The 2006 Nissan Xterra isn't one of those midsize SUVs that blends into the background. Even though the design isn't new, its big, boxy shape and unique grille still catch the eye while you're driving on a road full of functional but blasé automobiles. Not to say that all who look are pleased; comments on our test car ranged from cool to plain old ugly.
This 2006 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year boasts a powerful V-6 engine and is fun to get dirty. But rough suspension and a tipsy feel around corners can make for a less-than-enjoyable driving experience on the road. In addition, the vehicle lacks some of the creature comforts that on-the-go adventure seekers would find handy. The eight-speaker audio system with subwoofer sounds good, but other tech treats, such as a navigation system, Bluetooth, and an auxiliary jack, are not an option. A connector for an iPod is available, but it doesn't support other types of portable music players.
Owners of the 2006 Nissan Xterra will suffer most at the gas pump. The car gets an EPA-tested 16mpg in the city and 21mpg on the highway, but those who haul heavy stuff or play a lot off-road will see those numbers go even lower.
The 2006 Nissan Xterra starts at $20,050 for the basic X trim level with rear two-wheel drive. Our SE edition with four-wheel drive had a base price of $27,650 and included XM Satellite Radio ($350), body side molding ($110), carpeted floor mats ($110), and the supplemental air-bag package ($700)--for a grand total of $29,525, including a $605 destination charge.
When climbing into the cabin of the 2006 Nissan Xterra, the famous line from the 1967 film The Graduate comes to mind: "Plastics." The dash, the moldings, the center console, and other trim are wrought with man-made material. The plastic used seems durable and practical, but other materials would have been nice as accents to break up the monotony. Our car did come with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, which provided added comfort and grip.
The displays, while easy to read, aren't terribly attractive. The instrument panel, with its orange backlight and black and white gauges, looks boring and dated. This is especially disappointing for a vehicle that is, according to Nissan, "equipped to push boundaries."
When it comes to accommodating passengers, we found the 2006 Nissan Xterra almost an example of the Tardis Effect in reverse: The car looks huge but isn't all that roomy inside. The backseat in particular is small and cramped, and it offers little legroom. Front-passenger seats have decent support and are large enough to accommodate most adults but offer a limited amount of adjustability. On the plus side, the convenience of the abundant, deep cup holders, ample center-console space, built-in sunglass storage compartment, and three 12-volt power adapters might console otherwise uncomfortable occupants.
The eight-speaker, 380-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system produces good, clear sound, even at high volumes while driving on the freeway. Steering-wheel controls handle volume, track, mode, and even power. Our car came prepped for XM Satellite Radio; consumers get free activation and three months of service when buying the car new. Sirius Satellite Radio is also available, so buyers won't have to feel forced into choosing one service over the other.
The 2006 Nissan Xterra's six-disc CD changer plays MP3s and shows ID3-track information with the touch of the display button. Bluetooth functionality and an auxiliary jack are missing, but Xterras with the six-disc CD changer will support an OEM interface for an iPod. The optional adapter connects the Apple music player to the car stereo via a cable in the glove compartment and is controlled from the in-dash radio or the steering-wheel buttons. Unfortunately, the connector can't be used with other brands of MP3 players.
Nissan makes a decent navigation system in some of its other models, such as the 2006 Nissan Murano, but this feature surprisingly is not an option on the Xterra. Bluetooth is also not offered, but this is of less importance for an off-road vehicle. Cooling and heating controls are basic but adequate, and the knobs and vents aren't as durable as they should be for a car designed to take a lot of use and abuse.
Rear space is adequate for hauling large items, but the hard plastic floor causes things to slide around, even when using the cargo nets. A sliding cargo-area organizer is available for an additional $150, which we think should come standard, at least on the more expensive models. The built-in first-aid kit is handy, as long as owners remember to refresh and replenish supplies as needed.The 2006 Nissan Xterra comes standard with a powerful 4.0-liter, 265-horsepower DOHC V-6 engine that puts out 284 pound-feet of torque. The drivetrain is available in both a rear-wheel drive and a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system, which switches the car into four-wheel drive and back with a simple turn of a knob. Towing capacity for all models is listed at 5,000 pounds. Our SE model is available with only a five-speed automatic transmission, but other Xterra trim levels come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, with the automatic optional.
Despite its large size, the Xterra still can attain plenty of speed. Although the car is hesitant when the throttle is first depressed, the power really kicks in at mid and high revolutions per minute. When merging on the freeway, we had the initial sensation of not being able to accelerate fast enough, then discovered several seconds later that we had somehow reached 80mph with ease.