It’s 1999. The looming year 2000 causes anxiety for computer professionals and the superstitious alike. President Bill Clinton is in trouble with the law and a certain infamous intern. Microsoft unveils Windows 98 and George Lucas unleashes Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace onto an unsuspecting world.
Despite the gloom and doom, gas prices are at 90 cents a gallon – still an unbelievable $1.29 in 2015 money – and Nissan introduces the Xterra SUV as a 2000 model.
Based on the Frontier pickup, the Xterra is targeted at the active crowd and, thanks to its pickup truck underpinnings, has real off-road capability for a trade-off in on-road performance.
Fast forward 16 years, and the Xterra, now in its second generation and still sharing a platform with the Frontier pickup, will take its final bow for the 2015 model year.
The Xterra was redesigned along with the Frontier in 2005 with an all-new platform, but that was the last major redesign for a vehicle that’s been growing increasingly out of touch in a market dominated by car-based crossovers.
Rising gas prices have also contributed to the Xterra’s falling sales. The Frontier pickup is due for a redesign, but Nissan hasn’t said anything about an updated Xterra.
The loss of the Xterra leaves another hole in the SUV market. It was one of only three moderately-priced, truck-based, off-road worthy SUVs. The Xterra’s exit leaves the Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota 4Runner as the last of the old-school SUVs with real off-road prowess.
The current Xterra may be old – a ten-year model run is almost unheard of in 2015 – but it has its charm. Its 4.0-liter V-6 doesn’t make as much horsepower as more modern powerplants of similar size, but with 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque, it doesn’t do too bad. It’s also one of the last SUVs available with a manual transmission and four wheel drive.
With automobile industry becoming more homogenized, and with fuel efficiency and on-road performance being king, the world may never see a vehicle like the Xterra again. Even the old truck-based Pathfinder, the Xterra’s spiritual ancestor, has been transformed into a car-based crossover.
So tonight, car enthusiasts across the country should raise a glass to the old Nissan Xterra. The car world may never see its like again.
Before it becomes a classic, check out this TFLcar off-road video review of the 2013 Nissan Xterra: