2012 Nissan Xterra Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 5, 2010

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2012 Nissan Xterra Buying Advice

The 2012 Nissan Xterra is the best midsize SUV for you if you’re looking for a rough-and-tumble truck and want what is very likely the last Xterra to fit that description. 

The 2012 Nissan Xterra should continue relatively unchanged as a back-to-basics, truck-based SUV. The emergence and subsequent dominance of car-type crossover SUVs has rendered body-on-frame SUVs like Xterra a fading breed, however, and our sources say 2012 is likely the final model year for this Nissan.

Should you wait for the 2012 Nissan Xterra or buy a 2011 Nissan Xterra? There’s no reason to wait for the 2012 version; it should see little in the way of updates other than a slight price increase. If the idea of a basic and durable five-passenger SUV appeals to you, buy a 2011 Xterra while supplies and choices of colors and equipment are still favorable.

2012 Nissan Xterra Changes back to top

Styling: Don’t anticipate any cosmetic changes for the 2012 Nisan Xterra. It’s remained largely unaltered since the current generation debuted for model-year 2005. The original Xterra launched for model-year 2000, when most SUVs were still based on trucks. As back then, the 2012 Nissan Xterra will be an affordably priced, no-frills traditional SUV aimed at younger and active buyers. It’ll trade on bold and burly exterior styling with a front-end treatment that should again be familiar to the Nissan faithful with its three-piece angular grille and wide headlamps.

The 2012 Nisssan Xterra will also continue with short overhangs fore and aft of the wheels for good clearance when negotiating off-road ruts and rocks. It’ll continue with large fender flares, a roof rack with latching lid for storage, and a tall, upright roofline that creates large windows for good outward visibility. The rear doors, however, will still be oddly shaped because of their relation to the rear wheel openings, making for difficult access to the back seat area for the larger or less-limber among us. A generous liftgagte will continue to afford easy cargo access and generous ground clearance of 8.1-9.1 inches, depending on model, will help it to keep truckin’  off road.

The 2012 Nissan Xterra will remain a five-passenger wagon with pretty basic cabin décor: even fully equipped with the available leather upholstery, this is not by any means a luxury SUV. The rear seat sits slightly higher than the front seat, which is good for the kids but robs taller riders of a little headroom. The rear bench will continue to split-fold on a 60/40 basis for cargo-carrying flexibility; a fold-flat front seat should again be available to accommodate longer objects. The cargo area will likely continue to feature no less than 10 utility hooks, including four on the ceiling, for securing gear.

The 2012 Nissan Xterra lineup should continue with three trim levels: the entry-level X model, better-equipped S, and the off-road ready PRO-4X version.

Mechanical: The 2012 Nissan Xterra will almost certainly continue to ride on Nissan’s durable “F-Alpha” truck platform, which it’ll again share with the 2012 Nissan Pathfinder SUV and 2012 Frontier pickup. Rear-wheel-drive (2wd) and four-wheel-drive (4wd) configurations will continue, with 4wd standard on the PRO-4X. A 4.0-liter V-6 engine will probably carry over and again generate a decent 261 horsepower with a hearty 281 pound-feet of torque for good launches and decent highway passing. A five-speed manual is likely to remain the standard transmission for the 2012 Xterra 4wd S and PRO-X4 models. A five-speed automatic transmission will likely remain optional on those models and standard on all other 2012 Xterras.

The 2012 Nissan Xterra’s 4wd system is expected to remain a rudimentary “part-time” setuop that includes low-range gearing for crawling over ruddy trails and getting unstuck from deep mud or snow. Unfortunately this type of system can’t be left in 4wd mode on dry pavement without risking mechanical damage, so it isn’t as useful under most circumstances as would be an automatic-engaging full-time system. Expect the 2012 Xterra PRO-4X model to again boast enhanced off-road performance thanks to such standard features as an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein-brand gas-filled shock absorbers, hill-descent control, and, on automatic-transmission versions, hill start assist.

Every 2012 Xterra should again come with four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution for secure stopping power. Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control system will probably remain standard to help prevent sideways slides during extreme or emergency handling maneuvers. The 2012 Nissan Xterra should continue to include 16-inch aluminum wheels across the line.

Expect 4wd Xterras to perform admirably out on the trails but any version is going to ride rougher and with less-precise handling than a contemporary crossover SUV. The ride can get downright bouncy at times, and the steering can get unnerved on extended stretches of irregular pavement,

Features: The 2012 Nissan Xterra’s available features aren’t expected to change over 2011 levels, and should remain pretty elementary. Expect the 2012 X model to come standard with power locks and windows, keyless entry, and cruise control.

