2011 Nissan Xterra Review

Consumer Reviews
0 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 6, 2011

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.

Off-road ruggedness is the 2011 Nissan Xterra's reason for being, and it shows it in a very cohesive package that looks the part, provides focused trail ability, and offers enough interior comforts for weekend warriors but not too much to scare the purists away.

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.

In some ways the 2011 Nissan Xterra is a flash from the past—a throwback to a time when most SUVs were, as it is, body-on-frame ute with a simple layout. 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 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.

Review continues below

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, 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. Off-road purists who want to get muddy will like the simple surfaces and materials., too.

Those who plan to use the Xterra off-road, as it's intended, will want to go for the PRO-4X 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.

Beginning last year, Nissan simplified trim levels and builds for the Xterra, and with most options eliminated, what trim level you get rather strictly determines the equipment you get—unless of course you decide to go for one of the dealer-installed options.

The Xterra is offered in three different trim levels: including X, S, and off-road-focused PRO-4X models. The S model now claims fog lights, roof-rack crossbars, and a gear basket as standard. PRO-4X models add 16-inch off-road wheels and tires, Bilstein shocks with off-road tuning, a locking differential (with 4x4), and skid plates. Automatic-transmission Xterras also include Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist.

An in-dash navigation system remains unavailable in the Xterra, but a Bluetooth hands-free phone setup is standard, and PRO-4X models include a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with auxiliary input, an in-dash 6-CD changer, 8 speakers, a subwoofer, steering wheel audio controls, and XM Satellite Radio.

9

2011 Nissan Xterra

Styling

The 2011 Nissan Xterra looks rugged and ready for trail time.

It only take a glance to see that the 2011 Nissan Xterra is a serious off-roader. With its high stance, bulging fenders, externally mounted spare, and oversize tires, prominent brush guards, and skid plates in some trims, it looks rough and ready—yet there's something youthful and easygoing about the design that makes it look just at home with lifeguards on the beach as with serious Rubicon Trail purists.

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.

7

2011 Nissan Xterra

Performance

Excellent off-road ability comes somewhat at the expense of on-road handling in the 2011 Xterra, but powertrain performance is strong.

The 2011 Xterra comes with a very torquey engine—a 261-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6, mated to a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission—and either combination is well-suited for off-roading or truck-caliber hauling. The smooth-shifting automatic transmission works particularly well with the engine, providing strong performance at low speeds but only adequate passing power.

The 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; overall, it's by no means nimble, but it does better on the road than its tall appearance might suggest.

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.

6

2011 Nissan Xterra

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Nissan Xterra has the utility and versatility for weekend warriors, but some might find the cabin lacking in refinement.

Outdoorsy folks and those needing serious off-road ability will probably be delighted with the packaging of the 2011 Nissan Xterra, but those who expect the comfort and spaciousness of a family-friendly wagon should look elsewhere.

The front seats in the Xterra have decent headroom and legroom, as well as a good view outward; they're not all that supportive, however. And anyone considering the Xterra should keep in mind that it's not nearly as spacious in back as most other SUV models. 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, however, and the cabin affords plenty of places to put stuff.

Inside, the Xterra has a double glovebox, a large center console, and a generous 35 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat up—expandable to nearly 66 cubic feet with it folded forward. 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.

The Xterra rides quite smoothly most of the time, though it does have a split personality, showing a harsh and pitchy side on the bumpiest roads. And overall, while the interior is quieter than those experienced with off-road-capable vehicles might expect tire noise can still be an issue on the highway in PRO-4X models.

7

2011 Nissan Xterra

Safety

The 2011 Nissan Xterra includes several off-road aids that might be welcomed on the trail; otherwise its safety is strictly mid-pack.

When it comes to safety, the Xterra isn't near the top in a class that tends to receive a lot of high scores.

The insurance-affiliated IIHS tests finds the Xterra "good" for frontal impact, "good" for side, and only "marginal" for rear impact. Additionally, it gets just an 'acceptable' rating in the roof strength test—especially crucial in a taller vehicle that might be used in a way (off road) in which rollover would be more likely.

While the 2011 Xterra hasn't yet been tested in heavily revised, more stringent federal tests, it earned reasonably good four- and five-star ratings under the old system.

Standard safety equipment includes front active head restraints, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, stability control, and side-curtain airbags.

8

2011 Nissan Xterra

Features

For those who want a well-equipped off-roader that includes interior conveniences as well as touch hardware, the 2011 Xterra is a strong value.

Beginning last year, Nissan simplified trim levels and builds for the Xterra, and with most options eliminated, what trim level you get rather strictly determines the equipment you get—unless of course you decide to go for one of the dealer-installed options.

The Xterra is offered in three different trim levels: including X, S, and off-road-focused PRO-4X models. The S model now claims fog lights, roof-rack crossbars, and a gear basket as standard. PRO-4X models add 16-inch off-road wheels and tires, Bilstein shocks with off-road tuning, a locking differential (with 4x4), and skid plates. Automatic-transmission Xterras also include Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist.

An in-dash navigation system remains unavailable in the Xterra, but a Bluetooth hands-free phone setup is standard, and PRO-4X models include a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with auxiliary input, an in-dash 6-CD changer, 8 speakers, a subwoofer, steering wheel audio controls, and XM Satellite Radio.

5

2011 Nissan Xterra

Fuel Economy

Those who only occasionally plan to go off-road or require the Xterra’s tough truck capabilities might want to think again, as the Xterra is far from green.

Considering its mediocre fuel economy numbers—well into the teens in normal driving, with EPA ratings of 15 or 16 mpg city and 20 or 22 highway—the Xterra is neither very fuel-efficient nor very green. And if you have passengers more often than cargo, there are plenty of far better, more carlike options.
Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
USED PRICE RANGE
$9,400 - $22,599
Browse Used Listings
in your area
7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 9.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 7.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 5.0
Compare the 2011 Nissan Xterra against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Nissan Xterra?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used