Category Archives: Nissan

2002 Nissan Sentra Spec V (389)

Overview:

This week I tested the Nissan Sentra Spec V. I have a friend who’s in her second Toyota Corolla and she loves the 2000 model as much as she did the ten year old one she replaced. They are such basic cars and low cost to buy and operate there is little to complain about.

And if your thing is to pour your money into something other than transportation, these compact cars are wonderful. They are not showy but they are so capable with today’s technological advancements that you really will be surprised at every facet of performance.

It is a lot of transportation car for the money, but I have driven all of the competition and they are, for the most part, neck and neck with each other. But I still rank them overall considering price and features, comfort and styling as noted in the listing below with the rank in parenthesis.

My biggest complaint was that it was not very comfortable on the road for prolonged driving. After a short time I was in agony because I just couldn’t get the adjustment right. The VW New Beetle was so bad I would rank it at the bottom just for that reason. In that case it wasn’t adjustment but just poorly designed seats. They should take both designers out and shoot them.

General Info:

Parts – not Published.

Assembly – Mexico

Class: Compact

Nissan Cars: Altima, Frontier, Maxima, Pathfinder, Quest, Sentra, Xterra

Handling & Performance:

Sport suspension gives it a stiff feel and annoying bone jarring bottoming out over dips and ruts in the road. But that is what gives it the great handling. It really is ok around town. It is very faaaaaast with 0-60 at just over 7 seconds. Very impressive.

Styling:

Good. Plain Jane, but that’s ok for this class and price of car.

Fit and Finish:

As always, Japanese cars pay close attention to detail. However this is assembled in Mexico. I don’t like stereotypes, but growing up in Southern California and visiting Mexico on several occasions with one of my best friend in my youth who was Mexican I developed some healthy doubts about the quality of Mexican workmanship. That was a long time ago and in those days Mexican quality was better than any Asian product. In any case I noticed nothing to support my prejudice. In fact I didn’t know it was assembled in Mexico until I looked at the paperwork in preparation for this review. Old opinions are hard to change, eh.

Conveniences:

Typical for the price range.

Cost:

Priced in the middle of this large field on competitors.

Consumer Recommendation:

Test drive in order of ranking, as you need to, but take three first. #1, #7 and #15 for example will give you a range.

The Competition:

(2) Nissan Sentra Spec V $12-17,000, (1) Toyota Corolla $13-15,000, (3) Ford Focus $12-17,000, (4) Honda Civic $13-21,000, (5) Mitsubishi Mirage $12-15,000, (6) Dodge Neon $12-16,000, (7) Saturn SL $11-14,000, (8) Daewoo Nubira $12-14,000, (9) Kia Sephia $11-12,000, (10) Kia Spectra $11-14,000, (11) Hyundai Elantra $12-14,000, (12) Mazda Protégé $13-16,000, (13) Chevrolet Cavalier $14-20,000, (14) Volkswagen Jetta $17-27,000, (15) Subaru Impreza $19-24,000.

Good News:

Priced well, sporty, good gas stats, powerful and fun to drive.

Bad News:

Plain Jane styling, uncomfortable on long trips, no ABS or traction control.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 175 horsepower inline 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual trans, power disc brakes, power steering, front stabilizer bars, 17 inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, power mirrors, air conditioning, 5 passenger seating, leather wrapped steering wheel, tilt steering, remote keyless entry, power widows and door locks, audio system with CD player, Cruise control, dual air bags.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 28 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $16,999.

2002 Nissan Altima (374)

Overview:

This week I finally was able to drive the newly designed 2002 Nissan Altima. Now I have to tell you I have a soft spot in my heart for the company. In the early 1960’s I was one of the brave souls to buy one of those new to the U.S. Japanese cars. Brave because when I was a kid, merchandise (toys) from Japan was considered “junk”.

