Performance » 7
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
The 4.0L V-6 pulls strong at all altitudes and in virtually any gear
a real two-speed transfer case, though it is operated by a simple electronic switch rather than a manual gear selector
Steering is direct and decently weighted
The Xterra jumps off the line enthusiastically, with the V6 pulling consistently up to its 6,250-rpm redline.
five-speed automatic transmission's hesitance to downshift on demand
The Xterra is powered by a 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6, which turns out lots of torque at low revs–making it a good fit for off-road weekend warriors.
That engine is offered with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, giving it more than enough power to jump off the line, and plenty of easy drivability for towing a trailer at highway speed or slowly descending down some of the most rugged terrain. The manual transmission has long shift throws, and we tend to believe that the automatic makes for a better highway cruiser.
All 2014 Xterra models but the Off-Road trims are available with rear-wheel drive, but 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. It's a part-time, off-road-oriented 4x4 setup, with high and low ranges, but Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, and the electronic stability control system all help keep it in check and make the most of its traction.
With an independent suspension in front and a solid rear axle in back, the 2014 Xterra drives like a truck, with a harsh and pitchy side on bumpy roads yet a reasonably smooth ride over most surfaces. Handling and body control are both better than you might think given the tall body and truck-derived underpinnings.
Street handling is adequate; the Xterra's a real trooper off-road.