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2012 Nissan Xterra

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2012 Nissan Xterra Review

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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.

You'll Like This Car If...

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.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If your idea of rugged adventuring is driving over snow-covered roads to reach the local ski resort, a Subaru Forester or Dodge Journey may be a more comfortable choice and offer better fuel economy.

What's New for 2012

Other than two new colors, there are no major changes for the 2012 Nissan Xterra SUV.

Driving the Xterra
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).

Side Steps
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.

2012 Nissan Xterra Details
Interior

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.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

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.

Optional Equipment

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.

Under the Hood

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.

4.0-liter V6
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)

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2012 Nissan Xterra Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.7
Out of 10

Based on 476 Ratings for the 2005 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.9/10
    Quality
    8.8/10
  • Reliability
    9.1/10
    Performance
    9.1/10
  • Comfort
    8.6/10
    Styling
    8.9/10

2013 Model S - 14,000 miles A/T

By on Friday, July 15, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Excellent V6 -transmission combo. Quiet interior."

Cons: "Sound system, brake feel, handling curves."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"I mostly use this vehicle for weekend and vacation travel, hence the low mileage. Really nice V6, smooth and powerful and works well with the 5 speed trans. Easily towed a 9ft loaded utility trailer. I get 17-18 mpg overall which meets the EPA sticker mileage. Good suspension on rough road. Surprisingly quiet interior for a truck. Only 1 minor non-service dealer visit."

Happy but wouldn't buy again

By on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
7/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
7/10
Performance
7/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
6/10

Pros: "Space, power, 4x4, pulling capacity"

Cons: "GAS!!, comfort, cheap plastic, not good off roads"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"Although I like the Xterra and it serves it's purpose I wouldn't buy it again. -Pro's Space Power 4x4 Pulling capacity -Con's GAS!!! Comfort Cheap plastic interior & exterior Not very good as an actual Sports Utility Vehicle Like I said, I'll probably have my Xterra for 10 years because I've gotta get my money's worth out of it, but I wouldn't buy it again. There are many other options for this type of car that would be a better choice. I didn't think I would notice the 18mpg but I do. Bought the car for adventure. Can't afford gas for said adventure."

17 people out of 28 found this review helpful

The Unapologetically Utilitarian SUV

By on Thursday, January 28, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "ENGINE (power), rugged, simple, reliable, utility"

Cons: "ENGINE (economy), int. plastic scratches easily"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

2015 Pro-4X with 6-spd manual. One of my all-time favorite vehicles owned.

"No, it isn't a Chrysler Wrangler; trust me, that's a good thing. No, it isn't a Rogue, either. Or an Outlander. Or anything else that uses electronic proxies to replicate actual 4WD capabilities so soccer moms can gum up the left lane when it snows. Look, it's hard (tough), angular (distinct), unyielding (solid), and even dated (proven). The engine sucks down fuel like a riding lawn mower, but it also shoves all 4,300 lbs down the pavement faster than some "sporty" cars manage (to 60 in 7 seconds), hauls 5,000 lbs, and sounds pretty sweet under acceleration. And it's available (like mine) in a 6-spd manual. Did you hear that? AN SUV WITH A MANUAL TRANSMISSION. Gotta love that. We've taken it on vacation with lots of highway miles, and while comfortable enough, it never lets you forget it's a body-on-frame SUV. I have the 2015 Pro-4X so it has JUST enough creature comforts to keep me happy, but it's honestly what I call "my analog SUV in a digital world." And that's why I like it so much. Instead of trying to please the lowest common denominator of focus groups, the Xterra is meant for a narrow audience that DOES things, GOES places, and NEEDS a more rugged vehicle than most. My dog vomited in the back of mine Week 1, and I drug a hose into the back seat and sprayed out the cargo area. Done and done. I like the Ford Explorer just fine, but I'd have been looking at a $75 detailing to clean that same mess up. So if you want a REAL SUV--and all that means--definitely look at the Xterra. If you want a road-focused crossover with a traction-control dial, this ain't it."

34 people out of 42 found this review helpful

2015 Pro-4X with 6-spd manual. One of my all-time favorite vehicles owned.

Poor quality engine/transmission

By on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 134,000

10 4.0
overall rating 4 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
4/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
3/10
Quality
5/10
Performance
4/10
Styling
4/10
Comfort
5/10

Pros: "Cheap vehicle body has held up well."

Cons: "Cheap vehicle - drive train parts don't last."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2

"The vehicle is a decent value except for the engine ( I had to replace the timing chain and tensioners and lower pulley at 88,000 miles. The transmission needed replacing at 134,000 miles). This was despite good maintenance history and mostly highway and in-town miles."

21 people out of 35 found this review helpful

Driving for 50+ years ....the best I've owned

By on Sunday, December 6, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 114,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "I hunt 50 days/yr. It goes anywhere."

Cons: "Dome light over back seat. Why?"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Six yrs old...114K miles on my 2010 Xterra. I have a 6 speed tranny (manual) and am totally satisfied. I wait for no one....it's fast. Mileage normally is 18 city - 22 Hwy. I have 2 (of 8) of my kids wanting this vehicle when I get a new one. Only drawback is that the dome light is over the back seat. It should be AT LEAST over the back of the front seat. Zoom-Zoom."

12 people out of 24 found this review helpful

Great overall vehicle. Off road machine.

By on Friday, December 4, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,500

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "Fun and capable suv that inspires excitement."

Cons: "2015 was the last year of this suv."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Too bad Nissan is dropping the X. I bought one of the very last production number 4x4 Xterras. It was the only one for sale within 400 miles of my home. It has been a very good choice. It has excellent off road manners. Will climb and go over obstacles with factory tires in 2wd that other vehicles in 4wd with mud tires will not. Suspension articulates well and 4wd system is impeccable. Street handling feels safe and confident as well. Corners well for a 4x4. Fuel mileage is ok. I avg 20mpg with mixed driving on 87 octane. I can run 93 octane and have gotten 23.5mpg with mixed driving. It has lots of power, enough that a spirited takeoff on pavement will trip the traction control. Interior is slightly utilitarian, but that's how I like it. Braking is superb for a moderately heavy SUV. Interior is quiet at all speeds, wind noise is only really noticeable above 60mph. Factory stereo is ok. Automatic shifts smoothly under normal load and driving, shifts firm up under hard acceleration just as it is supposed to. Seating is very comfortable for 4 adults. 5 is too tight. Legroom in rear seats is adequate. Drivers seating is a could be considered a little tight if your height is over 6'. Overall an excellent suv. I love my Xterra!"

11 people out of 16 found this review helpful

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