Cars, like everything to a woman, can be seen as an accessory, and as soon as I stepped up into the 2006 Nissan Xterra, I wanted it to become part of my life as much as I wanted the latest line from COACH. From the sporty interior to the key not coming out if you were not in park to the six-CD changer, I was sold on the Xterra.
As a 5’4″ 100 pound girl, I usually get lost in SUVs and have to sit way to close to the steering wheel where the airbag would do more damage then help. However, in the Xterra, I did not feel like I had to compromise my safety thanks to the eight-way seating adjustment options. I was also pleased to see that the center console offered removable cup holders (which is a wonderful perk when you are drinking three lattes a day and leaks are commonplace) in addition to built-in cup holders in the side door pockets.
I have become accustomed to driving a manual, and, quite frankly, prefer it to an automatic for quick acceleration. But, the 5-speed automatic Xterra again did not let me down, and definitely felt faster than most bulky SUVs coming off the line. The brakes also responded well to quick stopping without feeling like the weight of the SUV was going to continue even when you slammed on the breaks. When off-roading, the Xterra performed without feeling like driving a tank, which you generally find when driving midsized to large SUVs in this day.
In addition to an addiction to expensive purses and nice shoes, I also like extreme sports and getting my hands dirty. I wasn’t worried about fitting everything in the SUV for the barbeque and possible campout. The Xterra not only had ample back space (with a hidden cargo space where you could put wet/dirty items), but also had extra space on the roof. I had the opportunity to take the Xterra for a bit of off-roading in the George Washington National Forest
I drove down for Washington DC to the James Madison University area for an adventure. I was surprised with my gas mileage on the trip, using about a fourth to a third of a tank of gas for at least a 130-mile trip. With the cruise control options on the wheel, I was able to sit back and relax on the two-hour drive back. Another surprise was the lack of the large blindspot that usually accompanies large vehicles. I was also able to successfully parallel park and fit into tight spaces, which is a feat for me in a small car, let alone a SUV, which is a plus in a college town where parking is a luxury.
I picked my passengers and guide wisely. My guide, a car buff with a truck that was wider than my Xterra, who had lots of experiencing off-roading and another friend. I had my boyfriend and the only girl who was brave enough to go. The third truck, two other guys with car and off-roading experience followed me. With that, two trucks and the Xterra headed into the woods, and only one truck and the Nissan made it to our final place. I was surprised with how well the Xterra handled all aspects of the trip. Even I, a novice at the off-roading driving was able to successful maneuver all obstacles without over-correcting, ripping something off of the bottom of the car (thanks to the skid plates) or putting a scratch/dent on the car.
I also did not have to worry about the worst-case scenarios because Nissan had already thought of that. There was a First Aid kit, full-sized spare tire, additional airbags for rollover incidents, and a tow hook, in case, for some unknown reason, I would need a tow. After reading more information on the Xterra, I was further at ease after seeing all of the air bags, crumple zones, seat belt options etc, and knew that if Murphy’s law occurred, I would be protected.
After going through the mud, between trees that only had inches of clearance on either side, through a river and ruts feet deep, we arrived in a pseudo clearing where we set up camp. Unfortunately, the grill, still a bit dirty from its last use, had tip during the journey, but luckily, the back was designed for easy cleaning, and I was able to wipe the ashes and dust up within minutes.
We set up the grill and started barbequing. Thanks to the XM radio in the Xterra, we had good music with the back hatch opened. The hatch open and the cargo space emptied out also provided a place to sit comfortably. After the bugs came out, sleeping out there was out of the question and we made the trek back to civilization. Thanks to the sporty fabric and removable mats, I was able to clean up the mud without a problem, much like the easily cleaned cargo area. Coming back in the dark, I was glad to have the stereo controls on the wheel, so I did not have to battle with my passengers for volume control etc.
Overall, the Nissan Xterra was the perfect car for any driving; to and from class, to get groceries, and to take on road trips (both standard and off-road). My biggest disappointment was not having the Xterra during snowboarding season because I would have had enough space for my board, gear, and friends with the confidence that I could make it up the mountain in the bad weather.