2010 Nissan Xterra Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 2, 2010

If you have a lot of gear to haul to tough-to-reach places, the 2010 Nissan Xterra is a good choice for weekend adventurers.

The editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven the Nissan Xterra and bring you their expert opinion on how it fits into the market, along with firsthand driving impressions, here in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com has also researched available road tests with information relating to the 2010 Nissan Xterra, with the adjacent Full Review including highlights and other viewpoints.

After getting a slight refresh for 2009, the Nissan Xterra is carried over to 2010 with few changes. A restyled front end, new wheels, seat materials, and colors are among the changes for last year, and side-impact airbags are added to the standard-equipment list.

You can tell that the Xterra is a serious off-roader from the outset, with its high physical stance, externally mounted spare, and prominent brush guards and skid plates on some variants. Inside, too, the look is universally rugged, with tough-looking upholstery, easy-to-clean cargo surfaces, tie-downs, and extra storage spaces as part of the package.

The engine in the Xterra is the same basic 4.0-liter V-6 found in the Frontier pickup, rated here at 261 horsepower, and it's mated to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The smooth-shifting automatic transmission works particularly well with the engine, and the combination offers plenty of low-rpm torque good for off-roading or towing. The 2010 Nissan Xterra is built on the Frontier pickup's platform, with 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 becomes pitchy on only the bumpiest roads.

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All four Xterra models are available in four-wheel drive, and all but the Off-Road edition are available with rear-wheel drive. The Xterra makes a lot of sense as a 4x4, as it offers 9.5 inches of ground clearance and an approach angle of more than 33 degrees. The available four-wheel-drive system is a part-time, off-road-oriented setup, with high and low ranges. Additionally, several features that are included with the optional stability control system, such as Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist, use electronics to help maintain poise in precarious situations.

A 60/40-split folding rear seat, a folding front passenger seat, a double-deck glove box, and a large center console, all add to the overall utility of the 2010 Nissan Xterra, with decent space for adults in the backseat and plenty of places to put stuff. The front seats allow good space even if they aren't that supportive, and there's enough room in back for adults. On top of this, the front passenger seat can be folded forward to horizontal for very long items, and the Xterra makes it easy to fit cumbersome sports equipment and keep it secured during off-road adventures.

When it comes to safety, the Xterra receives four-star ratings in the federal test for frontal protection and top five-star results for side impact. The insurance-affiliated IIHS tests finds the Xterra "good" for frontal impact, "good" for side, and "poor" for rear impact. Standard safety equipment on the 2010 Nissan Xterra includes front active head restraints, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, stability control, and side-curtain airbags.

The 2010 Xterra is offered in four different trim levels, including X, S, Off-Road, and SE models. The trim level will largely determine what sort of features you’ll be getting, as Nissan has eliminated options for the 2010 model year. The S model now claims fog lights, roof-rack crossbars, and a gear basket as standard. The Off-Road model adds to the S model with 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 standard for 2010, but an in-dash navigation system isn't offered. SE models add more luxurious trim and appointments, plus fog lamps, roof rack crossbars, five 17-inch tires and alloys, a first-aid kit, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, standard Bluetooth, and an upgraded Rockford-Fosgate sound system.

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