Last of the Mohican’s: 2015 Nissan Xterra
By Teddy Field
Once upon a time, the sport utility vehicle was a rugged machine whose sole purpose was to carry you and your PBR-swilling buddies into the woods to kill something. But by the mid-90’s, automakers had forced their hillbilly SUV’s to move into the city and become leather-lined suburban status symbols. Mom liked the fashionable Sport-Ute’s high-up driving position, and dad liked driving a family wagon that didn’t make him look like his dad. In an effort to please its new family, the SUV shaved its scraggly beard and started wearing that trendy crap from Old Navy. This new life was a lot easier than roughing it on the back-40, and it didn’t take long for the SUV to become soft and useless.
Today, car-based crossovers are considered SUVs, even though most of them couldn’t go off road if their life depended on it. But that’s perfectly fine since there’s no Wi-Fi in the woods, and nobody knows how to read a map anymore. However, if you’re the sort of person who thinks Facebook will eventually destroy western civilization…we’ve got an old-school sport ute that can carry you far away from #hashtags, and all of those “My adorable baby / dog / grandma just pooped!” status updates.
2015 Nissan Xterra
If the Nissan Xterra were a person, it would be that WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan. This scruffy-bearded truck doesn’t give a rat’s ass about style, because it’s tough enough to conquer nearly any terrain that you put in front of it. There’s a full ladder frame underneath, with reinforced suspension mounting points for maximum wheel articulation. 2 wheel-drive models have 8.2 inches of ground clearance; 4WD models have 9.1 inches of straddle room, and the top-spec Xterra PRO-4X gets 9.5 inches of room between the axle and the ground. All 2015 Nissan Xterras come with a standard front skid plate to protect the radiator, and 4-wheel drive models get additional skid plates to protect the oil pan, fuel tank and the 4WD transfer case. With its ruggedized platform and generous approach / departure angles, the Nissan Xterra allows you to actually do sporty things with your…sport utility vehicle.
The rear-drive 2015 Nissan Xterra X and mid-level Xterra S, offer enough ground clearance and torque to handle dirt roads and light trail riding. But if you really want to ‘get back to nature’, tick the 4×4 option box and you’ll get a 2-speed transfer case, along with a sturdier off-road suspension. The Nissan Xterra S 4×4 also gets a Dana locking rear axle, if you pick the 6-speed manual transmission. The Outback-ready 2015 Nissan Xterra PRO-4x gets additional goodies like Bilstein off road shocks, an electronic locking rear differential, and Hill Ascent / Descent Control (when equipped with the 5-speed automatic). Manual models get the Dana rear axle and a Clutch Start Canceling function, which allows you to start the engine without depressing the clutch pedal. And to make all of this go-anywhere equipment work, Nissan fitted their 4.0L V6 that cranks out 261 HP and 281 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to this responsive engine and the low gearing, the 2015 Nissan Xterra never feels under powered. It also makes quick work of slower moving cars…when you actually have to drive it on the pavement.
Like the mechanical bits, the interior of the 2015 Nissan Xterra is made to be durable and functional. To that end, it’s filled to the brim with hard plastic surfaces, and clever features like an easy-to-clean plastic cargo area, complete with an under-floor storage bin. There are also lots of tie-down points to keep your gear secure. Handy storage cubbies abound. The Xterra’s trademark first aid kit is still mounted inside the tailgate (behind that big bulge). And the seat fabric feels like that same water / dirt resistant material that you find on patio furniture. However, the seats hiding under that clever fabric are so uncomfortable, they make a tree stump look like a La-Z-Boy.
As an off-roader, the 2015 Nissan Xterra is brilliant. But as soon as you hit the asphalt, that off-road suspension makes the ride hard and bouncy. Every time you hit a bump, or go around a corner, your head bobbles like a dashboard Jesus. The cabin is noisy, the engine is noisy, and did I mention how awful the seats are? After a 30 minute drive, you’ll be ready to pop a Vicodin and shotgun that cooler of PBR you brought. However, if the journey takes you someplace that even Verizon can’t find, this uncomfortable off-roader suddenly becomes a hero.
The 2015 Nissan Xterra is a niche market vehicle that was designed to appeal to a specific type of customer. The average Xterra buyer could be described as a “rugged individualist” who can’t stand to be indoors. They think cubicles were invented by Satan, and their idea of fun usually involves copious amounts of dirt, sweat, and fresh air. This sort of person doesn’t worry about impressing people, because they’re quite happy with whom they are. For these folks, the function-focused Nissan Xterra is a perfect fit.
But outdoorsy rational types are becoming less common in our overly-digitized world which is why Nissan decided to end production of the Xterra after the 2015 model year. Toyota made a similar move last year, when they ended production of their own dedicated off-roader, the FJ Cruiser. It seems that people would rather quench their thirst for adventure using Wi-Fi and a Hulu account, instead of actually getting out there and having a real adventure. And that’s a shame, purpose built 4×4’s like the 2015 Nissan Xterra and 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser can show you the world in a much higher resolution than your “Smart” TV.
Final Call Prices:
2015 Nissan Xterra X 2WD $23,660
2015 Nissan Xterra S 4WD $25,710
2015 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X $30,590