Poor is probably the most apt description of the Total Car Score for the 2012 Nissan Xterra. It did win North American Truck of the Year once... in 2000. To be fair, it was also SUV of the year in 2009 for an off-roaders' buff book. But the Xterra is an old-style, truck-based SUV in a new-style, car-based crossover world.
Which has its own virtues. Those weekends by the lake house or at the camp site are good reasons for owning an Xterra. It has plenty of ground clearance and suspension travel, available four-wheel drive and a low-range transfer case. The cargo area of 66 cubic feet is not the most commodious, but it is easy to clean out the mud from mountain bikes or hiking boots. There are also some tie-down points in the cargo bay and a dedicated storage place for a first aid kit.
It's when there's pavement under the tires that the compromises come in. The Xterra's traditional body-on-frame construction gives it truck-like ride and handling, say critics, although such manners do seem bearable given the mud-flinging trade-off.
There are no real changes for the 2012 model year except for two new paint options. Nissan is expected to discontinue the Xterra in another year or two.
The 2012 five-seat Nissan Xterra is available in X, S and Pro-4X trims. The first two have rear-wheel drive with four-wheel drive as an option. The Pro-4X, as its name suggests, has 4WD as standard.
The Xterra's 4.0-liter V6 produces 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. This links up either to a five-speed automatic or, in the case of the Pro-4X,an optional six-speed manual. Four-wheel-drive versions come with a low-range transfer case.
The X has roof rails, 16-inch steel wheels, power accessories and air conditioning. The S adds a first aid kit, off-road tires, and 16-inch alloys.
The Pro-4X is the most dedicated off-roading version, with hill start and hill descent controls, an electronic locking rear differential, skid plates, a digital compass and Bluetooth. It also gets a sound system upgrade and satellite radio, plus the option to add leather upholstery (which stops the front passenger seat from folding flat).
Standard safety equipment includes stability control, ABS, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
EPA estimates for the 2012 Xterra are 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with rear-drive and automatic transmission; 15/20/17 mpg with four-wheel drive/auto. The 4WD/manual transmission setup of the Pro-4X returns 16/20/17 mpg.
Properly equipped, the 2012 Nissan Xterra can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
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