$11,556 - $15,589

2013 Nissan Xterra Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Nissan Xterra was new.


Performance: 7.5

Test drivers say that the 2013 Nissan Xterra is a true off-roader with a raised suspension and powerful engine designed for going off the beaten path. Several reviewers write that the Xterra’s on-pavement ride is fairly good for an off-road SUV, but still too bouncy and jittery to be especially comfortable.

  • "With its solid body-on-frame design, available four-wheel-drive system, stout suspension and room for four passengers and their gear, the Xterra is ideal for people who use their vehicles for a lot of outdoor recreation. Whether it's rock climbing, skiing or fishing at the lake, the Xterra will almost certainly get you and your equipment there without breaking a sweat." -- Edmunds
  • "Unlike some SUVs, it's a truly capable off-roader, with an available new PRO-4X off-road edition." -- Cars.com (2011)

Acceleration and Power

The 2013 Nissan Xterra comes with a 261-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive models come with a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. According to the EPA, the Nissan Xterra gets up to 16/22 mpg city/highway, which is poor for the class.

Most reviewers say the V6 engine delivers strong acceleration on-road and enough power to crawl around obstacles off-road. However, one reviewer writes that the Xterra has lackluster passing power. He also notes that while the automatic transmission responds quickly, the manual’s shifter and clutch feel unrefined.

  • "The Xterra's 4.0-liter V6 engine is strong and provides the power needed to pass slower vehicles or claw up dirt trails." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "… [the] V6 under the hood of the 2013 Nissan Xterra gives it plenty of pick-up in everyday use. The engine also develops plenty of torque, which is an asset when tackling slow-speed off-road obstacles." -- Edmunds
  • "The automatic transmission reacts quickly enough to throttle inputs, but passing at highway speeds can be a bit labored with either transmission. The manual transmission feels as truck-like as the rest of the vehicle, with balky shifter and clutch action." -- Consumer Guide (2012)

Handling and Braking

Most test drivers say they expect an off-roader to be truck-like, meaning that it is less comfortable and less capable on pavement than a car. Despite this, some reviewers think the Xterra feels surefooted on the road. However, others say it suffers from a bouncy, jittery ride. A couple critics mention that the PRO-4X trim has a harsher ride than the other trims because of its stiff suspension and truck-like ride. One critic says the Xterra’s steering feels slow, but adds that the turning radius is tight, which makes parking easier. An additional reviewer writes that the brakes are strong, but another calls them unexceptional.

  • "On the road, the ride and handling are rather trucklike, especially in Pro-4X models. But we suspect buyers looking for this level of off-road capability will find it more tolerable than the average SUV shopper." -- Edmunds
  • "With its generous ground clearance, commanding ride height and big tires, you might think this off-roader would be a handful on the highway and in the city. To our pleasant surprise, the Xterra holds its own in the civilized world. Its freeway ride is reasonable and on par with most mid-size pickups." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Xterra's off-road-ready suspension and short wheelbase make the ride choppy except on the smoothest roads. Some patches and sharp bumps register more as body shudder than thumpy harshness, and there's truck-like bounding over even moderate humps and ruts. … Fast cornering induces marked body lean, plus some tail hop over bumps; PRO-4X's stiff suspension bounces even more. The steering feels slow in parking and quick direction changes, but Xterra has a relatively tidy turning circle for easy close-quarters maneuvering. Stopping control is unexceptional." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "Handling is good if the Xterra isn't driven too hard, and the brakes provide short stops. Although improved, the ride is predictably truck-like despite the longer wheelbase and gets choppy over some roads." -- MSN (2006)


All Xterra models are available with four-wheel drive, but the top-of-the-line PRO-4X trim offers the most off-road features. Standard PRO-4X features include Bilstein off-road performance shocks, skid plates, an electronic locking rear differential, hill descent control and hill start assist. One reviewer says the 2013 Xterra drives well on muddy, rutted trails, over logs and through streams. Another praises the Xterra’s off-road capabilities, but thinks the Jeep Wrangler is a more capable trail runner.

  • "The Xterra is no wannabe when the pavement ends; it easily tamed whatever terrain we threw at it, from muddy ruts and fallen logs to streams and creek beds. The Xterra always proved capable and, most importantly, never left us worrying about getting stuck in the muck." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • “With its truck-derived underpinnings, the Xterra offers impressive off-road performance due to its long suspension travel and high ground clearance, though its ultimate in-the-dirt capabilities fall short of the Wrangler's.” -- Edmunds (2011)

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