So I was conditioned to believe things made in Japan were not worth buying. Kind of like buying a car built by Pigmy’s in Borneo today. Now the technology could have changed a lot since I visited the natives but you get the picture. As you will probably recall Nissan used to be called Datsun back then. Secondly, Nissan sponsored my good friend and race driver Price Cobb in the IRL, (Indianapolis Racing League), where two power plants were used – Oldsmobile and Infiniti (Nissan). But still this company has come a long way since I bought that Datsun Station Wagon. Dealerships are as extensive as American made dealerships so getting parts and service is better than in those early days.

I’ve been writing about cars for many years and it’s appropriate to compare that mode of travel with flying, particularly in these times since September 11th of 2001. I have a keen sense of the obvious, but I really had to experience the pain and agony of flying these days to do an analysis of Drive vs. Fly. I had to ask this question: is it me or has everyone concluded that driving is better than flying unless you must cross an ocean. Case in point: The flight time from Portland, Oregon to San Jose, California is only 1 ½ hrs but you must consider post 9-11 flights require you arrive at the airport 2-½ hrs before your flight and endure prisoner of war indignities at several checkpoints. It is worse than flying to Israel a few years back. So lets look at the analysis. I left the office at 3PM for the airport for a 6:30PM flight. Liftoff at 6:48PM and arrived at San Jose baggage claim at 8:40PM. Pulling out of the parking lot I noticed the time – 9:11PM and I finally got to my hotel at 10:30PM. Although you could do the math I’ll do it with you. Point to point is 7-½ hrs. Worse yet, I had to inconvenience a friend to pick me up at the airport where she arrived early for car inspection and then drive home after dropping me at the hotel.

Ok, now the automobile option. One-way car rental cost is about the same as flying including gas. If there are two or more people traveling the car option gets even better for this 600-mile trip. I’ve made it several times and the drive takes about 3-½ hrs from Portland to Medford and Medford to San Jose is about 5 hours for a total of 8 ½ hours. That means to save one hour by flying you must endure all the inconveniences of flying, like packing more carefully, straining a gut carrying all that luggage and waiting in lines to hell, driving is a better option in today’s world.

You’re right; I should have driven this Altima to San Jose. Onward…

Handling & Performance:

F a a a s s t t V6, smoooooth, quiet and comfortable with a longer wheelbase in either the 4-cylinder or V6 powered model.

Styling:

Ho-Hum, since its sleek design looks like so many others on the market today. Come to think of it, too many cars lack creativity of design. Don’t misunderstand me, this Altima is slick and nice looking and greatly improved over prior models, but it is rather commonplace.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Conveniences:

I think you’ll get the same feeling I did. You sense you’re in a more expensive car because there are so many features and gadgets.

Cost:

Not too bad with all the features that are standard on this test vehicle.

Recommendation:

Buy a car, any car and don’t fly any more for trips of 600 miles or less, because the skies aren’t friendly any longer. Now, if we can only avoid road rage.

The Competition:

(Nissan Altima $16-22,000), Chevrolet Impala $20-24,000, Dodge Stratus $17-21,000, Ford Taurus $19-23,000, Honda Accord $15-25,000, Hyundai Sonata $15-18,000, Mazda 626 $19-23,000, Mitsubishi Galant $18-24,000, Oldsmobile Intrigue $23-28,000, Saturn LS $16-20,000, Subaru Legacy $19-25,000, Toyota Camry $19-25,000, Volkswagen Passat $22-29,000.

Good News:

Fast, smooth, quiet, comfortable spacious interior, priced well, good gas mileage on the V6 and very good on the 4-cylinder, large trunk, and a lot of standard features.

Bad News:

So-so styling, feels a bit light and tinny.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter inline 4-cylinder 175 hp engine, 4-speed automatic trans, power steering, 4-wheel power disc brakes, independent rear suspension, remote keyless entry, 6-speaker radio with CD player, power windows and door locks, tilt / telescopic steering wheel, remote trunk, fuel filler and hood, front and rear armrests, air conditioning, cruise control, dual power mirrors, dual air bags, anti-theft system and child door locks.

Gas Stats:

23 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $21,196.

