For my upcoming column, a trip out to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the folks at Nissan were nice enough to loan me a 2009 Xterra for a week. I had an enjoyable week with the Xterra, which I respect for its honesty as a genuine sport-ute, not just a giant station wagon.

Car ReviewThe Xterra’s been on the road for awhile… it hit the market in 1999 for the 2000 model year. So, it’s not a luxo-ute — if you want that, get the Murano, which actually can do quite a bit off road (see my March 2008 blog item and the column on the hills outside of Jacumba).

The Xterra is still true to its original mission… a reasonably priced, comfortable yet tough vehicle for folks who like to use it as a sport utility vehicle. The heritage is the Jeep CJ, the original Cherokee, Ford Bronco, International-Harvester Scout. My Xterra had the off-road package and it just ate up the rocks on a bumpy, rutted “road” through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It’s also something that can fit on mountain and desert trails; it’s narrow, as most of the trails, so it won’t leave lots of paint in the brush.

On the twisting, mountain roads, it wasn’t the Miata, but it was sure and comfortable. On the freeway and city streets, it was jiggly but controlled and quiet.

Conclusion? I would’t want to commute in it, since the gas mileage isn’t great. But as a second vehicle in the garage for those weekend getaways? If it works for you, sign on the dotted line.

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