Available options include cruise control and steering-wheel-mounted controls, power locks and windows, keyless entry, a nine-speaker 300-watt Rockford Fosgate AM/FM/CD system, satellite radio, and speed-sensitive volume. All models come with four power ports, including one in the back. Special attention was paid to the cargo area: Keeping in touch with the potentially mud-oriented habits of Xterra buyers, the backs of the rear seats are rubberized, the cargo floor is easy to hose out, and there are 10 utility hooks on the floor, sides, and ceiling. The floor also contains two adjustable channels, similar to the Utili-track setup in the Titan; those and the hooks make it easy to secure gear and bikes. Two small quibbles about the interior: The relentlessly dark color palette of our tester felt somewhat gloomy, and many judges thought the plastics quality could've been higher.
All SUVs have to hold some level of compromise, whether their origins are from a car's platform or a truck's (a truck can't handle like a Lotus; a car can't tow a large trailer). The Xterra does an excellent job of tackling those concessions to nature and automotive design. It's a traditional truck-based, body-on-frame SUV. It has an all-steel control-arm front suspension and a live axle with leaf springs in the rear. Yet it performs on road with the confidence of a crossover--it's fast, handles well, and is comfortable. This isn't a sport/utility designed just for high-performance driving; it's not supposed to be able to do all that. But it does.
The first of many surprises with the Xterra was its performance at the track. Our tester was the topline, 4WD Off-Road model (you can buy an Xterra with RWD only), meaning in addition to the tough, fully boxed frame, it came equipped with a part-time four-wheel-drive system with an electronically controlled transfer case; Off-Road VDC, which includes hill-descent control and hill-start assist; off-road-biased Bilstein shocks; skidplates protecting the oil pan, transfer case, and fuel tank; and 265/75R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires--not the ideal setup for maneuvering around cones.
Even so, the Xterra's 58.1 mph through the slalom was beaten only by the nimble car-based SUVs and the Mercedes-Benz ML500. And its 29.4-second time over the MT figure eight was fifth best. The straight-line numbers underscored the 4.0-liter V-6's punch: The Xterra's 7.7-second 0-to-60-mph time was better than all but two other competitors, the supercharged Range Rover Sport and the 300-horsepower Mercedes ML (and those had V-8s). And it was the only other sport/utility besides these two that recorded a 0-to-100 time before running out of track.