2001 Nissan Xterra (372)

Overview:

This week I revisited the Nissan Xterra that I tested two years ago when it had just hit the market. Well back then the 3.3 liter V6 was a 170 hp engine and to make things worse I tested it in mile high Denver, Colorado and 8,000 foot Evergreen. My racing buddy Price Cobb joined me on a jaunt to the high plains of Nebraska. He made the observation that I passed on to Nissan for their consideration. “Why didn’t they put the Maxima engine in the Xterra so it wouldn’t be such a dog”?  Price didn’t say dog… that was my interpretation.

Well, perhaps they listened because this version comes with a turbocharger that generates 210 horsepower out of the same 3.3 liters, which makes a world of difference. Granted, I didn’t drive this years model at 5-8,000 feet, but the extra 40 horses eliminates the sluggish performance.

I can’t imagine any class vehicle that has been so popular over the years. We Americans are a rugged people descended from pioneers who carved a life out of a very hostile country only a hundred years ago. It’s in our genes to be on the move and to get off the beaten path on occasion. The SUV satisfies our wanderlust nature.

Handling & Performance:

Generally consistent with other SUV’s in its class. I, like most of the car buying public, enjoy driving a 4X4 partly because it gives the impression of “Go anywhere, do anything” kind of driving ability and fun. On a recent Elk hunting trip I tested the Jeep Liberty and was very impressed. These two, in fact all the competition listed here are very similar in statistics. All others do better in gas mileage and power when Xterra is not turbocharged. Although it sits higher than all others, it has the best ground clearance and I didn’t feel it was more top heavy.

Styling:

They all look great and it’s easy to see why so many people buy them. Xterra sits higher than others and has more ground clearance and has that more rugged “Outback” look. I like its unique styling.

Fit and Finish:

Better than the roll out version because it has sales appeal and thus the newer models get more attention to detail.

Conveniences:

There are a lot of gadgets and goodies on the one I tested and the price acknowledges them with a hefty price tag of nearly $29,000.

Cost:

More pricey than when it was introduced and that is the case with the Jeep Liberty new for 2002.

Recommendation:

Look at all the competition. There isn’t a lot in the class and my guess is you’ll be as impressed with the new kid on the block – Jeep Liberty. It’s priced the best right now and I’d snap one up before any price increases sure to happen just like this popular Xterra in just two short years.

The competition:

Ford Escape $18-24,000, Isuzu Rodeo $18-32,000, Jeep Liberty $16-23,000, Land Rover Freelander $25-32,000, Mazda Tribute $18-24,000.

Good News:

Much improved power with turbo, better finish work, unique styling.

Bad News:

 More pricey than original offering, poorer mileage and smaller interior space than competition.

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter supercharged V6 210 horsepower engine, auto trans, power 4-wheel ABS front disc and rear drum braking system, 2 speed 4X4 transfer case, engine and fuel tank skid plates, power steering, double wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bars front and rear, 5,000 lb towing capacity, 19.4 gal fuel tank, tubular roof rack with gear basket, 17” wheels, fog lights, tow hook, radio with in-dash 6 CD player, tilt leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, air conditioning, first aid kit, power windows, door locks and mirrors, auxiliary 12 volt outlets, tie-down hooks, cruise control, center console, rear defrost and wiper, dual air bags, security system, remote keyless entry, child safety locks.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $28,675.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is movello@earthlink.net.

2001 Nissan Pathfinder (368)

Overview:

This week I drove the 2001 Mid-year Nissan Pathfinder 4X4. I hadn’t looked at this car since the 1997 model in August 1996. I’ve always loved to drive these but the fact that they suck up too much gas turns me off. If they can put a man on the moon they can improve gas performance on cars.

I’m sorry guys, but that’s the truth. Unless of course you subscribe to the theory that we never landed on the moon and that was just staged in Hollywierd.

