The 2006 Nissan Xterra SE arrived in our garage today, so we took it out for a spin to get some initial impressions. The Xterra is more off-road than tech focused--navigation isn't even an option, which is too bad because some nav systems work great off-road. For example, the system in thewe reviewed earlier drew in custom roads when the car was taken off-road.
Performancewise, the Xterra feels extremely capable. Its 265-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 gives it excellent acceleration, and its on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system lets the driver switch between two-wheel, four-high, and four-low, all from a dial in the dashboard. The five-speed automatic transmission our test car came equipped with isn't ideal for off-roading, but there's no manual option at the SE trim level. Nissan does offer an Off-Road trim level that has a six-speed manual. The Xterra is a tall car and feels a bit dicey when taking turns at any kind of speed, even with Nissan's Vehicle Dynamic Control system.
The Xterra is built on a ladder frame, which is more than evident from its rough ride. Pothole-filled city streets send strong bounces and jounces into the cabin, although the seats are cushioned enough to absorb some of the shock. Our test car came with the Rockford Fosgate premium audio package, which produces very rich sound. This system is made up of eight speakers, a subwoofer, an in-dash six-CD changer that plays MP3 CDs, and prewiring for either XM or Sirius Satellite Radio. For MP3 CDs, the stereo shows song title and folder name, although this requires pressing the Display button. Buttons in the steering wheel control the audio system and even include a power button, something we haven't seen in many steering wheel-control setups.
The 2006 Nissan Xterra SE's ride and interior are too Spartan for grocery trips, a taxi service for children, and other mundane activities most SUVs are used for. It's a more rugged truck that needs to be used for excursions that take it off the beaten path.