Since its debut in 1999, the Xterra has been marketed as the SUV for the active outdoor enthusiast - the X Games fan who wants to kayak, mountain bike, and snowboard - or at least have those options. The Xterra is rugged, affordable, uniquely styled, and off-road capable. Its only notable fault, in our opinion, had been the relative lack of horsepower. However, Nissan has turned over a new leaf as of late. It is a company that has refocused on meeting not only the needs of the automotive-buying public, but its wants as well. Nissan has become more responsive to the constructive criticism it receives from its customers, and because of its relatively smaller size, it can make its products evolve quickly.
It is with this quick turnaround in mind that we take a look at the '02 Xterra. The vehicle has been improved and upgraded for 2002 and offers buyers several new options, including a supercharged engine. The Xterra is still offered with the choice of either a 2.4L inline-four or the 3.3L V-6, which put out 143 and 170 hp, respectively. New for 2002, however, is the option of the S/C on both 2WD and 4WD models. The Eaton M62 Roots-type supercharger was designed specifically for the Xterra application. It bumps up the horsepower numbers to 210 ponies and the torque to either 246 lb-ft with the automatic transmission or 231 with a manual, which is up from the 3.3L's standard 200 lb-ft of wheel-turning force. All three engine configurations are offered with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed electronically controlled automatic.
The Xterra was made to be an SUV that can take people anywhere, providing both on-road comfort and off-road capability and durability. The vehicle continues to be an all-steel body-on-frame SUV, giving it a rugged, truck-like feel. The suspension is a double-wishbone front, dual leaf-spring rear setup, and four-wheel ABS is standard equipment. Also standard are skidplates that protect the engine and the fuel tank from trail debris. Buyers can choose either part-time four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case or rear-wheel drive. New for this year is a change in ride height. Now all 2WD models have the same ride height as the 4WDs. A different wheel and tire package comes with the supercharged SE, combining 17-inch alloys with P265/65R17 BFGoodrich truck tires. There is also a new Enthusiast Package, which provides manual hubs, a limited-slip differential, rubber floor mats, foglights, and front tow hooks, all of which come in handy when off road.
The changes to the Xterra can be found not only under the hood, but around it as well. The Nissan's front fascia has been redesigned to include round headlights flanked by well-defined turn lights and marker lights. The new front end uses more brushed metal as well, including a horizontal grille insert that matches the new lower grille. The hood itself is different, too, with a 48mm power bulge that raises the profile of the center of the hood. The front end has a more aggressive look, right down to the larger, and now round, driving lights. There are three new exterior colors available: Shock Blue, Sedona, and Molten Lava