The 2014 Nissan Xterra is part of a dying breed of body-on-frame truck-based SUVs. Today, most SUVs have made the transition to more carlike construction, and those are called crossover vehicles. Where crossovers may ride and handle better, the Xterra is built to venture off-road in a way few, if any, crossover SUVs can.
The Xterra offers off-road capability with optional 4-wheel drive. It also comes standard with a V6 engine and a very reasonable price. With its only real competition being the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Toyota FJ, the Xterra continues to sell well, catering to those who need their SUV to serve as both daily driver and weekend warrior.
What's New for 2014?
The PRO-4X gains heated front seats, while the X and S trims now have Bluetooth as standard equipment. New 16-inch wheels and an expanded NissanConnect with Apps package finish off the changes.
What We Like
Rugged, off-road capability; versatile interior; competitive price
What We Don't
Trucklike performance; weak fuel economy; dated interior
The only engine on the 2014 Nissan Xterra is a 4.0-liter V6, producing 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the V6 is either an electronically controlled 5-speed automatic transmission or, for the S and PRO-4X models, a 6-speed manual. With 2-wheel drive, the 2014 Xterra is rated at 16 miles per gallon city/22 mpg hwy.
Four-by-four models feature a part-time 4-wheel-drive system with 2WD/4HI/4LO modes and an electronically controlled transfer case. With the manual transmission, this model gets an Environmental Protection Agency estimate of 16 mpg city/20 mpg hwy, while the automatic earns a slightly lower 15 mpg city/20 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Nissan Xterra comes in three trims: X, S and PRO-4X.
The Xterra X ($23,970) features 16-in steel wheels, power functions for the windows and door locks, manual-adjustable side mirrors, an AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, Bluetooth, air conditioning, a 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat, full carpeting, rear heat ducts and vehicle security system.
The Xterra S ($25,880) adds 16-in alloy wheels, power mirrors, 8-way manual-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, first-aid kit, rear cargo channel system, rear ceiling and floor tie-down hooks, 4.3-in color display audio with six speakers and auxiliary input jack, Sirius Satellite Radio, an additional 12-volt outlet in the dash and sliding extendable sun visors.
The Xterra PRO-4X ($30,900) adds unique cloth seats with white contrasting stitching, white-faced gauges, 4-wheel drive, a 300-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system with eight speakers and powered subwoofer, heated seats, Nissan's touchscreen navigation with NissanConnect Apps infotainment system and a rearview monitor. Standard off-road equipment includes BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A off-road tires, Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist (automatic only), Bilstein gas shocks, an electronic locking rear differential and skid-plate protection for the oil pan, transfer case and fuel tank.
Options for the Xterra S trim are limited to manual or automatic transmission on the 4x4 models and a Value Package that adds fog lights, roof rails and tubular side steps. The PRO-4X offers a Leather Package (automatic models only) that adds leather seating. A tow package and numerous dealer-installed options are available on all trims.
The 2014 Xterra is fitted with driver, passenger, side-impact and curtain side-impact/rollover supplemental airbags. The Xterra also incorporates an energy-absorbing steering column, zone body construction with front and rear crumple zones, side door-guard beams, a shifter interlock system, vehicle dynamic control with traction control and a tire-pressure-monitoring system.
In crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Xterra a Good rating in its moderate overlap front- and side-impact tests, an Average score for roof strength and Marginal ratings for the head restraints and seats.
Behind the Wheel
For better or worse, the Xterra is very much a truck. The stiffness in the chassis and suspension is easily felt over speed bumps and during cornering. These make the Xterra ideal for remote adventure locations, but they also make daily driving harsher. This isn't to say that the Xterra doesn't drive well; it does, but only when compared with similarly built SUVs. Compared to the comfort of the 2014 Ford Explorer, for example, it's another story.
The driving position is uncomfortable for tall drivers, as the seats are small, short, firm and low in the cabin. Drivers accustomed to such vehicles will find little to dislike about the utilitarian cabin of the Xterra, but many will find long drives tiring due to the Xterra's all-around solid construction.
Fuel economy, as in most trucks, isn't fabulous. But the Xterra easily makes up for sacrifices in driving comfort and fuel economy with its utility and capability. The 4x4 Xterra can conquer most road conditions, and it does it with poise. For customers who need a sturdy SUV that can haul their gear to remote parts of the globe, few can meet the challenge as well as the Xterra.
Other Cars to Consider:
Toyota FJ Cruiser -- The FJ Cruiser is one of the few remaining SUVs aimed at buyers who need off-road capability more than they need interior space and passenger capacity. With only two real doors and three windshield wipers, the FJ Cruiser is in a class of its own.
Jeep Wrangler -- The Wrangler is one of the most iconic and affordable SUVs on the market. Jeep now outfits the Wrangler with the new Chrysler Pentastar V6, which has transformed its drivability. Couple its new engine with its legendary off-road capabilities and it's no wonder the Wrangler has such long-term appeal.
Honda Pilot -- The Pilot is a bit more expensive than the Xterra, but for that money customers receive a more family-friendly and plush interior. Also built on the same platform as the Honda Ridgeline pickup, the Pilot is technically truck-based. Unlike the Xterra, however, the 2-wheel-drive Pilot has front-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive.
We like virtually every 2014 Nissan Xterra model, but if your main interest is in a true off-roader, we recommend you steer toward the Wrangler instead. But if you want a distinctive, youthful and affordable SUV, we say go for the Xterra's base X 4x4 model. We recommend bumping up to the S or PRO-4X in which the 6-speed manual is available. Manual transmissions are rare in American vehicles these days, especially in SUVs. But we think the manual really brings the Xterra alive.