TheCarConnection.com has driven the Nissan Xterra and presents its expert opinion in this Bottom Line. For even more information, TheCarConnection.com has researched available road tests pertaining to the 2009 Nissan Xterra, with useful and insightful pieces included in this full review.
The Xterra's target audience is young, outdoor enthusiasts, and to keep the SUV fresh in the eyes of its clientele, Nissan restyled the Xterra's front end for 2009 and adorned the SUV with items such as new wheels, seat materials, and colors, and it made side-impact airbags standard equipment.
The Xterra boasts changes to its trim levels, so choosing between the X, S, Off-Road, and SE models will be easier for consumers who want to match the vehicle to their lifestyle. Nissan also simplifies the optional equipment packages to include only two: the Technology Package and the X Gear Package.
The 2009 Nissan Xterra is built on the Frontier pickup's platform, with a solid axle and leaf springs in back but a multilink setup in front for more responsive handling. The ride is actually quite smooth and settled, and it becomes pitchy on only the bumpiest roads. The engine is the same basic 4.0-liter V-6 (though rated, in this case, at 261 horsepower versus 266 hp in the Frontier); it's mated to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 works especially well with the smooth-shifting automatic transmission and has plenty of low-rpm torque good for off-roading or towing.
Physically, the 2009 Nissan Xterra has very impressive off-road credentials, with 9.5 inches of ground clearance and an approach angle of more than 33 degrees. Several features included with the optional stability control system--Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist--use electronics to help maintain poise on precarious situations. The available four-wheel-drive system is a part-time, off-road-oriented setup, with high and low ranges.
All four Xterra models are available in four-wheel drive, and all but the Off Road edition are available with rear-wheel drive. The Off Road model adds to the S 16-inch off-road wheels and tires, Bilstein shocks with off-road tuning, a locking differential (with 4x4), and skid plates. As an automatic, it also includes Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist. A Bluetooth hands-free phone setup is now optional, but an in-dash navigation system isn't offered. SE models add more luxurious trim and appointments, plus fog lamps, five 17-inch tires and alloys, the first-aid kit, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, and an upgraded Rockford-Fosgate sound system.
The Xterra receives four-star ratings in the federal test for frontal protection and top five-star results for side impact. The insurance-affiliated IIHS tests finds the Xterra "good" for frontal impact, "marginal" for side, and "poor" for rear impact. Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Nissan Xterra includes front active head restraints, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, stability control, and new for 2009, side curtain airbags. The now-standard side airbags improve the side impact results to "good."
The Xterra's cabin includes a 60/40-split folding rear seat, a folding front passenger seat, a double-deck glove box, and a large center console, adding to the overall utility of the 2009 Nissan Xterra. The interior is composed to fit cumbersome sports equipment and keep it secured during off-road adventures. The cargo floor surface is easily cleaned of mud. Seating isn't completely an afterthought, though; front seats allow good space even if they aren't that supportive, and there's enough room in back for adults. The front passenger seat can be folded forward to horizontal for very long items.
The Bottom Line:
The handsome 2009 Nissan Xterra is one of the best choices for active people to go off-road and haul or tow a lot of toys.