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2006 Nissan Xterra

by Martha Hindes

Nissan Xterra
Infiniti G35

Don't expect Nissan's revamped Xterra sport utility to stay clean and neat, or to gather cobwebs in its owner's driveway. Rather, check for it climbing over hill and dale, caked in mud, with a washdown from a borrowed hose when day is done.

Not every Xterra is meant to live full-time in the wild, of course, despite its squared-off, aggressive appearance and high ground clearance. One pays for the privilege of having added fortitude from such things as advanced off-road traction and backwoods-rugged styling touches. So for 2006, a year after its total redesign, Nissan wisely added a new entry-level "X" for the budget-minded adventurous. X brings model numbers to four, along with S, Off-Road and SE trim levels. All models now come with a lighted, lockable glovebox, and Midnight Blue joins available exterior colors.

Under every Xterra is a true truck frame based on Nissan's redesigned Frontier small pickup, with improved ride, handling and safety features. Gutsy power, measured by pre-SAE standards, comes from a 265-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6, paired with automatic or manual shift, and two- or part-time four-wheel drive with low gearing. Although not a lightweight, Xterra is Nissan's smaller SUV, with room for four with gear, or for five. Extra items can fit atop the heavy-duty roof rails or in the latchable over-front-seat rail box, a typically-Nissan quirky add. (Remember seeing the rear gate first aid kit for the first time?) Floor channels keep mountain bikes in interior tow.

Despite its "nothing you don't need" philosophy, premium sound with MP3 and XM or Sirius satellite radio compatibility aren't among rejects. Want them? You've got 'em. Prices range from about $20K to more than $27K, for a range of buyers in age and income. If we accepted Nissan's statement Xterra is a "segment of one" among 70 competitors, we'd have nothing to compare it with. It's not and we do, but we congratulate Nissan for its chutzpah in making such a claim that is stamped in steel by aggressive "shift" TV ads that leave us wanting more.