Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2003 Nissan Xterra Overview
Rough and Tumble, But Best of All, Affordable
As more and more SUVs begin moving upscale, it's getting harder to find one that does what the SUV was originally intended to do: provide rugged off-road ability at an affordable price. Real off-road drivers don't mind if they scuff a bumper or get a little mud on the carpet and that's probably why so many flock to the Nissan Xterra.
The Xterra is available in either 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive and with a choice of four- or six-cylinder engines. Based on the Frontier pickup truck, the Xterra's body-on-frame construction translates to a tough off-roader that can tackle the deepest snows and steepest climbs. That same construction also translates to a rough ride and considerable vibration on uneven surfaces. The Xterra's body on frame chassis affords it excellent ground clearance, a proven suspension with generous wheel travel and the ability to tow heavy loads.
Base Xterra models come standard with a hardy little 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that churns out 143 horsepower. The base engine does pretty well on paved roads but the 2.4's 154 lbs-ft of torque doesn't come on strong until the engine reaches 4000 rpm. This is fine for highway driving, but not optimal when you're crawling over boulders at 5 mph. The better choice is the 3.3-liter V6, which has 180 horsepower and 202 lbs-ft of torque at 2800 rpm. This engine is standard on all 4x4 models. The Xterra also offers a supercharged version of the 3.3-liter that cranks out an additional 30 horsepower for grand total of 210. Though this engine's power is impressive, the supercharger can get really hot under the hood, especially when performing heavy tasks like towing or off-roading. No matter which V6 you choose, neither will push the price tag of the Xterra beyond the $30K range and if you opt for the normally-aspirated V6 with 4-wheel drive and a 5-speed, you'll barely break $23K; in the world of $40,000 off-road Divas, that's a pretty good deal.
The Xterra's styling definitely telegraphs an image of rugged individuality. From its bulging stamped fender flares to the multi-purpose roof rackcomplete with removable gear basket for wet or muddy clothesthe Xterra is designed to aid and assist in all facets of outdoor activity; it even comes with a built-in first-aid kit.
Inside, you'll find a modern dash complete with Nissan's signature three "cockpit style" gauge cluster. Though the dash is a vast improvement over the original 2000 models design, the overall quality and feel of the interior plastics is still not as good as some competitor's. You may find that the seats are too close to the floor and lack support, though the V6 models see some improvement in this area with the addition of a height-adjustable driver's seat and manual lumbar support. The fold flush rear seatback is a welcome addition, but the seat bottom is not hinged, so the seat cushions simply pull off, leaving you with the dilemma of where to put them. The high roofline provides plenty of headroom and can even accommodate two mountain bikes in their upright-most positions. A thoughtfully placed interior mounting bar makes securing bikes a breeze. There are also two 12-volt DC plug outlets, one in front and one in the rear, perfect for laptops, coffee makers and air pumps.
Trim levels for the Xterra include the XE, SE and SE S/C (for super charged). XE models come standard with air conditioning, ABS, rear privacy glass, rear-window defroster, AM/FM stereo with CD, skid plates, tachometer and 15-inch styled steel wheels. The SE adds dual power mirror, speed control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, fog lights, limited slip rear differential (2WD), additional power outlets, leather-wrapped tilt-steering wheel with touch controls and 16-inch alloy wheels. New to this year's option list is Nissan's Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) traction control system that helps control wheel slippage. Other popular options include side-impact airbags, the Rockford-Fosgate 300-watt audio system, leather seats and a pop-up sunroof.