Well, since gas is sure to be given away soon after we take over the oil fields of the Middle-East SUV’s will be even more popular than they are now. My estimates are that 2 out of 10 cars on the road are SUV’s and there is no stopping them – unless they come up with an engine that burns water. Did you ever notice that bottled water is more expensive than gas? That is even more obvious in the Middle East where a liter of water can cost you about $4.00. Is that insane or what.

Handling & Performance:

Don’t let anyone tell you that Premium gas is a must. It simply isn’t so. I’ve driven all cars with unleaded gas and they operate just fine.

Styling:

Not bad but pretty much stamped out from the mold used by most SUV manufacturers.

Fit and Finish:

Real nice. I can’t say enough for the Japanese carmakers when it comes to attention to detail. They take genuine pride in craftsmanship – the lost art in so much of America’s work force.

Conveniences:

Like many cars today, this pathfinder had auto up/down window controls. I’ve got used to most of them but can understand passengers who’ve had problems stopping the window where they wanted to. I also like the rear door handles that are easy to use. Lots of room in the cargo area but the roof rack is great for this class vehicle made for the out of doors.

Cost:

Way too much with all the bells and whistles like Navigation system, leather package and entertainment center you’ll pay a whopping $38 grand. That’s about $7,000 more than the base price noted below for the standard feature package.

Recommendation:

Put a down payment on a house and buy American, let’s say a Saturn for $10 grand. But if you must buy an SUV save some dough and buy this 2001 where the dealers are likely to deal on now that the 2002’s are out.

The Competition:

Acura MDX $34,700-39,300, Chevrolet Trail Blazer $25-34,000, Dodge Durango $25-36,500, Ford Explorer $21-34,000, GMC Envoy $29-34,000, Isuzu Rodeo $18-32,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $25-37,000, Land Rover Discovery $33-37,000, Mercury Mountaineer $29-31,000, Mitsubishi Montero $32-36,000, Toyota 4Runner $26-26,000.

Good News:

Comfortable, you can have great features like the Navigation and entertainment systems, powerful, roomy, confident rugged feel.

Bad News:

Terrible gas consumption,

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 240 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, 4-wheel drive system, 4-wheel ABS power brakes, power steering, heavy duty independent front suspension, stabilizer bars, 5,000 lb towing capacity, roof rack, tow hooks, Bose audio system, 6 disc CD changer, power sliding sunroof, steering wheel audio controls, cruise control, climate control, Homelink Transmitter, simulated wood trim, digital compass and temp. measure, power door locks and windows, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, security system, leather wrapped wheel and shift lever, dual air bags, child safety rear locks and theft deterrent system.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $31,799.

2001 Nissan Frontier Supercharged Super Crew 4X4 Pickup (342)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at Nissan’s Frontier Supercharged Super Crew Cab 4X4 pickup truck. It’s got a 5-speed on the floor like trucks of old. It even has a pull emergency brake that will take you back in time even more. And being supercharged is a nice addition if you’re into performance.

I have to tell you that when you drive a different vehicle every week, you get that sense of ergonomics and you find that you can drive most cars instinctively. All the controls these days are in the same place and fall right to your fingertips. You are able to drive the car without looking at the manual, because standardization is becoming more and more a fact in how cars are manufactured.

This Frontier is no exception and it was easy to drive, comfortable and competent. You get that sense of confidence that you could go almost anywhere if you had to.

Handling & Performance:

Remember when you had to get your kidney belt if you would be driving a truck. Those days are gone now and this new truck is more car-like than truck-like. Performance wise, you’ll remember that Supercharged differs from Turbocharged in that the supercharger works off a belt and thus “Boost” is instant off the line and a turbocharger works off of the exhaust and doesn’t kick in until you develop some higher rpm’s.

Styling:

Well, a truck still looks like a truck irrespective of the fact that from inside you may get the impression you’re in a passenger car. This truck is very identifiable and you get a lot of looks, perhaps because of all the TV promotion since it was introduced. It has been depicted as a rugged workhorse and sports a riveted effect on the fenders. Because it has a small truck bed, it is equipped with an extender for use with the tailgate down.

