Written by Ross Scarano

2013 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X A/T
Power: 261 hp
Torque: 281 lb-ft.
Engine: 4.0L V6
Fuel Consumption: 16 city/20 highway
Price Drive: $31,925 

There’s something extraordinary about SUVs for drivers of a smaller stature. Like the little guy hoisted upon the shoulders of the big bruiser in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the short driver who gets behind the wheel of an SUV lords over the road. From the high perch you can look down on the private business of families traveling in sedans, solo adventurers in coupes, parties of teens in affordable hatchbacks. It’s seductive, this sort of thing.

The 2013 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X A/T seduced me with its height over the course of a long weekend spent traveling to a wedding in a remote part of Pennsylvania.  Wedding season, the most extreme manifestation of cuffing season known to man, was beginning to die down when I picked up the cayenne red Xterra. Checking it out from the sidewalk, the vehicle has the look of a child’s toy blown up by whatever means Rick Moranis’s character pioneered in the sequel to Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The roof rack and its cartoonish suggestion of lights are plastic-looking in a welcoming, nostalgic way. If only you were bigger, you could push this thing down a long and lonely stretch of carpeted hallway, making vroom-vroom noises.

The suggestively toy-like appearance hides serious power. Accelerating to catch up with traffic from a rest area along the empty Pennsylvania highway was easy. The horsepower—261, to be exact—had me feeling like 2 Chainz, draped in Polo and racing to his best friend’s wedding (while watching My Best Friend’s Wedding on a drop-down TV display—that should be a 2 Chainz lyric). Humming along from a puny 30 MPH to 75 was nothing.

 

The roof rack and its cartoonish suggestion of lights are plastic-looking in a welcoming, nostalgic way. If only you were bigger, you could push this thing down a long and lonely stretch of carpeted hallway, making vroom-vroom noises.

 

Finding the lodge in the state park where the wedding was held, that proved simple, as well, thanks to the built-in navigation system. I was even able to forgive the robot woman’s instructions when they’d force the volume of the new Drake song down to alert me that I needed to make a turn in 500 feet. This was into the state park that she knew I needed to turn. Hold on, we’re going home indeed.

One gripe about the navigation system, though: It thinks it’s smarter than you are. An auto-complete function that kicks in when you’re inputting a street or city name is designed to help you through the process, but more often than not, it just leads you to hit the wrong button, or select the wrong place. The navigation system isn’t SkyNet, this mainframe hasn’t become sentient; so, it should just let you, the human being, tell it what you know best.

But once you and the system do agree on your destination, everything goes smoothly. On an unpaved road in Laurel Valley State Park, my ride didn’t bounce out of control once. Credit the off-road tires and high-performance shocks with getting me to my destination without spilling any sparkling water from my large Styrofoam cup. (It’s important to stay hydrated on long car trips, and also to give the appearance of being a fucking boss everywhere you go, hence the double-cupped-up Perrier.)

I made the trip from Brooklyn to Laurel Valley on one tank of gas. That’s 17 MPG if you’re looking for stats. Compared to a new average vehicle, you’ll spend $4,150 more in fuel costs over a five-year period driving this Xterra. That’s the cost of a lordly view and of being able to fill your trunk with tons of needless items when taking a weekend trip, just because you can. These are the reasons we drive SUVs, after all. To feel powerful and to be able to pack like new parents that aren’t sure which toys and diaper bags to take, so why not bring everything? And on those occasions when you do take the vehicle off the highway, or out of your well-paved neighborhood, it doesn’t hit back too much. Extra expense vindicated.

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