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|What if you put a sports car engine in a stripped down SUV and priced it at about $20,000. Then you would have one of the best automotive values on the planet. Well, this is exactly the genius of the Nissan Xterra. The 2006 Xterra gets the same engine as current Nissan 350Z’s with 268 horsepower it is a 55 horsepower bump over the most powerful of the 2005 Xterra’s the one with the supercharged V6.|
What makes the Xterra so great is that it is the current purist SUV available. The current SUV craze can be traced to July 1990, which is when the first of the current design Toyota Landcruisers came to the USA. There were SUV’s before this, vehicles like the Nissan Pathfinder. But the difference is important. The pathfinder was based on a pick-up truck, the early Pathfinders were actually real pick-ups that had a plastic roof that covered the bed of the truck just like so many pickups had back then that people who needed a truck but wanted to keep their stuff dry and safe. Since then SUV’s have been based on cars, trucks and even minivans.
In contrast The Toyota Landcruiser was originally a paramilitary vehicle. Initially the requirements of such were that they be rugged, dependable handle desert like off road situations and be affordable. If you’re wondering about why affordability is important it is that if you’re a warlord trying to finance your own army in middle Africa you want to be able to buy a bunch of them. It is true that the Xterra is based on a pick-up truck but if you had 12 men you had to get from Istanbul to Paris would you rather have one Landcruiser or three Xterra’s.
The SUV is suppose to be a paramilitary vehicle that can go off road, carry a ton of gear and be so affordable and cleanable that when you drop your Super Big Gulp on the way home from 7-11 you don’t care. It’s not that this is the best SUV if money were no object; Lamborghini once made one nicknamed the Rambo Lambo, and might make one again. It’s that many SUV’s are second cars, and as your second car, affordability counts big.
The only characteristic more important then affordability to an SUV is performance, and this is where the Xterra’s sports car engine comes into play. The only SUV’s with better performance are the Mercedes ML500, G500, G55, and the Range Rover Sport. Each of these cost over $63,000, compared to $28,000 for a fully loaded Xterra with 17 inch tires. Part of Nissan’s strategy with this vehicle has to be to make it so cheap that people just say “what the Heck” and buy them fully loaded.
The Xterra goes from 0 to 60 in only 7.7 seconds, this is two seconds faster then a 2005 Landcruiser and only1/2 a second slower then a Range Rover Sport. The Xterra is truly a great weekend vehicle that can be used to both run errands and can road trip with the best of them. It may not turn heads like a Lamborghini Gallardo but it can tow a pair of Jet Ski’s to the lake.
The 2006 Xterra is not enormous, and this is a good thing many of the current crop of SUV’s get around ten miles to the gallon. With gasoline at $3 a gallon, if you are driving 300 miles a week it would cost $90 weekly. The Xterra should get at least 17 miles to the gallon so it should only cost about $53 per week to drive. Being 72 inches wide and 178 inches long also means it is easier to park then those behemoths like the Chevy Suburban
The bottom line is; that with so many SUV’s trying to be anything but a minivan or a station wagon the manufacturers have forgotten the primary purpose of the SUV. The purpose of an SUV is to be able to get to the ski lodge when there is a foot of new snow on the ground, be able to drive on the dirt roads that have ground clearance issues and if it can haul a little equipment while it’s at it, all the better. In these tasks the Xterra is superb, and starting at $20,000 which is only $2,000 more then it cost back in 2000 it is a truly remarkable bargain.
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