission
- Off-road ability and toughness
- Very versatile interior
- Ride can be choppy on rough roads
- Unsupportive front seats
- Side airbags aren’t standard
For active people who need to tow or haul a lot of gear or go off-road, the 2008 Nissan Xterra is one of the best—and best-looking—choices.
The back-to-basics, mid-size Xterra sport-utility vehicle appeals to active younger people who need to go off-road or haul clunky accessories such as kayaks, snowboards, or diving equipment. The 2008 Nissan Xterra is built on the Frontier pickup's platform and comes with the same basic 4.0-liter V-6 engine (though rated, in this case, at 261 horsepower vs. 266 hp in the Frontier); it's mated to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.
The 2008 Nissan Xterra is configured with hardy, traditional truck underpinnings, including a solid axle and leaf springs in back but a multilink setup in front for more responsive handling. The ride is actually quite smooth and settled, and it only becomes pitchy on the bumpiest roads. The V-6 works especially well with the smooth-shifting automatic transmission and has plenty of low-rpm torque good for off-roading or towing.
The interior is very ruggedly styled and versatile. It includes an adjustable channel system in the cargo hold for securing bike racks and sports gear, as well as a total of 10 utility hooks. A 60/40-split folding rear seat, folding front passenger seat, double-deck glovebox, and large center console add to the overall utility of the 2008 Nissan Xterra. And the cargo floor surface can be sponged off. Seating isn't completely an afterthought, though; front seats allow good space even if they aren't that supportive, and there's enough space in back for adults. The front passenger seat can be folded forward to horizontal for very long items.
The available four-wheel-drive system is a part-time, off-road-oriented setup, with high and low ranges. Several features included with the optional stability control system--Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist--use electronics to help maintain poise on precarious situations. Physically, the 2008 Nissan Xterra has very impressive off-road credentials, with 9.5 inches of ground clearance and an approach angle of more than 33 degrees.
The 2008 Nissan Xterra is offered in four models: X, S, Off Road, and SE. All four are available in 4x4 models, and all but the Off Road edition are available with rear-wheel drive. This year, the Xterra adds power windows/locks/mirrors to all versions, along with remote keyless entry, cruise control, and a standard auto-dimming rearview mirror. SE models add more luxurious trim and appointments, plus fog lamps, five 17-inch tires and alloys, the first-aid kit, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, and an upgraded Rockford-Fosgate sound system. The Off Road model adds to the S 16-inch off-road wheels and tires, Bilstein shocks with off-road tuning, a locking differential (with 4x4), and skid plates. As an automatic, it also includes Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist. A Bluetooth hands-free phone setup is now optional, but an in-dash navigation system isn't offered.
Standard safety equipment on the 2008 Nissan Xterra includes front active head restraints, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, and stability control; side curtain airbags and front side bags are available optionally. The Xterra received four-star ratings in the federal test for frontal protection and top five-star results for side impact. The insurance-affiliated IIHS tests found the Xterra "good" for frontal impact, "marginal" for side, and "poor" for rear impact. The optional side airbags improved the side impact results to "good."