The 2012 Xterra S will likely add side step rails, an easy-clean cargo liner, and a first-aid kit; 4wd X models should further include a front tow hook, roof rail crossbars, and a roof-mounted basket. The 2012 Xterra PRO-4X should again come fully equipped with items like roof-mounted off-road lights, fold-down front seat, Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone adapter, and a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with subwoofer, steering-wheel controls, and an auxiliary input for iPods and the like.

All models will come with head-protecting curtain side airbags designed to deploy in side-impacts and in the event of a rollover. Once again, a short list of factory options will include step rails, cross bars, and fog lamps, and a leather-seating package for the PRO-4X. If you’re interested in such amenities as a navigation system, rearview camera, heated seats, or even a moonroof, look elsewhere.

2012 Nissan Xterra Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Nissan Xterra had not been released in time for this review but should not increase substantially over 2011 Xterra prices.

This means you can expect the base 2012 Xterra X model to have a base price of roughly $24,000 with 2wd and $27,000 with 4wd. (Estimated prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2011 Xterra was $800.)

Estimated base price for the 2012 Nissan Xterra S with manual transmission is $26,500 with 2wd, $27,500 with 4wd, and $28,500 with 4wd and automatic transmission.

The 2012 Nissan Xterra RO-4X should start around $31,000 with the manual transmission and $32,000 with the automatic.

An option package containing step rails, cross bars, and fog lamps on S models should again cost around $400 with 4wd and $500 with 2wd, while the PRO-4X Leather Package will likely cost about $1,000.

2012 Nissan Xterra Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for 2012 Nissan Xterra models had not been released in time for this review, but we expect them to match the 2011 Nissan Xterra ratings.

This means you should expect 2wd Xterras to rate 16/20 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission and 15/21 mpg with the automatic. The 4wd models should again be rated at 15/20 with the manual and 16/20 with the automatic.

2012 Nissan Xterra Release Date back to top

The 2012 Nissan Frontier should go on sale in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Nissan Xterra back to top

Though some reports have suggested Nissan may refresh the Xterra, our sources say this SUV will be dropped from the automaker’s lineup at the end of model-year 2012. The SUV market, which once embraced truck-frame models like the Xterra for their go-anywhere image, has largely shifted to car-type crossovers for their more mannerly ride and handling qualities and generally better fuel economy.

Even the youthful buyers for whom SUVs like the Xterra were originally built are migrating toward the growing segment of sporty crossovers like the Nissan Juke and Kia Sportage. While these models may not be particularly adept away from the pavement, they are far more fun to drive under normal circumstances than Xterra, and give up little in the way of utility. For many buyers, small and nimble crossovers can be lower cost (and far cheaper to insure) alternatives to sport coupes.

Despite a slight upturn in sales during 2010, Xterra remains among Nissan’s lowest-volume models and is not likely to be missed except by hard-core active types. Its fate is darkened further by the fact that one of its platform-mates, the Nissan Frontier pickup truck, will also likely be canceled after model-year 2012, and another, the Pathfinder SUV, is being redesigned and will become a unibody crossover.

2012 Nissan Xterra Competition back to top

Toyota FJ Cruiser: Toyota’s answer to the Xterra is a similar back-to-basics model that carries a throwback exterior design loosely based on the automaker’s original FJ40 4X4 from the late 1950’s. It comes powered by a 259-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 with a choice of a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Like the Xterra, it’s rough around the edges but otherwise performs well and is off-road capable. Slow sales are likewise sealing the FJ Cruiser’s fate, however, as Toyota is said to be discontinuing it after model-year 2012. Base prices range from around $25,000-$26,500.

Jeep Wrangler: At least you can bet the segment-leading Wrangler will continue to be around in more or less its present form for many years to come, as it’s literally the face of Jeep. Its lineage dates back to World War II and it’s still only nominally more sophisticated, compared to most other vehicles, than its post-war ancestors. It’s available in two- and four-door “Unlimited” models, with soft, hard, or removable hard tops. A 3.8-liter V-6 engine generates a modest 202-horsepower, but with good low-end torque. When properly equipped it’s arguably the best off-road performer in the business. It’s gotten increasingly costly in recent years, however, with base prices ranging from about $23,000-$33,500.

Dodge Nitro:  This midsize SUV is essentially Dodge’s version of the Jeep Liberty that eschews that model’s rounded and more-passive look for bolder exterior styling. It comes powered in 2wd and 4wd versions by either a 210-horsepower 3.7 liter V-6 engine or a stronger 260-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6, with the former including a four-speed automatic and the latter a five-speed. It feels a bit cheap inside, however, and its ride and handling characteristics leave a lot to be desired; taller riders will bump their heads on a too-low roofline. It could go the crossover route, perhaps by model-year 2014. Base prices range from around $23,000-$31,000.

2012 Nissan Xterra Next Steps