Nissan's blunt instrument

Interior

AM/FM/CD

Steering wheel

Instrument cluster

Rugged exterior

4.0-liter V-6

5-speed automatic

Suspension

Drive selector

Packaging

Rear storage

Rear bumper step

Step up

Roof storage

The Nissan Xterra hasn't changed much since its last major revision in 2006. However, our 2010 Xterra S was loaded with tech that's well over a decade old.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Let's get the hard part out of the way first. The Nissan's interior is a dated mess of hard plastics and low tech.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The only audio option is a single-disc AM/FM/CD player that doesn't support MP3 in any fashion. That means no MP3-encoded discs, no USB, no Bluetooth or audio streaming, and no auxiliary input.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The steering wheel has basic buttons cruise control, but no audio controls.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Simple as it may be, the Xterra's instrument cluster was surprisingly handsome and easy to read. A monochrome LCD displayed trip computer information and drive select status.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Low tech interior aside, the Xterra does have a sort of ruggedly simple charm. Like a hammer, the Xterra is functional, not ornamented.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Under the Xterra's hood lives a the large displacement V-6 engine that outputs enough power to claim superiority over the Toyota 4Runner and FJ Cruiser and downright outclasses the Ford Explorer's 4.0-liter.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Despite its high power ratings, the Xterra was hesitant to accelerate quickly. This is mostly due to the equipped 5-speed automatic transmissions unwillingness to downshift when demanded. Really prod the accelerator pedal, however, and the V-6 will eventually spring to life.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The Xterra's high suspension and body-on-frame construction resulted in a harsh bumpy ride over uneven highways. However, at lower speeds, the off-roader soaked up larger bumps with little drama.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
As a 4x4 model, our Xterra was able to move between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations at the touch of a dial. A third 4WD LO setting featured extra-low gearing that allowed the Xterra to take advantage of its high torque at a significantly reduced speed, perfect for rock crawling and slippery situations.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Where the Xterra really excels is its packaging. The boxy shape affords the SUV plenty of rear stowage space.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The rear storage area features a wipe-clean floor and integrated rails for adding bike racks and other specialty equipment.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The rear bumper features an integrated step that eases access to the standard roof rack.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Our Xterra was also equipped with side steps, which eased entrance and egress into the tall truck and assisted in roof rack access.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
At the front of the roof rack is this neat little lockable storage area that features a plastic mesh bottom, perfect for stowing damp wetsuits or ski jackets.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
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