No-Frills & Functional: 2007 Nissan Xterra Review

Nissan keeps it real by recognizing what an SUV is all about.

Jun. 01, 2007 By Katrina Ramser
The 2007 Nissan Xterra Off Road 4x4. Photo by Katrina Ramser
This SUV is too big. This SUV is too small. This SUV is just right, and so continues the saga of Nissan's "crowing glory of utilitarianism" – the 2007 Xterra.

Purposeful and ideal for the adventure-driven and their outdoor cargo, the mid-size 2007 Nissan Xterra maintains its signature raised rear roofline and shares the all-steel F-Alpha platform used for the Titan and Armada, although more likened to the Frontier.

Introduced to the U.S. market in 2000, the vehicle was named after a series of off-road triathlon races. Its first year it was named Motor Trend's 2000 Sport Utility of the Year and took the award again in 2006.

The 2007 Xterra has the honors of being a Consumer Reports recommended vehicle, noted for its strong V6 engine and above average reliability. For 2007, enhancements include standard mud guards on all 4x4 trims; an auxiliary input jack now a part of the Rockford Fosgate Audio Package on the SE trims; a leather-wrapped steering wheel and sunglass holder standard on Off Road trims; body side molding standard on SE trims; and a new exterior color – Desert Stone.

The Xterra I drove was a very basic with the only extras being the Off-Road Package and the Audio Package. My Solar Yellow 5-speed automatic 2007 Xterra came equipped with a 4.0-liter DOHC V6 engine, the part-time 4WD system and BF Goodrich Rugged Trail tires. The Audio Package was a Rockford Fosgate 6-disc CD player with XM satellite radio. Total vehicle price was $29,910.

Off Road models feature BF Goodrich Rugged Trail TA off road tires. Photo by Katrina Ramser

The 261-horsepower 4.0-liter DOHC V6 with 281 lb-ft of torque is the standard engine for the Xterra. The engine includes such features as Electronic Throttle Control with secondary mapping in 4LO (on 4WD models); Continuous Valve Timing Control (CVTCS); and Nissan variable Induction Control System (NICS). Two transmissions are offered: an available electronically controlled 5-speed automatic transmission, based on the transmission used in the Titan and Armada; or a 6-speed manual transmission.

The Xterra has strong acceleration and very responsive brakes. It is a very sporty drive for a 4.0-liter engine. It is also very sturdy, its fully boxed ladder frame made from stronger and lighter steel. The 2007 Xterra has steel double-wishbone front suspension and stabilizing bar with solid axle leaf spring rear suspension and Blistein® off-road performance shocks with the Off Road trim.

Everything about its power was easy to love, omitting the fact it has 16-mpg city and 21-mpg highway driving, which averages out to about 17-mpg.

Purposeful and ideal for the outdoor and adventure-driven. Photo by Katrina Ramser

Who doesn't love the shape of an Xterra? That raised rear roofline allows for 60/40-split stadium-style seating and a fold-down passenger seat. Those large, flared fenders and side steps on the rear bumper for easy access to the roof rack, which has a latchable lid. It's truly purpose-built.

The 2007 Xterra is offered in three models: X, S, Off Road, and SE. All are available in 4x4, with the Off Road trim having rear wheel drive. Each model has a 5-speed automatic transmission, with the X, S, and Off Road trims offering a 6-speed manual transmission.
The basic X trim offers standard features including Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), 4-wheel disc brakes with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), engine speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering, Easy Clean Cargo surface, C-Channel cargo floor with four moveable hooks, Nissan Advanced Airbag System (AABS) and Zone Body construction with front and rear crushable zones. Standard features for the S trim include aluminum alloy wheels, driver’s seat lumbar support, roof rack cross bars and the contents of the Power Package. The top-of-the-line SE features 17" aluminum alloy wheels, a trip computer, step rails, fog lamps and a Rockford Fosgate audio system.

Off Road models feature BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A off road tires, Hill Descent Control and Hill Assist, leather steering wheel, locking rear differential, high performance Bilstein shocks and skid plates.