Fit and Finish:

Car-like interior with nice attention to detail for a truck.

Conveniences:

More than a truck needs, but then this is a multipurpose vehicle capable of transporting 4-5 people as comfortably as if they were in a well-equipped passenger car.

Cost:

It’s a truck, and a passenger car and 4X4 to boot. So expect to pay for the utility this vehicle provides. Too much? No, not bad for all the benefits.

Recommendation:

If you need a truck for work, this probably isn’t a solution for you, unless you’re the boss who will need to transport a crew with light or smaller materials, and then it is just the ticket. If you’re a younger driver or anyone wanting performance and a way to carry a surfboard, haul dirt bikes to the desert or boat and skis to the river along with your friends this is a great fit.

I had a man stop me in a parking lot wondering what the gas mileage was. He’d been looking at the Ford F-150 but liked the look of this new Frontier. My comment is that if you’re concerned about economy you shouldn’t be looking at SUV’s or 4X4 trucks anyway. There simply is very little difference in gas economy. They’re all bad.

The Competition:

Chevrolet S10 Pickup $12,849-24,909, Dodge Dakota $13,910-22,370, Ford Ranger $11,960-24,240, GMC Sonoma $12,863-25,183, Isuzu Hombre $11,360-20,100, Mazda B-Series $12,345-21,935, Toyota Tacoma $11,845-21,865.

Good News:

Convenience, with rugged outdoors, outback performance for the active life. 4X4 provides go anywhere ability. Supercharged performance.

Bad News:

Super poor mileage at a time of increasing prices of fossil fuels, small truck bed, and extender is questionably a useful solution to the small bed problem.

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter SuperCharged V6 210 horsepower engine, 3,500 lb towing capacity, auto locking front hubs, power front disc with rear drum ant locking brakes, fog lights, engine and fuel tank skid plates, splash guards, double wall cargo bed, removable tailgate, roof rack, air conditioning, audio system with CD, power windows, locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, dual airbags.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

$24,049.

2000 Nissan Maxima V6 (294)

Overview:

This 2000 Maxima SE 4-door is Nissan’s “Flagship”, as well it should be. Look out Louie, we’re under full sail and the racing jib is out. This lubber may not have sea legs, but on land it’s quite nimble and quick too, Jack.

I haven’t been in a Maxima for a few years and I really “enjoyed the ride”. Ok, so it’s not a Bay Watch beauty but it’s better. It’s the kind you take home to meet mama and the one you end up marrying – know what I mean?

I have to make an observation and it’s almost a revelation. If you’ve driven older cars where everything is OEM (original equipment manufacture), you’ll note some differences in how our cars have progressed and improved over the years. Simple things that we don’t think about any longer,  like Syncro-mesh transmissions, fuel injection, electronic ignition, etc. I missed a shift and actually heard gears grinding. Don’t hear that much these days. It wasn’t always so, son. I missed a shift in my 1934 Chevrolet and broke a tooth off second gear. Get out the tool box, bust a few knuckles and improve your four letter vocabulary. God those were great days, eh mate.

Handling & Performance:

Very good because it is confident. it delivers exhilarating power from a V6. It’s a kick to drive if you like “Fast” and have that need for speed.

Styling:

Nice cookie-cutter design, and even has a bit of a flair toward more costly cars.

Fit and Finish:

Neat and tidy, which you come to expect from Japanese automakers. The interior has a good feel that reminded me of the work ethic of the Japanese. They used to retro-fit our Navy seaplanes in years I spent in the Philippines and I acquired a sense of respect for how dedicated they are as a people to the “collective”. Then my bubble was popped when I found they are assembled in Los Angeles.

Conveniences:

The ups and extras add about five grand to the standard equipment price and you’ll have to be the judge as to whether you need the following: Sunroof, 17” alloy wheels, 8-way power driver and 4-way power passenger heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, side air bags, leather, automatic air, and Bose audio system.

