It's safe to say that, much like Hansel, off-road SUVs are so hot right now. The new Ford Bronco has launched to tremendous enthusiasm, with nearly 200,000 reservations and counting as of this article's publication. The Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner are among the nation’s best-selling vehicles; Land Rover made a wise move in reviving the Defender for modern times. Even Lexus is making noise about getting deeper into the overlanding space.
Now, according to a report from Automotive News, Nissan dealers want the company to revive its body-on-frame off-roader of (comparatively recent) yore: the Xterra.
The Xterra debuted in the American market for the 2000 model year as a rugged midsize off-roader. Development was simple; essentially; Nissan just converting the Frontier pickup into an SUV as cheaply as possible. Yet it was an unexpected hit in the early 2000s, no doubt in part to its catchy ads with a Lenny Kravitz soundtrack. (One GP writer desperately wanted one in high school.)
Still, enthusiasm ebbed over the years. Nissan eventually ditched the Xterra in 2015 as low sales did not justify the expense of overhauling it to meet new safety and emissions standards.
You can see why Nissan dealers would want such a vehicle today, though. Americans buy SUVs — and Nissan’s SUV lineup, to be frank, is a lot of sad. There’s no cool, exciting vehicle to reel buyers in. Most buyers go for a Rogue, which is a fine compact crossover; but Nissan simply doesn't have a more compelling, capable and adventurous alternative to offer them.
A new Xterra is a vehicle Nissan could conceivably produce without breaking the bank. After all, Nissan already sells a Terra/Xterra SUV abroad based on the Navara, its midsize pickup sold in non-U.S. markets. Or, presumably, they could develop an SUV from the new Frontier platform like they did with the old one.
Whether a new Xterra would work, however, is open to debate. It never was the Bronco or Defender, and customers aren’t aching with nostalgia for a vehicle that went out of production a few years ago because they weren’t buying it. The rational play for Nissan would be to go for value and undercut the Bronco, 4Runner and Wrangler on price; those cars can get hilariously expensive. But doing so would dip into the Xterra’s presumed profit margin...which is likely the primary reason Nissan would want it.