No doubt the Xterra is put together well and with the utmost purpose, but with a very apparent no-frills approach to its interior. And Nissan is not afraid to tote this; in fact, their slogan for presenting the interior is "very similar to its predecessor: everything you need, nothing you don’t." This simplistic slogan leaves the car feeling a little stale. It's all standard stuff, but standard ain't that dazzling. At 30k plus, you might want a little something extra for your money.

However, the $900 Rockford Fosgate audio package is very impressive. It's not that expensive for a 380-watt, 6-disc CD system with nine speakers and subwoofer, plus MP3 playback and satellite radio capacity. The steering wheel hosts switches for audio control and cruise control.

The Easy Clean Cargo Area flooring and a total of 10 cargo area utility hooks with six on the floor sides and four on the ceiling highlight the cargo area. It has an adjustable channel system in the cargo floor, similar in design to the Utili-track system offered on the Nissan Titan and Frontier pickups. There’s also an available built-in first-aid kit.

Available additional packages include a Utility Package with step rails, sunvisor, illuminated mirrors, cargo net, flat-fold passenger seat and first aid kit; a Power Package with Immobilizer, power door locks, power mirrors, power windows, Remote Keyless entry, cruise control with steering wheel controls and front sunvisors with mirrors and extenders; a Rockford Fosgate Audio Package with Rockford Fosgate-powered audio system; a Satellite Radio with choice of XM or Sirius providers; and a Side/Curtain Air Bag Package.

So you see, you can add purpose to the interior, but it is pretty much is what it is.

The 2007 Xterra has the honors of being a Consumer Reports recommended vehicle, noted for its strong V6 engine and above average reliability. Photo by Katrina Ramser

The tires and suspension, combined with the ground clearance and off-road package in general, makes the 2007 Xterra a reliable and notable off-road vehicle.

The Xterra was great at absorbing bumps. I felt next to nothing when taking on extremely jagged, S-shaped roads at high speeds. Steering is stiff, but I see this as a benefit; it was definitely not on the unpredictable, loose side. The short front overhang allowed better maneuverability – all this worked for me because I wanted the experience of going around the road curves quickly and tightly.

The part-time 4WD system provides three positions, 2WD, 4H and 4LO with an electronically controlled transfer case. The 2-speed transfer case allows the vehicle to be switched from 2WD to 4H for rough, sandy or snow-covered roads while driving speeds up to 62 mph. The vehicle must be stopped to shift between 4LO for maximum crawl power. There is also an E-Lock switch and a Hill Descent Control (HDC) switch, and the ABS on the 4x4s has a G-sensor that applies brake pressure accordingly to the surface you are driving on.

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There is plenty of cargo space inside the Xterra for all your belongings and equipment. Photo by Katrina Ramser

The 2007 Nissan Xterra is one of the only SUVs that have a trim starting out in the low twenties. And for that you still get a roof rack, ABLS, and just as much cargo space as any other trim. If you are in the market to buy an adventurous, compact SUV, the Nissan Xterra is definitely one of your top competitors. The only factor that could swing your vote is if you have a quest for better gas mileage. The gas mileage – once again, averaging 17 mpg – is unfortunate, especially when you consider what competitors such as the Ford Escape Hybrid and Subaru Forester 2.5X can do.

Looking over safety specs for other competitors in its class, the Xterra's Side/Curtain Air Bag Package does not come as standard equipment and is an additional $700. A blaring $110 for the carpeted floor mats irritates the eye. I've noticed this carpet charge before on other Nissans – it's a real downer. In general, I cannot tell if Nissan's attitude is to just be straightforward about its product or is simply not dialed in strong enough to the consumer's need to be lightly massaged into the extras, mainly where extra fees apply. Perhaps it is a marketing shortcoming.

Nevertheless, the Xterra and other members of the Nissan truck and SUV departments are handsome, tough-looking vehicles. Originally marketed as simple and capable – and certainly staying with that idea – it remains exactly what it is, not what it isn't. So maybe the shortcoming is my own. Newsletter
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