By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.8
Unlike so many SUVs that have moved to a more carlike unit-body design, the 2012 Nissan Xterra retains its traditional body-on-frame architecture, which is just fine by us and most off-road enthusiasts. Although its following is not as populous as that of the Jeep Wrangler, Xterra loyalists are nevertheless a dedicated bunch. They've stuck with this trusty SUV since its inception mainly because its mission has never changed. The 2012 Nissan Xterra continues as a rugged, off-road vehicle with a civilized interior, powerful V6 engine and a very reasonable bottom line. And, while it is true that new SUVs such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer offer more advanced off-road systems, they also cost about 10 grand more than the 2012 Nissan Xterra. From its built-in first-aid kit, to its adjustable cargo-hold track system, to the roof-mounted drying rack bin, the 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV makes no bones about its purpose and intent. It would much rather be deep in the forest covered in dirt than stuck in suburbia inside a heated garage, and we're betting the same applies to the Xterra's owner.
If you're looking for something with the spirit of the old Jeep CJ, but that is far more reliable, the 2012 Nissan Xterra has you covered. The 2012 Nissan Xterra's rugged frame and 4-wheel-drive system can tackle the worst of the outback, while its comfortable interior and adept suspension make it a very livable daily driver.
Other than two new colors, there are no major changes for the 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV.
Driving Impressions Given the 2012 Nissan Xterra's generous ground clearance, tall ride height and oversized tires, one might think this off-road king would be a handful on paved roads. But, surprisingly, Nissan...has created a vehicle that handles very well in the civilized world. On the freeway the Xterra tracks straight and true, delivers a ride on par with most mid-size pickup trucks and generally feels stable at high speeds. The Xterra's 4.0-liter V6 engine is a modified version of the V6 found in the 370Z, meaning there is no lack of low-end torque necessary for passing slower cars or climbing dirt trails. In our off-road test, we dragged our 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV through muddy ruts, over fallen logs and even through streams and creek beds. In all situations the Xterra performed as promised, never once leaving us feeling that we could get stuck or that we were in over our heads.
Versatile Cargo Area
In addition to no-carpet and Easy Clean surfaces, the 2012 Nissan Xterra's cargo area features a total of 10 cargo hooks in the sides, ceiling and in the adjustable Utili-track Cargo Channel System in the floor (4X4 models only).
Integrated into the body of the vehicle, the Xterra SUV's side steps make it easy to access and secure cargo at the rear of the roof.
Inside the 2012 Nissan Xterra is a world quite opposite the vehicle's rugged exterior. The tall roof makes for an open and airy cabin, while theater-style raised rear seats allow back-seat passengers an equally good view of the trail ahead. The Xterra's seats are comfortable and supportive, and the dash and instruments are logically arranged with large knobs that are easy to reach and operate while bouncing along unpaved roads. In addition to the numerous storage bins, the 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV includes dual-stacked glove compartments, numerous 12-volt outlets and A-pillar-mounted grab handles. The Xterra's cargo hold can be equipped with a durable and easy-to-clean vinyl covering as well as the Utili-track cargo-management system for anchoring bikes or other gear. The 60/40 rear seat can be folded flat, as can the front passenger seat to create an extended floor for loading tall objects (think surfboard or skis).Exterior
If you squint hard enough at a 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV, you can almost make out a faint shadow of the classic old Land Rover that once crossed the plains of Africa. The rough-and-rugged 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV offers a number of cool features useful to off-road adventurers, such as the latchable bin at the front of the roof-mounted rack and integrated steps in the rear bumper that make roof access a whole lot easier. On the PRO-4X, the roof rack gains integrated off-road lights ideal for late night excursions into the unknown. The 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV's long wheelbase and wide stance make it equally at home on winding back roads as it is traversing a boulder-strewn wash.
Features on the base 2012 Nissan Xterra X SUV include a 4.0-liter V6, 5-speed automatic, 4-wheel disc brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, stability control, single-disc CD sound system, power door locks/windows/mirrors, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, and cruise control. The S trim adds an Easy Clean cargo area surface with multiple heavy-duty hooks and Utili-track Cargo Channel System, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with BFGoodrich Long Trail tires, driver's-seat lumbar support, step rails, roof-rack crossbars (4x4 only), gear basket (4x4 only) and a first-aid kit. Standard safety equipment includes front-seat side-impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, front-seat active head restraints and a tire-pressure-monitoring system.
