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2002 Nissan Xterra

By Michael "TXJEEPER" Cohn

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The Nissan Xterra has been on the market since 2000 and has received varying acceptance in the off-road world. Based on the Frontier pickup, the Xterra is a mid-sized SUV aimed specifically at those with an "active" lifestyle. Purposely stripped of many of today's common amenities, such as power seats or leather upholstry, and other whiz-bang electronic goodies, the Xterra is intended to be a no-frills vehicle packed with fun instead of extras (or should we say Xtras).

For 2002, the Xterra receives a totally new front end, interior and "power bulge" on the hood to accommodate a supercharger. Prior to the 2002 model, the Xterra was offered in a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder or a 3.3 liter 6-cylinder. From its introduction, even the 6-cylinder was considered by many anemic and underpowered. New for this year, Nissan introduced the supercharged 3.3 liter SOHC V6. We were very eager to get our hands on one of these models and early this year, Nissan got us one for review.

Nissan XterraNissan Xterra

Our "Just Blue" Xterra was the SE-SC 4x4 model with a sticker price of $28,467.00. For those not familiar with Nissans, the base trim level is the XE, whereas the SE is the higher level. In our case, the SE added such things as 17-inch alloy wheels with P265/65R17 tires, body-side molding, fog lights, a front tow hook, tubular step rails, unique cloth seat fabric with door fabric inserts, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The supercharger adds a whopping 40 horsepower over the normally-aspirated V6 at 4,800 RPM and 46 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 RPM. Upon receiving the keys, the first thing we did, of course, was hit the road with our foot to the floor.

Hearing the whine of the Eaton supercharger was exciting, and perhaps, more exciting than the actual performance itself. The power is immediately available, unlike a turbo-charged motor, but in all honesty, after driving the Xterra for a week, we felt the supercharger really brought the power to weight ratio right around where it should be in the first place. The Xterra was no speed demon by any shot, nor was it underpowered. It seemed just about right. Having not driven the regular V6 or the 2.4L, we wondered how they would do in the hills - especially with the air conditioning on full and 4 people on-board.

Nissan XterraNissan Xterra

One of the most obvious comparisons to the Xterra is the Jeep Liberty, both in size and market. The Liberty's V6 puts out 210hp at 5,200 RPM and 235 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. The power of the Xterra had a very similar feel to the Liberty, even though the Jeep has a lower torque-band and no supercharger. It makes us wonder why Nissan doesn't use the 240hp 3.5-liter DOHC V6 found in the Pathfinder or the new Altima. If we were to buy an Xterra, we would certainly want the supercharged model, despite the fact that it requires premium fuel and has the potential for more maintenance down the road.

But one very important thing to remember about the Xterra, is that Nissan isn't looking to sell it as a hopped-up SUV. The Pathfinder and its Infiniti QX4 counterpart address that market.

"When we tested Xterra in focus groups, we were told that it was definitely not a 'grocery getter,' like some of the smaller SUVs currently on the marketplace," said Bill Kirrane, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. "In fact, it's got a cult off-road following that was previously only seen among Jeep owners. We're feeding that cult with a new Enthusiast Package - a 2002 Xterra that provides the perfect foundation for a hard core off-road enthusiast to make the vehicle of their dreams."

Nissan XterraNissan Xterra

Our Xterra did not come with the Enthusiast Package, which includes manual locking hubs and a limited slip rear end. However, ours was still a 4x4 model, and as such, we intended to go flog it and see if it really was worthy of the "hard core off-road enthusiast," as Kirrane put it.

Continued on Page 2 --->>>

Nissan Xterra
The 2002 Nissan Xterra SE-SC 4x4

Nissan Xterra
The Xterra is a very capable off-roader. Is it a truck? What defines a truck these days?

Nissan Xterra
The Xterra is more than just a looker.

Nissan Xterra
The on-road performance of the Xterra was very good for a SUV.

Nissan Xterra
Xterra has lots of ground clearance for a stock vehicle - even with the side steps.

Nissan Xterra
Xterra got an all new front end for 2002.

Nissan Xterra
The supercharged 3.3L was a very good match for the Xterra.


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