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The Nissan Xterra, a successful and original formula for some time, undergoes modest changes for 2009. The grille and front fascia is changed a bit, along with the center console panel, to go along with the rugged and attractive standard fabric upholstery. Standard equipment now includes side-impact airbags in front and full-length airbag curtains. It achieves four of five stars in NHTSA crash tests for frontal impact, and three stars for rollover.
The Xterra is a truck SUV, not a crossover SUV, meaning its body is attached to a boxed-in steel ladder frame and uses a rugged suspension, double-wishbone front and solid axle with leaf springs in rear. It's the same chassis as the Nissan Frontier pickup.
All Xterras use a 4.0-liter V6 that is powerful and well proven. In 4WD with the optional smooth five-speed automatic transmission it achieves 15 city and 20 highway miles per gallon, a bit more with 2WD or the standard six-speed manual transmission.
An Off-Road model is available that will go pretty much anywhere. It comes with Hill Descent Control, heavy duty trail tires, and skid plates. The electronic 4WD system is part time, with three functions available: 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low.
The 2009 Nissan Xterra comes in four models, all using Nissan's award-winning aluminum V6, stroked to 4.0 liters from its 3.5 liters as used in other Nissans; it makes 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Most models offer a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.