The basic standard equipment was just fine thanks. I’ll use the extra $5,000 to take a trip to Japan. Also standard is a very roomy interior that should seat five comfortably.

Cost:

The basic flagship pricing is very competitive.

Recommendation:

The basic standard equipment was just fine thanks. I’ll use the extra $5,000 to take a trip to Japan. Also standard is a very roomy interior that should seat five comfortably.

The Competition:

Acura TL $28,400-30,400, Audi A4 $23,990-28,790, Chevrolet Impala $18,890-22,790, Dodge Intrepid $20,645-24,435, Ford Taurus $17,885-21,085, Honda Accord $15,350-24,550, Mitsubishi Galant 17,357-23,757, Oldsmobile Intrigue 22,210-25,840, Pontiac Grand Prix $19,935-24,610, Subaru Legacy $19,195-24,295, Toyota Camry $17,518-26,198, Volkswagen Passat $21,200-27,655.

Good News:

Nice car with lots of quality and attention to detail, roomy interior and ample trunk space, smooth comfortable ride and good gas mileage (especially important now that we’re being raped by the oil companies, while they conveniently blame it on the miniscule amount of oil that comes from the middle east).

Bad News:

There is lots of competition equal in most every way, so you’ll have to look at a lot of cars. Unexciting cookie-cutter design..

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter 222 HP V6 engine linked to a 5-speed manual transmission, 4-wheel power antilock disc brakes, halogen headlights and fog lights, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and door locks, AM/FM audio system with Cassette and CD player, leather wrapped steering wheel, power mirrors, tilt steering column, defrosters, remote keyless entry, security system, dual air bags, ignition immobilizer and child rear safety door locks.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $23,649.

2000 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SE 4X4 (293)

Overview:

This Frontier Crew Cab has a short bed but lots of room for the crew. Isn’t that what it’s all about? You buy the model that best suits your need. I like this a lot. What was amazing is that young teens seem to take a shine to it also.

I had the bright yellow version and the younger set would say things like, “cool truck”. I suspect that’s because it resembles a toy truck. As to the cargo area, this model has an aluminum extender cage that flips back with the tailgate down to provide additional bed space. When inward it makes a great divider to keep cargo from slipping around. Pretty neat!

I think this is the first to provide four full doors that open independent of the front ones. That provides easy access to the rear seats for three full sized people. In addition, the rear doors have windows that roll down all the way.

Conversely the emergency brake is not a good design. Anything would have been better. I haven’t seen one of those since I got rid of my old Ford Pickup. Even worse yet, it didn’t work as well as those used fifty odd years ago.

Handling & Performance:

Gentle as a kitten with lots of power when not loaded. I didn’t have the opportunity to test it with a load. It took to “around town” driving very well even if this type vehicle has a wide turning radius.

Styling:

Well, I like it very much. How ‘bout you?

Fit and Finish:

Good. Not fantastic, but good.

Conveniences:

I see this truck as perfect for the “supervisor” who’ll bring the crew but leave the heavy hauling to the big muscle trucks. Thus, the ride is soft and comfortable.

Cost:

Decent for a good utility vehicle that can second as a sport ute.

Recommendation:

The boss should test drive this truck. He’ll be able to get all the tools needed for the job and still carry five people. I could have used this the previous week in Mexico where we wouldn’t have needed to take a second vehicle to the job site 35 miles away. I was in a standard cab pickup.

The Competition:

Chevrolet S10 $12,655-20,131, Dodge Dakota $13,655-21,995, Ford Ranger $11,580-19,785, GMC Sonoma $12,669-20,781, Isuzu Hombre $11,360-20,100, Mazda B-series $11,595-23,740, Toyota Tacoma $11,528-24,378.

Good News:

Average to good gas consumption; full size four doors with seating for five; smooth but solid ride; decent power, nice design.

Bad News:

So you have to make Y-turns rather than U-turns, oh well! Poor emergency brake design.

