Nissan currently offers a number of SUV options, from the Kicks and Rogue to the Murano, Pathfinder, and Armada. But, while these offer some off-road capabilities, none is like the midsize Nissan Xterra, which was designed for off-road adventures.
The shrinking audience for the Nissan Xterra
Nissan announced in 2015 that the current model year would be the last for the Xterra. Upgrades to the Nissan Xterra, which was a Jeep Wrangler competitor, couldn’t be justified since sales were low. As buyers began to prefer unibody, car-based crossover SUVs, the body-on-frame Xterra saw sales slip.
Sales in 2014 were 7 percent lower than the year before, with just 16,505 units sold. When the second generation came out in 2005, 73,447 units of the SUV had been sold.
Safety and emissions issues
With 10 years since its last design, the Nissan Xterra looked old, and its engine had less power than some competitors. It was also too old to meet regulations. A redesign would have required expensive safety and emissions equipment upgrades to continue into new model years.
The Xterra also had poor fuel economy in a time when gas prices were high. The 2015 model year got 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway (18 mpg combined) for the two-wheel-drive version. The four-wheel-drive option was even worse, getting 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway (17 mpg combined). However, the 2015 Jeep Wrangler had pretty similar fuel economy.
The final model – 2015
Despite its negatives, the Nissan Xterra was known for great off-road capabilities plus what Edmunds called “a durable cabin.” The 2015 Xterra included NissanConnect with Mobile Apps, a USB port for the Xterra S’s iPod interface, plus a new exterior paint color in SolarFlare Yellow. It did not include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which were both brand-new at the time. For the 2015 model year, most of the trim levels had Bluetooth.
The 2015 Xterra received good ratings of four out of five from Consumer Reports for both reliability and owner satisfaction. It also earned a perfect score for its transmission but a mediocre three out of five for several handling categories. For the ride category, which judges how much the suspension prevents a bumpy ride, the 2015 Xterra got just a one out of five rating. Most of the other comfort ratings were a solid four though.
The Nissan Xterra built on the Nissan Frontier pickup truck and Pathfinder SUV, and Consumer Reports said the 2015 Xterra’s “off-road capability is excellent.” Its 4.0-liter V6 engine produced 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque and was paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
It could tow up to 5,000 pounds and haul 920 pounds. Consumer Reports found the 2015 Xterra to be responsive but still tall and less agile than SUVs built on car platforms. The interior was comfortable and rugged-looking with good construction.
A possible return for 2021?
While there were rumors several years ago of a return of the Nissan Xterra, those rumors have not materialized. However, the Nissan Frontier is expected to be redesigned for the 2021 model year, so any possible return of the Xterra would likely come after that. The Daily Drive suggests a return to the off-road niche market could be profitable for Nissan, assuming a 2021 Xterra wouldn’t have too many competitors.
If it’s based on the updated Frontier, Nissan wouldn’t have extensive design expenses. Plus, with fuel prices lower than they were from 2011 to 2014, concerns about fuel economy may be lessened.