By David Colman
Pro: Stud appearance, High level of fit and finish, Go-anywhere capability
Con: No sliding visors, Poor XM reception, No external temp. readout
You’d think that a tire as tough as a BF Goodrich “Rugged Trail T/A” in a size as chunky as 265/65R16 would be impervious to any road hazard you could throw in its way. After all, the raised white lettering on the sidewall and the meaty tread blocks lend a sense of invulnerability to your travel. In fact, the motto of the Xterra is: “Tough Gear That Helps You Attack Life.” Unfortunately, a diminutive Phillips Head screw managed to insinuate itself into the BFG’s carcass in the soft underbelly of the tire, between those menacing tread blocks.
First, the low tire pressure warning light illuminated on the dash. We checked the pressures and found them all to be set at 32psi, the manufacturer’s recommended setting. But the warning system knew more than we did, and the next morning the right rear was flat. Thankfully, Nissan provides the Xterra with a full-size spare, so after some fussing with the spindly jack, we just managed to squeeze the spare onto the back axle, and be on our way. If you plan on taking this Xterra offroad, you’ll definitely want to pack a bottle jack, or floor jack before departure.
The PRO-4X version of the Xterra is aimed at the Jeep Rubicon fraternity of intrepid voyagers who think nothing of setting out for a week on the Rubicon Trail or tackling the hinterlands of Moab. The list of special equipment standard on this alluring special edition of the Xterra is impressive. With the rear wheel off, we could see the standard Bilstein shocks that control jounce and rebound with German precision. The frame looks massive because it is fully boxed rather than being dependent on flimsier U-channel construction. All four wheels feature limited slip gearing, and an electronic locking rear differential is standard. The PRO-4X operates in 2 wheel drive unless you select 4-wheel drive “Hi” from the dashboard-mounted rotary knob. You can also engage 4-wheel drive “Low,” but only if you come to a complete stop. Nissan does not recommend using either 4-wheel drive setting on dry pavement, as it wears out the drivetrain and reduces gas mileage (which is already on the low side, at 15 MPG City/20 MPG Highway).
The lovely 4 liter V6 that powers the PRO-4X makes 261hp, which it feeds through a 5-speed automatic transmission that can be held in 3rd, 2nd and Low gears by moving the floor-mounted stick into the appropriate slot. Neither steering wheel paddles nor manumatic shifting are offered or needed. The gutsy and flexible V6 produces 281 lb.-ft. of torque, which is enough to tow a 5,000 pound trailer.
Nissan has done a stellar job of transforming the Xterra PRO-4 into a standout product, with interior and exterior styling revisions that differentiate it from lesser models. You first notice the ingenious roof rack, emblazoned with Xterra nomenclature, and housing a pair of off-road lights mounted high above the front windshield. Clamber into the tall cab, and you’ll love the model-specific, nubby fabric seats, which grasp and hold you firm like Velcro. The black steering wheel, stitched with contrasting red thread, is thick-rimmed. Perforated leather on the 9 and 12 o’clock grip surfaces make it a pleasure to hold. The left spoke features volume and station controls for the booming Rockford-Fosgate 8-speaker stereo. The right spoke contains 3 cruise control buttons. Ancillary stalks for lights and wipers are stubby, sturdy, and pleasurable to operate. Although the PRO-4X is aimed at the serious offroader, it’s cockpit is so comfortable and fully equipped that it makes the perfect daily driver. At $31,000, the PRO-4X is an eminently affordable alternative to such big ticket offroad machines as the Range Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser.
2012 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X
- Engine: 4.0 liter DOHC V6
- Horsepower: 261hp
- Torque: 281 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 15 MPG City/20 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $31,910
- Star Rating (Scale of 1-10): 9 Stars