Nissan Xterra
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At least the rough-and-tumble Xterra hasn’t moved to a car-based platform… yet; Nissan adjusts the “X’s” base price below the $25,000 threshold.


Stout 4.0-liter V6 is a rugged best-pick; standard six-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic.

Want to see Jeep and Toyota engineers raise an eyebrow? Just mention Nissan’s Xterra. And with a base price below $25,000, it’s an affordable piece of sporting gear directly aimed at an active audience. Designed on a modified Titan full-size pickup chassis, this tough-as-nails five-passenger trail traveler received significant inside/outside updating for the 2009 model year, which is typical for this class of vehicle, and continues relatively unchanged for 2014 in base X and S models. Both trims can be had with four-wheel-drive and all but the PRO-4X can be had in two-wheel-drive. Power comes from a stout 261-horse 4.0-liter V6 with a six-speed manual transmission (four-wheel-drive models only) or five-speed automatic to handle the shifting chores. Since the seven-passenger Pathfinder is no longer built on a similar platform, the Xterra is Nissan’s only body-on-frame wagon workhorse, with the exception of the enormous Armada. The Xterra caters to an outdoorsy demographic and the option packages are driven by lifestyle. For example, there’s an available eight-speaker Rockford Fosgate Audio Package with subwoofer and an MP3/CD player. And for cliff-scaling adventurers, mountain bikers and risk-takers in general, the Xterra’s available Utility Package includes a first aid kit to patch up its hazard-craving owners and companions.

Base price (incl. destination): $23,800
Type: Four-door sport-utility vehicle
Base engine (hp): 4.0-liter DOHC V6 (261)
Layout: Front-engine, rear- /four-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; five-speed automatic (opt.)
MPG (city/hwy): 16/22 (AT, RWD)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes
Weight (lb.): 4,140