I'm curious about getting an Xterra for my kids, always liked them, but never pulled the trigger. Now I'm into wheeling and this is an option for my kids in the way of price. What are some things that make the Xterra better than the average vehicle and what are some things I need to watch out for?
I agree with Badlander's post -
Mostly Pros for me, that's why I have 2.
My 2010 SE got two kids through high school, great in the snow, safe if they get run into - I don't know how old you are, but high school parking lots today are the same as they've always been, a weird combination of Mad Max, the Malachi crunch and Mardi Gras - and they always put the newest drivers the furthest from school in the worst lot. My oldest learned how to confidently switch in and out of 4hi just to deal with the snow and mud in the "junior lot' - it got paved since then. Their safety was the major reason they got "my" Xterra when they started driving, and why I ended up getting my own and having 2.
Now that both kids are in college, my wife is driving the SE - still looks as good as the day we bought it, and runs great with 130K on it.
Model kind of depends on what kind of wheeling you want to get into. The SE has more than enough capability for most of the trails in Colorado - it's done the Alpine loop and is plenty capable of access to remote camping and hiking spots in Colorado and Utah, which is my experience. Traction control still works in 4hi (but not 4lo, as has been mentioned) and is surprisingly capable. I enjoy wheeling, but for me it's a means to an end, as way to get someplace. The one or two times per year when i actually need/use the rear locker, there's inevitably a 15 year old Subaru already parked at the end....
But, if you want to get more serious, then yes, the Off Road or Pro-4X take the capability to another level.
Beware of dealers listing everything they have as "OffRoad", make sure it has the diff lock switch is the easiest way to be sure.
For day to day driving, I honestly like my SE better than my Pro-4X, I think the different gearing and shock in the Pro-4X give it a bit of a "looser" feel.
In my opinion, the stock Rockford Fosgate is a great stereo, and the high school kids love having the subwoofer.
With the backseats folded down they hold a surprising amount of stuff, and the hard plastic in the rear is really easy to clean. I've done a lot of messy remodel work, take the leaves in the fall, pick up mulch, etc... and it takes about 5 minutes to shopvac it out and everything is clean.
Gas mileage, living here at 5400' and mostly around town driving, I assume 16mpg, and can get as high as 18 or 19 on road trips. Honestly I don't check anymore.
Visibility for new drivers - both kids had low speed/no injury incidents with the front passenger fender - both learned their lesson, but if the driver is a bit short, it can be hard to see. We had Cartoys put a backup camera in, to help with that.
Rear leaf springs. Horribly underwhelming right off the factory floor. Even having just 2 adults in the back seat can cause you to hit the bump stops going over speed bumps. Cheap helper springs from Autozone worked better than expected to fix the problem in my Pro-4X, with the SE one of the leafs snapped at 100k, but I just replaced it with OEM - the kids don't tow.
Rear seat egress - the seats aren't bad once you're in them, but during "grime season" you are definitely getting it on your clothes. I find the front seats comfortable.
They aren't making them anymore, and your available aftermarket support just got lower by one with the demise of Shrockworks - As I have extra cash (which is not often with 2 kids in college) I'm trying to accumulate after market stuff, whether I need it or not, because at some point they just won't make them anymore.
And, as has been said - I still love how they look. I have no plans to replace either one, although I do flirt with the idea of a truck from time to time.