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter 170 horsepower V6 linked to 4-speed automatic transmission, 5,000 lb towing capacity, power steering , power front disc / rear drum anti-locking brakes, air conditioning, audio system with CD, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, dual airbags.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $22,240. Add $1,080 for the power package including windows, door locks and mirrors plus keyless remote and security system and cruise control; sport package includes flip up glass sunroof and cassette player for a total of $24,967.

2000 Nissan Xterra SE 4WD (269)

Overview:

OK, this Nissan Xterra is nice with a bit of different styling, and although it was no surprise it’s Motor Trends choice for new Sport Utility Vehicle of the year. However, when you look at the competition below and you compare it with Jeep Cherokee Limited for example you may still lean toward the long time leader – Jeep.

For about the same money you get more power in the Jeep and I feel that is perhaps the major drawback of the Xterra.

I drove the Xterra in the boring 80-90 degree fall weather of California where the alarm clock for my 6AM flight to Denver was the 2:45 AM, 7.0 earthquake of October 16, 1999. Then when I got off the plane in Denver and picked up my Xterra I had the thrill of driving it in a snow storm. The weather conditions are ever changing in the Colorado Rockies, so this gave me the opportunity to put it through its paces in winter like conditions from mile high Denver to the 8000 cold feet of Evergreen.

Xterra and Jeep are good values and are in good company but at altitude the Nissan Xterra was a gutless wonder. Price Cobb, my race driving buddy, and I took it on a trek to the high plains of Nebraska. Most of the ice and snow melted from the time we left Evergreen to about ten miles north of Denver on highway 76. We could now use the window washers, that had finally thawed, to clean the windshield. You know how guys are. They won’t stop for anything once they get on the road. Well, I take that back – we did stop at Mac Donalds for some good old American fast food.

Price made a great observation that I pose to Nissan for their consideration. Why didn’t they put the Maxima engine in the Xterra so it wouldn’t be such a dog?  Price didn’t say dog… that was my interpretation.

The climb from Denver to Evergreen is about 3000 feet and Price would push the overdrive button to turn it off when I wasn’t looking. I was more interested in talking and he wanted more speed. The point is you have to keep the RPM’s up just to keep up with traffic.

On the optimistic side of the coin, however, “the lack of horsepower and torque will likely keep you out of trouble when driving in snow”, Price said. The Xterra we tested in Colorado had the roof rack with a safari basket. The problem is that it sat over the moon roof so it couldn’t be lifted. You wouldn’t opt for both in the real world. I personally couldn’t find a use for the safari basket but it can be used for drying wet gear or securing it.

The drastic change in temperature from California to Colorado points out the need to consider what uses you’ll make of your SUV.  The heated mirrors and 4X4 have little application in Los Angeles but they become obvious necessities in freezing conditions.

Xterra is based on Nissan’s Frontier pickup truck and they say it targets younger people who lead active lifestyles and find Pathfinder more expensive. The Xterra is built in Smyrna, TN and is available in five trims: XE 2WD with standard 4-cylinder or optional V6; SE 2WD V6; XE and SE 4WD V6. In other words the engine option is for slow or slower.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Tracker $13,925 – $16,250, Honda Passport $22,700 – $28,950, Isuzu Rodeo $18,180 – $30,650, Jeep Cherokee $16,445 – $25,210, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $22,527 – $31,357, Subaru Forester $20,095 – $22,595, Toyota RAV4 $16,668 – $18,078.

Good News:

Another lower cost SUV to put pressure on pricey competitors. It does everything others do and is in fact larger than the Jeep, for one.

Bad News:

Not enough engine for my taste, even with the V6, poor mileage, step rails on the side only get in the way.

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter 170 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed automatic trans, 4-wheel drive, skid plates, dual airbags, front disc/ rear drum anti-lock brake system (ABS), power steering, child safety locks, air conditioning, privacy glass, rear step bumper, fog lamps, a full-size spare tire, AM/FM stereo with CD player & cassette, security system with keyless remote entry, power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, intermittent wipers, a limited-slip differential, step rails and roof rack.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $26,069