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 Rick on Tuesday, February 24, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good off-road capability, smooth drive on pavement"
Cons: "MPG could be a tad better, 4WD High might hang"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Back in 2010, I decided it was time to purchase a 4x4 to do some moderate (not hard core) off-roading here in Colorado. After some research, I decided a used Xterra was the vehicle I wanted because it looked like a vehicle capable of handing off-road terrain while also providing a decent ride on paved surfaces. I went shopping and liked it so much I ended up buying a new 2010 Off-Road version. After about five years of owning this vehicle, I absolutely love the thing! We've been up just about every "moderate" trail in the state as well as several "hard" trails, shying away only from those trails where vehicle damage would be pretty certain. The locking differential has been invaluable on steep two/three wheel crawls. Even after owning it all this time, I am still impressed by how comfortable it is to drive for hours on paved roads, then go off road and beat the thing up over tens of thousands of rocks, and then jump back on a highway and have it drive just as smooth as ever. I've used it to tow several trailers carrying loads of 2,000 to 4,000 lbs (moving daughter twice and mother once), hauled a ton of rocks, taken trips to the East and West coasts and Canada, and am planning a trip up to Alaska to check out the wilderness there. I have had zero issues to date (knock on wood), and it remains a pleasure to drive. Yes it's a truck, but with the wheel and tire size on the Off-Road, there's a nice amount of air cushion and it's very comfortable. We recently made a 1,900 mile round trip to Arizona and came back though one of the largest snow storms we've seen in the past decade, and it handled the trip nicely as always. I've had only one minor annoyance... that being that it sometimes takes a little longer to come back out of 4-wheel drive (high) than I'd prefer. Winter driving often means ice or snow-covered roads, then maybe a well-cleared road, and I like to get out of 4-wheel drive whenever it's not needed. Sometimes it doesn't want to pop back into 2-wheel drive right away. It's not a big deal, but I will likely look into addressing this annoyance when the weather gets warm again. Bottom line: I believe there is no better vehicle to give you both off-road capability and a smooth on-road drive. I find myself driving it even when taking the car would net better gas mileage because it just feels good to drive it!"
8 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Cas on Sunday, February 22, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price, fun to drive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is a great midsize suv that is fun to drive. It has plenty of power. The S model has everything you need with a great sound system. The X model does not have all the extras but is still a great vehicle if you do not want the extras. This is the first vehicle that I have ever gotten in and just loved right away. I find myself finding excuses to drive it!"
4 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Stone on Saturday, February 07, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 180,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great value, versatile, fairly reliable, durable."
Cons: "Stock rear suspension btms out on hvy bumps."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Off Road 2WD model. Bought with 70K miles. Replaced radiator when first bought to prevent potential leakage of coolant into transmission. Now have 180K miles. Replaced U-joints at 150K +/-. Always had problem with rear suspension bottoming out. Installed single add-a-leafs recently with xlnt results. Engine and transmission still run perfectly. Good power. 17 mpg city/ 20-21 hwy. Drives like a truck, but smooth on good pavement. Rockford Fosgate stereo has face melting volume; good for rock music, but not really "hi-fi"; backlit display no longer works, otherwise fine. Very versatile, fun vehicle. Get one if in good condition."
17 people out of 29 found this review helpful
By 40lover on Thursday, January 08, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Visibility and size"
Cons: "Hard for people to get in/out of back seat."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Like everything about it but gas mileage . Only trouble I have had is heater only blows total hot regardless of setting. Asked local dealer and they say they are all like that. Admittedly hard to believe."
16 people out of 33 found this review helpful
By Docchurch on Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 85,600overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, comfortable, looks beautiful!"
Cons: "Not real good on gas"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Other than normal maintenance, I have had no trouble with this truck! I love it so much. It is so comfortable and fun to drive as well as being very handy for hauling my stuff. As for the winter... multiple significant snowfalls, including one that buried me hub deep. Not once has this truck gotten stuck! Throw it in 4WD and off I go, no sweat!!!"
15 people out of 31 found this review helpful
By Finally bought an Xterra on Friday, November 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great for tall people, good looks, solid as a rock"
Cons: "No defroster in outside mirrors"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Recently purchased a 2015 Xterra Pro-4X at the beginning of October 2014 here in northeast Ohio. I've always driven Nissan vehicles (since 1992) and never have had problems with them, other than routine maintenance. For example, my current car (which I kept when I purchased the new Xterra) is a 2004 Infiniti G35 Coupe (made by Nissan in Japan). It now is over 10 years old with over 130,000 miles and runs great. The only issue it has had so far is the electric radiator fan motor died around 70,000 miles. It cost around $750 to replace as the car was out of warranty by then. A month later I received a letter from Nissan stating that they have experienced a higher failure rate than expected for these motors, and to send them the bill for reimbursement. Nissan sent a check in the mail to cover the entire cost, when they didn't have to at all. Anyway, the G35 Coupe is not the best for driving in the snow as it is a rear wheel drive sports coupe. For bad weather and occasional off-road use, hauling my bicycle around, hauling other stuff as needed, and going on weekend camping trips, I purchased the new Xterra. Since I have been a Nissan fan over the years, I purposely spent a lot of time looking at the Toyota FJ Cruiser, Toyota 4Runner, and Jeeps. None of them had the best combination of off-road capability and on-road driving comfort and utility, and features for the price compared to the Xterra. The Toyota FJ Cruiser is a very cool vehicle, but I did not like the suicide doors (to open the second door requires opening the driver or passenger door first), and the back door opens like a refrigerator instead of being a liftgate. The driving visibility in the FJ Cruiser is far worse than the Xterra. I am tall (6'-3") and do not have to duck my head down to see overhead traffic signals like I had to in the FJ Cruiser. The 4Runner was too long in length and too pricey (great vehicle to be sure). I do not need removable doors or removable roofs and the interior design of the Jeeps did not appeal to me. Jeeps are great vehicles but are overpriced for comparable equipment than the Xterra Pro-4X. I am averaging around 19 miles per gallon city/highway with the Xterra so far, which is a little better than I expected. No issues so far during the first 2,000 miles with the Xterra. This vehicle is solid as a rock with a true body on frame construction. Likes: Looks and doesn't look out of date to me even though this design is 10 years old (metallic blue is the best color), excellent stereo system, navigation, bluetooth, SiriusXM radio with weather and traffic, all buttons are lighted including steering wheel controls, heated seats, wheels look great, good quality BF Goodrich tires, very good fit and finish, everything is easy to use, temp display and compass on auto-dimming rearview mirror, reverse camera, strong heater and A/C, Bilstein shocks, handles amazingly well and steering has perfect feel, comfortable seats, excellent head room for a tall guy like me, good leg room, plenty of cargo capacity, seats fold flat, fits in my garage, shifts on the fly to 4WD without even a clunk (drove in snow the other day), best vehicle for the money hands down! Dislikes: plastics scratch easily, outside mirrors do not have defrosters, overhead vanity mirrors are not lighted, window on rear liftgate can not open- THAT'S IT FOR DISLIKES! This vehicle is perfect for single guys like me who live an active lifestyle. It's not really a family vehicle even though it certainly could do that. If you have little kids, they probably wouldn't even be able to reach the high rear door handles, LOL! Nissan has consistently sold around 1,100 Xterras a month for the last several years, with zero advertising or incentives, for a reason!"
35 people out of 44 found this review helpful