Ask TFL: Should I ‘Trade Up’ To A Lower-Mileage Nissan Xterra From My Current Pathfinder?

The two look very similar, but there are some notable differences underneath

2014 Nissan Xterra
Nissan Xterra vs Pathfinder? Oh boy, we love both! Especially ones based on the F-Alpha platform shown here. [Photo: Nissan]

When you own a ten-year-old car, sometimes the thought of trading up to something newer, fresher, or more “your speed” comes around. Take Kerry, who wrote into us (which you can do at to ask whether it was worth an extra $5,000 to upgrade from an automatic Nissan Pathfinder to a lower-mileage, manual transmission Nissan Xterra.

“Hey guys, I watch you on YouTube all the time, and just want to start with saying what a great channel you have, and how much I enjoy tuning in. I am currently driving a 2011 Nissan Pathfinder with 133,000 km (about 83,000 miles) on it, and have debated trading it towards a 2011 Xterra Pro-4X at a local car dealer, with only 71,000km (44,000 miles).

I love the Pathfinder, but really miss a manual transmission, which the Xterra has. I’m looking at around $5,000 out of pocket for such a trade. The more I think about it, I think this could potentially be a crazy move.  Is the 60,000 less kms, and a manual transmission worth $5,000?  I’d like to hear your opinion.

Perhaps I’ll put my hard earned money towards a 2″ lift from PRG.  I’ve been eyeing up their 2″ rear subframe lift with front Bilstein 5100s. I don’t do any hard core off-roading to be honest, but I do like playing off road a little, and snow is a big factor for me (I live in Newfoundland, on the North East coast of Canada).  The rear locker in my old ’04 Taco got me out of the snow on multiple occasions.  Another reason I was attracted to the Pro-4X.”

Is it worth trading into a 2011 Nissan Xterra from a Pathfinder?

It’s a great question, especially given the fact that, while the 2011 Pathfinder and 2011 Xterra were related, they are very different vehicles. The 2011 Nissan Pathfinder the email’s author is currently driving is the third generation R51 which is based on the F-Alpha platform. At the time, this platform underpinned both the Titan and Frontier, along with the Xterra. 

One of the main differences between these vehicles is their mission: The Pathfinder was a family hauler that could handle some off-road obstacles. With its long wheelbase, independent rear suspension and refined character, it was never meant to be a hard-core dirt-slinger. 

On the other hand, the (second generation N50) Nissan Xterra was meant to be their serious off-road SUV from the get go. It’s smaller, can only hold five (the Pathfinder could hold seven), has a solid rear axle and it is designed for hard off-highway use. 

While both have the VQ40DE 4.0-liter engine, the Xterra’s puts out slightly less power. That could have to do with premium fuel that’s suggested in the Pathfinder, but needed in the Xterra. The Xterra also weighs about 4,500 pounds, whereas the Pathfinder comes in around 4,800 pounds. Yes, the Pathfinder only has the five-speed automatic (in this market), while you can get a six-speed manual in the Xterra. 

Here’s what the current-generation Pathfinder looks like (right) against its truck-based predecessor. [Photo: TFLcar]

For the past few years, I have owned a third generation Nissan Pathfinder, just like the one in this Ask TFL e-mail. While it is old with 100,000 miles, it’s in pristine condition. I replaced an injector, a sensor and the airbag sensor. It has new tires too, but that’s about it. I’ve put on about 40,000 miles and it’s a sold truck. 

My Pathfinder towed over 5,000 pounds several times with no issues. It also went off-road several times and it was surprisingly good. I did bottom out a few times and it wasn’t happy when maximum articulation was needed. All in all, it’s a sold vehicle that I still drive on a daily basis. I just wish it was more efficient. 

As for the Xterra? I have not only driven every permutation, every trim and transmission setup, I helped build up an overlanding version with a good friend. Hell, I even brought one to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari some years back. Jeep guys sneered, but it was a worthy off-roader against the Wrangler. 

In my estimation, these are some of the best SUVs Nissan built — both of them.  

Our perspective

If you’re serious about doing some off-roading, if you’re digging the idea of tinkering an SUV, the Xterra is a great choice. The price vs mileage looks real good and the Pro-4X comes with good hardware for pretty serious off-roading. I highly recommend talking to the guys at – they have nearly 60K members. 

The bottom line is, the Nissan Xterra vs Pathfinder equation is simple: if you want to have fun off-road, the Xterra is the way to go. While I find the old Nissan Pathfinder an excellent all-around SUV, I would much prefer the Xterra! 

Which would you recommend?

While the Xterra’s what I’d choose, let us know what you think in the comments below.