2011 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X: The Review

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After somewhat of a sports car theme lately, it’s time to take a look at the polar opposite by Nissan, the 2011 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X. The thing about the Xterra, since the first one hit the road in 2000, is that it’s a no-frills SUV. This is not a high-riding station wagon labeled an SUV by parents too embarrassed to buy a minivan.

Being that the Nissan Xterra is a purpose-built vehicle, meant for the adventurous buyer, this PRO-4X version doesn’t even have leather seats. The seats are cloth, quite comfortable, and won’t be bothered by a little dirt or water. The rest of the interior is a bit simplistic, but what good off-road vehicle isn’t? It may not have a big, pretty touchscreen, but it has what matters: a low-range gearbox, heavy-duty Bilstein shocks, electronic locking rear differential, skid plates, and some meaty tires. In the short while I went off-road, the meager trails were a breeze. I have no doubt the Xterra PRO-4x would hold its own with the best of the best 4x4s when the terrain really gets rough.

While the lesser versions of the Xterra may be primarily road-going vehicles, the PRO-4X prefers the dirty stuff. In fact, one of the first things I noticed driving the PRO-4X was the considerable wind noise heard in the cabin from the off-road lights above the windshield. It’s a trade-off though, as those lights were quite helpful later that night as I trounced through some mud holes. The 4.0 V6 is a great engine for this application. It’s plenty powerful, with a good amount of torque perfect for off-roading, and it won’t require flat-footing the accelerator just to pass someone on the highway.

The Xterra is in its 12th year now. In 2000 you didn’t get luxury, and you don’t now. Yet what remains is you get a stylish SUV that truly keeps the Sport and Utility in SUV.


THE RUNDOWN:

Rush-hour commuter: Visibility is great with the ride-height that accompanies good ground-clearance. Feel free to roll right on top of that Smart car in front of you for a better view. For a short commute, it’s not bad unless the roads are bad where you live. The trade-off of the beefy suspension is you feel every bump and roadway seam you encounter.

Highway cruiser: It’s not the worst, but be prepared to talk loudly if you have passengers. Otherwise, it will cruise at 70mph with no problem in relative comfort on smooth roads.

Grocery getter: Plenty of cargo room for a lot of beef. PRO-4X owners don’t eat salads.

Family & friends hauler: The seats are comfortable, and the back seat will fit three adults as long as you don’t punish them for long…or they’re tiny. If you’ve got kids, child seats fit easily and the extra ride height is definitely nice for tossing kids in and out.

Occasional hoon-mobile: In the mud? Sure!

Track toy: Single-track? You bet!

Dragster: If the drag-strip is covered in snow or is the victim of a mudslide, you might win.