The 4x4 versions of the 2012 Nissan Xterra S and PRO-4X come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission but can be upgraded to a 5-speed automatic. The PRO-4X brings Roof-Mounted Off-Road Lights in the air dam, silver headlight inner color, black body-side molding, fold-down front passenger seat with backboard, leather-wrapped steering wheel, P265/75R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A off-road tires, rugged 16-inch wheels, Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist (automatic transmission only), electronic locking rear differential, switch-operated 2-speed transfer case, high-performance Bilstein gas-filled shocks and oil pan, fuel-tank and transfer-case skid plates. All PRO-4X models also include standard Rockford Fosgate-powered audio system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, eight speakers and subwoofer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and XM Satellite Radio capability. A Leather Package can be added to the PRO-4X. Additional equipment for the 2011 Nissan Xterra varies by trim and includes a cargo cover, iPod interface, floor mats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass. Strangely, Nissan does not offer a rearview camera or navigation system on the Xterra, something that might come in handy if one gets lost.
The 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV's V6 pulls as strongly on the highway as it does climbing rocks and dirt mounds. Ample torque translates into ample towing ability, but all that power comes at a price, and you'll pay for it at the pump.
261 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
281 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (2WD, automatic), 16/20 (4WD, manual), 15/20 (4WD, automatic)
By Jim on Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Gas mileage, high mileage
Pros: "Power, off-road capability, 6-speed manual"
Cons: "Gas mileage, rear seat access, cost to repair"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I had a blast with this car for 4 years before selling it to get a newer vehicle. It's surprisingly fast, but you'll pay for it at the pump, and otherwise its a rough and rugged go-anywhere SUV that isn't quite like anything else. I sold it because I put a lot of miles on my vehicles, so I wanted something a little better on gas, plus it was just getting up there in mileage. It ran and looked great when I sold it with about 150k miles, and I (well, "we," including my fiance and friends) still miss it. I took it from GA to Manhattan to Denver, and lots of places in between. I've slept in it, crossed rivers, crawled over boulders, got up over 115 mph on the highway, and hauled groceries and mulch. The only time it didn't start for me was when I had a dead battery, and all we did was push it far enough to pop the clutch, and that got us to the auto parts store for a new one. I ended up putting a good bit into proactive repairs, but it probably could have gone without some of it. I'm an engineer, and like my vehicles running smoothly. Two expensive maintenance costs to look out for: 1. Clutch (manuals only). The factory one is undersized, and will often go out before 100k miles. Dealers want around $2k to replace it due to the excessive labor required. Highly recommend replacing factory clutch with a Jim Wolf Technologies part, which should be a wash in cost. 2. Raditator/Tranny Leak (automatics only): Major issue with certain models/years. Wasn't a problem for me, but could cost you thousands if you have an automatic."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By BuzzBuzz on Saturday, May 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 85,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Everything. Plain and simple"
Cons: "NOTHING at All."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car has been through it all, and it still runs like the day I got it. :) This is not just a car, it is my best friend. I'm not gonna sell this work of art any time soon. I'm s grateful for this amazing car, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested!!!!! Trust me, it will be worth it."
16 people out of 23 found this review helpful
By Jim on Thursday, May 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 104,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is by far the best vehicle I have ever driven on snow/ice covered roads. The Xterra is a beast on mountain passes in any weather!"
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Alaskan on Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 130,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "great handling on slick roads, spunky"
Cons: "poor storage in front:pens, sunglasses, tablet,etc"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"We have a 2007,drive it in 4x4 for months at a time, in snow/ice, and average almost 20,000 miles/year. Can't understand others' mileage numbers: we consistently get 20 mpg. It is a manual, so maybe that's the difference. Don't like the lack of storage in the front seat. room for coffee cups and that's it. Took out the back seats long ago, have hauled lots of cargo in it, even 8' lumber. Very few mechanical problems; but the gas gauge went bad.Very irritating. Back to dealer only once in 7 years for work."
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Disappointed on Wednesday, May 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 105,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks, ruggedness"
Cons: "Really poor quality"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My Xterra has been a money drain since I purchased it new in 2006. I am a 40+ year old mother with a husband and two young boys - we're not hard on a vehicle. I've replaced several serpentine belts, the heat/ac switch, the alternator, radiator, drivers window motor, in-tank fuel filter, rear hatch lock, U-bolts and one and on. Of late, I replaced a cracked radiator and am currently trying to save the transmission which has radiator fluid running through it (a very common Xterra issue). I love it's looks both inside and out and the gas mileage is pretty good for its class, but I'll absolutely never ever purchase another Nissan. It's too unreliable and costly."
6 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Ryan on Friday, May 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 90,800overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Sturdy, drives like a truck."
Cons: "Bumpy, expensive repairs inevitable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"There's no frills when it comes to an Xterra. It's a sturdy, fairly reliable SUV that can get you where you need to go. Throw your EPA mileage out the window. I average 15-16 driving conservatively. Pre-2008 autos have a serious problem with the trans cooler that can blow your transmission, and Nissan only warranties it to 70k, leaving repair costs to the vehicle owner."
12 people out of 13 found this review helpful