You are here

Nissan X-Terra SE 4WD: X marks the spot

By Ghaith Madadha - Feb 22,2021 - Last updated at Feb 23,2021

Photos courtesy of Nissan

Launched for 2021 in Middle East markets as a rugged and utilitarian mid-size SUV carrying the respected X-Terra nameplate after a 6-year hiatus, Nissan’s impressive gambit back into the off-road ready midsize SUV segment has otherwise been known as the Terra in eastern Asian market since 2018. 

Refreshingly unpretentious and authentic, yet well equipped and comfortable, the X-Terra however features slight aesthetic alterations and a single driveline option. Larger than its ostensible predecessor, it is however closer in size, concept and engineering to the previous generation Nissan Pathfinder SUV.


Ruggedly authentic


With body-on-chassis construction and longitudinal driveline, it is something of an off-road oriented alternative to the slightly larger, roomier and road-oriented modern transverse platform unibody Pathfinder. Alternatively viewed as a “junior” alternative to Nissan’s storied full-size Patrol SUV, the new X-Terra is more closely related to Nissan’s acclaimed Nissan Navara pick-up truck, albeit modified for SUV service. High-riding, with superb 243mm ground clearance, thee X-Terra competes with the truck-based Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Montero Sport.

Similar to European market Navara models, the X-Terra retains its rugged live-axle rear, but ditches the more commercial vehicle leaf spring rear suspension for a more sophisticated multi-link coil sprung live-axle set-up, with improved ride comfort and handling properties. Sitting off the ground with an inherently commanding stature underlined by its high waistline, rear lights and bonnet line, the X-terra is statuesque with its prominently ridged bonnet, bulging wheel-arches, muscular body surfacing and chunky take on the V-motion grille motif.


Off-road adventurer


Shorter than the Navara pick-up it is related to, the X-Terra’s proportions include short overhangs to help achieve its enviably generous 32.3° approach and 26.6° departure angles, while its equal width to height ratio lends it an underlying perception of assertiveness, hulking road presence and overt expression of its generous clearance and vertical wheel travel. Little altered over its Asian market Terra sister model, the Middle East X-Terra however features a more complex and vertically-oriented bumper design with a more prominent lower lip skid plate.

Positioned longitudinally and far back behind its wide-spaced chrome grille slats, the X-Terra is powered by Nissan’s familiar naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, mated to a smooth, succinct shifting and more conventional 7-speed torque converter gearbox rather than its Pathfinder stablemate’s continuously variable transmission. Livelier than expected given its substantial 1.9-tonne weight — even in more basic and lighter SE 4WD specification, as driven — the X-Terra however well utilises its output to best effect with somewhat aggressive gearing, in the absence of a more powerful V6 option.


Effective engineering


Developing 165BHP at 6,000rpm but more biased for torque output — with its “under-square” engine design — at 178lb/ft at 4,000rpm, the X-Terra is responsive from standstill and in urban traffic. Progressive, linear and eager from idling to rev limit, and with moderately high peak output points, the X-Terra nevertheless unleashes much of its torque early in the rev range and across the mid-range. Not exactly a fast car, the X-Terra is however certainly as quick as it need be, with smooth delivery and responsive throttle control.

Confident and capable at speed and even on steep inclines, one however needs to work its gears and rev hard and high to hustle it along at a brisk pace. Estimated to be capable of 0-100km/h in approximately 10.5-seconds and returning estimated 8.77l/100km fuel efficiency, the X-Terra drives the rear wheels under normal conditions, during which it is balanced and committed through corners for a vehicle of its height, weight and size. Meanwhile, a brake-based limited slip system enhances on-road agility and off-road traction.


Grounded composure


Driven in four-wheel-drive mode, the X-Terra makes short work of loose surfaces, while engaging low ratio four-wheel-drive mode further improves off-road ability in more extreme conditions calling for high power crawling pace. Higher specification Titanium and Platinum models meanwhile receive a locking rear differential — in addition other assistance equipment — to keep both wheels turning at the same rate for yet more effortless off-road prowess. Also included is electronic hill descent control, while its suspension design allows for plenty of wheel travel, axle articulation and surface contact.

