The 2010 Nissan Xterra Off Road isn't an absolutely pure SUV by the strictest of definitions. Fans of old-school Internationals and Jeep CJs may scoff at the Xterra's modern frivolities like Bluetooth and satellite radio, but they're a small price to pay for one of last real factory off-roaders. An inspection of the Xterra's more substantial hardware reveals an SUV matched by few that's about as close to a pure SUV as you're likely to get in 2010.
Consider it a classic recipe updated for the digital age. Behind the Xterra's 4.0-liter V-6 is a standard six-speed manual transmission with an optional five-speed automatic. Behind that is a real two-speed transfer case, though it is operated by a simple electronic switch rather than a manual gear selector. It doles out power to an electronically locking solid rear axle -- a heavy-duty Dana axle if you order the manual transmission -- and a front differential nestled in a fully independent double-wishbone suspension. Not original recipe, but not pavement-bound, either.
Our tester was no run-of-the-mill Xterra. It was the Off Road model, and you can bet it earned that title. To do it, Nissan added knobby BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires size 265/75R16 riding on 16-inch wheels and good for 9.5 inches of ground clearance, Bilstein shocks, and the aforementioned electronically locking rear differential. In addition to the standard radiator skid plate, the Off Road is fitted with additional skid plates that protect the oil pan, transfer case, and fuel tank. Select the optional automatic transmission, and Nissan will also set you up with Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist. All Off Road models ditch the side steps to increase ground clearance, and add off-road only lights mounted on the roof rack.
So the spec sheet says it's worthy of the Off Road moniker, but is it really? Only trips to the Stoddard Valley and Johnson Valley OHV areas could answer this question, so off we went.