Off-road SUVs are having something of a moment. Put another way, the Jeep Wrangler is getting some direct competition for the first time in years from the upcoming Ford Bronco, and automakers are rushing to add capability to crossovers and SUVs of all sizes and prices. Even so, there are some holes in the playing field: Toyota long ago killed off its retro-flavored FJ Cruiser, as did Nissan its burly Xterra 4×4. And as of now, neither Japanese SUV is due for a comeback, even though Nissan just unveiled a thoroughly modernized Frontier pickup—the same pickup that shared components with the old Xterra. That got us thinking …
If Nissan were about to reveal a new Xterra today, what might it look like? We turned to our speculative artist wizard, Abimilec Arellano, for a rendering of the 2022 Nissan Xterra that does not, and likely will not, ever exist.
Wait, why?! While rumors abound that a new Xterra is coming, and such a model would make tons of sense in today’s 4×4-crazed market, Nissan has said it’s not doing a new Xterra, at least not any time soon. Given the automaker’s big new-model push that includes not only the new Frontier but also the freshly redesigned 2022 Pathfinder three-row SUV, updated Armada SUV, refreshed Kicks, all-new Rogue crossover, and a new Z sports car, it’s little wonder there might not be time or resources for picking up the Xterra mantle six years after the SUV was canceled in 2015.
But we think if Nissan brought back the Xterra and made it look anything like this, it’d have a winner. (Heck, the original 2000 Nissan Xterra won that year’s MotorTrend SUV of the Year award!) The new Frontier, on which our rendering is based, is a handsome, burly looking thing. It looks even better with the old Xterra’s signature stepped roof design, built-in roof rack, and tailgate blister. No, that bulge on the tailgate isn’t a faux fuel can or something—it’s where Nissan punched out the sheetmetal on the original Xterras to fit a first-aid kit. Neat.
As before, the Xterra has been imagined as a four-door, two-row SUV. We figure a new Xterra, to maintain the original’s off-road capability and credibility, would utilize a shortened version of the frame that sits beneath the Frontier midsize pickup. Rear-wheel drive could be standard on low-cost variants, but most would be built with four-wheel drive with available low-range gearing.
When the previous-generation Xterra faded out, it was offered only with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, an ancient lump of a powertrain that nonetheless continued on for years in the Frontier. Today, were the Xterra to come back, it’d inherit the 2022 Frontier’s new 310-hp 3.8-liter V-6 and nine-speed automatic transmission.
A Pro-4X ultimate-off-road-capable trim would be a given, and we’ve done up our hypothetical Xterra in the same Pro-4X treatment offered on the 2022 Frontier. Stir in the Frontier’s interior improvements, and Nissan has everything it needs to put the SUV back in service. We’d welcome a new Xterra, if only to provide some price competition for the ever-more-expensive Jeep Wrangler and the long-awaited and sure-to-be-sold-out-for-years new Ford Bronco.
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