A more rewarding drive than one would expect for its segment, one becomes accustomed to the X-Terra’s on-road characteristics, limits and nuances in short order once on brisk, open, rural switchbacks, where its tall geared hydraulic assisted steering lightens up and becomes second nature in the subtle but detailed information it relates in terms of road texture, car position and approaching grip limits. Turing in tidily and eagerly, the X-Terra remains committed through corners, with little body lean despite its height and weight.


Committed comfort


Finding a great compromise between road manners, ride comfort and rugged durability, the X-Terra’s sophisticated double wishbone front suspension is fluent and forgiving as it pounces from one corner to the next over poorly paved and winding mountain routes. Its coil sprung rear live axle suspension meanwhile dispatches potholes, bumps, lumps and assorted imperfections with unexpected poise and panache, transmitting discrete feedback but remaining settled and firmly fixed into the tarmac. Settled on rebound from sharp dips and large bumps alike, the X-Terra feels comfortably grounded.

Gripping hard through corners, one can however induce mild yet predictably balanced over-steer with a hint of wheel-spin, but not the axle hop of a leaf spring system. Taking punishing road textures in its stride with is tough high sidewall tyres, the X-Terra meanwhile has a high level of body rigidity, with scant little of the shudders associated with some lesser body-on-frame vehicles. Refined and confident, it is stable and well-insulated on highway, and with an 11.4 metre turning circle, is more manoeuvrable than its dimensions might suggest.

Unpretentiously pleasant


With its frame sitting high, the X-Terra has a commanding driving position with good long distance visibility, tilt/reach steering adjustability, and supportive, comfortable and ergonomic manually adjustable SE spec fabric seats. But with its bulging bodywork and high waistline, one does have to rely on its big side mirrors, rear sensor and intuition to manoeuvre in narrow confines. Titanium spec however introduces a reversing camera, while Platinum specs adds a roof rear display, blind spot warning and other assistance systems for added safety and manoeuvring confidence. 

Well-equipped even in SE trim, the X-Terra is pleasantly sporty, modern, uncomplicated and intuitive inside with good textures and materials, if not pretentious or too precious. Spacious inside, the X-Terra does however give away some cabin practicality to its Pathfinder sister, in terms of second and third row seating. That said, split tilt, slide and tumble second row seats are versatile for comfort, space and access to the smaller third row. Boot space is meanwhile generous, but third row seats don’t fold fully flush with the floor.




  • EEngine: 2.5-litre, in-line 4-cylinders 
  • Bore x stroke: 89 x 100mm
  • Valve-train: 16-valve, variable valve timing, DOHC
  • Gearbox: 7-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
  • Drive-train: Low gear transfer case, optional locking rear differential 
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 165 (167) [123]@ 6,000rpm
  • Specific power: 66.3BHP/litre
  • Power-to-weight: 86BHP/tonne
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 178 (241) @ 4,000rpm
  • Specific torque: 96.8Nm/litre
  • Torque-to-weight: 125.7Nm/tonne
  • 0-100km/h: 10.5-seconds (estimate)
  • Fuel consumption: 8.77-litres/100km (estimate)
  • Fuel capacity: 78-litres
  • Height: 1,865mm
  • Width: 1,865mm
  • Length: 4,900mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,850mm
  • Tread, F/R: 1,565/1,570mm
  • Minimum Ground clearance: 243mm
  • Approach/departure angles: 32.3°/26.6°
  • Kerb weight: 1,917kg
  • Gross vehicle weight: 2,600kg
  • Seating capacity: 7
  • Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion
  • Turning radius: 11.4-metres
  • Suspension, F/R: Double wishbones/multi-link live axle, coil springs
  • Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs/discs
  • Tyres: 255/65R17
  • Warranty: 300,000km or 5-years
  • Price, on-the-road, as driven in SE 4WD specification: JD37,900
40 users have voted, including you.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
10 + 5 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.