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Exterior Design: ***
The Nissan Xterra looks like a high top sneaker and comes in a shade of yellow you'd never allow in your house. Still, the front bumper is larger than that of most Korean imports (and not painted in some goofy color). That gives the truck serious off-road-a-tude. Sure, the roof rack is nigh on seven feet off the ground (and therefore useless to the masses), but so what? It more than totally looks the part.

Acceleration: ****
Four-point-oh-liter sixes in SUVs are magical. Remember Jeep's 190hp straight six in the Cherokee? It could pull the slippers off the Statue of Liberty. Nissan's take is a V configuration with DOHC that kicks out 265 horses. That's more than plenty, even when you realize the Xterra is half a ton too fat. Beats the hell out of the Jeep Liberty to 60, too. (I'm looking at you, Wert.)

Braking **
A mushy pedal coupled with disks seemingly lifted off the Altima is not an ideal setup. But who cares? With that front mega-bumper, you'll dominate at chicken.

Ride **
Annoying is putting it nicely. Mechanical bulls offer more relaxing rides. The Xterra is saved from one-star infamy because around town, the tires are fat enough to cushion most of the blows. I'm amazed technology found underneath horse-drawn wagons is still alive in the 2006.

Handling **
The Xterra corners better than a boat, worse than most cars and about the same as Chrysler's fatty Pacifica. Nissan practically invented the "spelunkers need cars, too" demographic, but skateboarding rock climbers demand more tossability from their lifestyle affirmations.

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Gearbox ***
Nissan equips the Xterra with a five-speed automatic, which is unique at this price point. As with most Nissan products, it shifts fine and holds revs slightly longer than a run-of-the-mill slushbox. Plus it routes the V6's torque effectively enough for straight-line blasts across the desert/Big 5 parking lot.

Audio/Video ***
The test model came with Sirius Satellite Radio, so I could listen to Howard Stern on two different channels. (But then Bubba the Love Sponge came on...) Rockford Fosgate stereo sounds good.

Toys **
Does that non-locking thing on the roof to hold your soggy wetsuit count? Really? Even though you can't reach it? The hill decent control feature is cool, but for the record, serious off-roading requires speeds of under five miles per when traversing loose gravel and pointed downhill. The Xterra's system only starts applying the brakes at 15 mph, which means you might drive off a cliff waiting for the thing to kick in. Nissan should make it speed-adjustable. I love locking diffs.

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Trunk ****
While being able to haul case upon case of Gatorade is essential to that customer Nissan dreamed up, the neatest part is the grabby rubber material. You can totally wipe it down with water (or Mountain Dew). Lots of tie-down points abound, too. And since you've already got plenty of high-test nylon carabineered to your harness, it's win-win baby!

Overall ***
A well built, fully capable SUV most often purchased by people that would be better off in a car.

[by Jonny Lieberman]

Related:
Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Nissan Xterra, Part 1 [internal]

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