The 2010 Nissan Xterra is perfectly at home off-road, but on-road driving performance is compromised as a result. TheCarConnection.com noticed in surveying various review sources that the type of driving they partook in usually determined their driving impression.
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. Edmunds says that the engine's numbers are "generous figures for this class." Despite this, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate a strong appreciation for the capabilities of the V-6 that rests under the hood of the Nissan Xterra. Cars.com reviewers deem it "a strong performer" that "can accelerate the Xterra with surprising quickness." Although ConsumerGuide agrees that low-speed performance is commendable, they find "passing at highway speeds can be a bit labored."
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. Most reviewers are impressed with either of the transmissions available on the Nissan Xterra, though, and Motor Trend in particular raves about the "exceptional" gearing in the manual that, "when combined with the clutch defeat and locking differential" in the Off-Road trim, "is almost unstoppable." Cars.com remarks that "the automatic is also impressive" and "exhibits negligible lag."
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. ConsumerGuide reports that "Off-Road models are 4WD only." 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.
Several electronic aids, including Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist, help maintain poise in precarious situations and boost the Xterra’s overall off-road performance. Physically speaking, the 2010 Nissan Xterra has very impressive off-road credentials, with 9.5 inches of ground clearance and an approach angle of more than 33 degrees.
When it comes to fuel economy, the 2010 Nissan Xterra drinks an average amount of gas if you compare it to other off-road-worthy rigs. The EPA estimates that the 2010 Nissan Xterra will return 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway as a 2WD automatic, while the numbers change to 16/20 mpg as a 2WD manual, 14/20 mpg in 4WD mode with the automatic, and 16/20 mpg in 4WD guise with a manual transmission.
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. It's not surprising; as a formidable off-road vehicle, the Xterra has to compromise its on-road demeanor somewhat. ConsumerGuide points out that the "Xterra's off-road-ready suspension and short wheelbase make the ride choppy except on the smoothest roads," and "there's some truck-like bounding over even moderate humps and ruts." Aside from ride quality, however, the Nissan Xterra exhibits "solid steering feel and a lack of excessive body roll," according to Edmunds reviewers, who add that the rough ride is "an acceptable trade-off given the Xterra's above-average ability off-road." Kelley Blue Book offers that their experience in the Nissan Xterra shows it "handles even higher-speed sweeping turns as calmly and confidently as a solid sedan."
Braking performance, meanwhile, is not quite up to scratch in the 2010 Xterra. ConsumerGuide says that "stopping control is unexceptional,” while Car and Driver asserts that the Xterra has a "mushy brake pedal.”