2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

The all-new Nissan X-Terra adds a bootful of refinement into what was an aging nameplate but while maintaining the true essence of what made the SUV an off-road staple. Business Live Middle East’s Alvin Thomas finds out.

A frontrunner in the great global automotive off-road standoff, Nissan, with its tried-and-tested second-gen X-Terra piqued the interests of enthusiasts longing for a true mechanical parallel to bash dunes or scramble up terrain that is, rarely, if ever, explored by softroaders, when it was first launched in 2005.

A true warrior in its own right, the old X-Terra, along with the Y61- and Y62-variant Patrols, today almost single-handedly carry the brand and its outdoorsy image to an era where the synergy between computers and mechanicals are deemed necessary.

Despite its discontinuation in 2015, the second-generation X-Terra managed to gain a cult following in the GCC, with several healthy examples still prowling around.

So, an out of the blue introduction of a successor to a vehicle that can only be deemed a modern-day legend is only fitting.

2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

At first look, the new entrant strikes all the right notes, while keeping in line with Nissan’s funky signature and design cues. Mind you, it hasn’t mellowed down by much. The X-Terra is still buff in all the right places – the arches, rear quarter, hood – and it brings to life a refresh that’s fitting to take on its Asian counterparts.

The fascia draws inspiration from the trusty Pathfinder, though the new X-Terra incorporates a more dynamic stance with a sharper bumper that houses thick chrome panels on the grille and fog lamp housings and a prominent silver bumper guard that extends into the vents by the radiator intake.

2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

Other exterior niceties include LED daytime running lamps, signature LED headlamps and 18-inch alloy wheels. 

Couple that with a ground clearance rating of 243mm (unladen), a wheelbase of 2,850mm, and three rows of seating, the successor makes sure to tick just about all the boxes that distinguish modern SUVs, while maintaining its natural character as an off-roader. True enthusiasts can also slap on heavy-duty off-road tyres without causing much ruckus within the wide wheel wells.

For the most part, the posterior complements the vehicle’s macho dimensions. Complete with LED lamps, thick chrome accents, and a busy bumper, the rear end of the SUV emanates a posh(er) look that departs from its predecessor’s utilitarian design ethos.

2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

The X-Terra also receives an interior upgrade for 2021.

Gone is the plasticky cabin, and in its place is leatherette, soft-touch high-grade plastics, and a host of tech toys to give its competitors a run for their money. It also moves away from its light-vehicle underpinnings with a host of new goodies. So, in place of the traditional CD player now lies a 9-inch multi-function touchscreen running on an updated iteration of the ‘NissanConnect’ operating system. 

While its UX and UI largely remain hassle-free, those looking for a smoother experience can switch to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Optimization on the latter is admirable, though occasional stutters are ironed out quickly by a potent processor.

2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

The insides are quite practical, with three rows of seating. Head- and leg-room aplenty, the X-Terra provides just about enough room for seven passengers; though, the third row would be best reserved for smaller children. The seats are comfortable and the seating positions are in line with other vehicles in this segment.

2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

On the entertainment front, you’ll receive an eight-speaker premium Bose audio system and an 11-inch flip-down television. The vehicle also takes a few steps up in terms of safety. You can equip the X-Terra with front, side, and curtain airbags; ABS; BA (Brake Assist); Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC); Intelligent Emergency Braking; Intelligent Forward Collision Warning; Blind-Spot Warning; and Lane Departure Warning. 

2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

Our tester also came equipped with an Intelligent Around-View Monitor which features a 360-degree camera, Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, and an Intelligent Rear-View Monitor to keep a close eye on tailgaters.

Boot space is admirable, with 50:50 split-folding third-row seats and 60:40 split-folding second-row seats. At full capacity, the X-Terra can stow away six full-size travel bags or 14 smaller bags. When tethered down, you can also squeeze two bicycles into the rear.

Underneath the hood, the X-Terra houses a 2.5-litre in-line four-pot banger that pumps out 165hp and 241Nms of torque. Though the downsized engine (from the VQ40DE in the previous generation) is a step up in fuel economy, we found it remarkably torquey lower down in the rev range. Power delivery is adequate to thrust the vehicle into its zone at higher speeds even if peak power is delivered around the 6,000rpm mark.

2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

Couple that with a well-tuned seven-speed automatic transmission and the X-Terra makes for a decent (and frugal) highway cruiser. While 100kph was achieved in about 9 seconds during our test, the SUV manages to hit desired highway speeds with ease and sits there quite comfortably.

At cruising speeds, the engine remains settled under stress. This translates to lower noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) levels inside the cabin. The SUV is well-behaved on the road too, with the suspension (and the high-profile tyres) soaking up bumps with ease and ironing out any unnerving cracks on the roads.

2021 Nissan X-Terra Review: Building On The Legacy Of A Modern Icon

Where the X-Terra really shines is when you’re off the tracks and in its elements – sand, rocks, and mud. The SUV packs an electronically-locking rear differential, a brake-reliant limited-slip differential, hill start assist, hill descent control, and an active 4×4 system to facilitate it all. The electronic nannies work in tandem to allow the X-Terra to lunge itself forwards across tricky terrain.

Our drive at the testing Baushar dunes remained largely hassle-free, with the vehicle taking on moderately-sized dunes with ease. The wide-track off-road tyres and low-range torque served up by the motor translated to us pushing harder forwards on loose sand, but without the usual tyre-spinning action that could’ve bogged the vehicle down. 

The electronically-locking differential is more adept in handling tight situations than, say, some other Asian vehicles we’ve tested in the past, but you’ll need to finesse the throttle to balance out any swerving and maintain adequate momentum to keep the vehicle on its toes.

While the X-Terra remains largely changed when compared with its predecessor, it also maintains some key elements: the smooth suspension tuning is reminiscent of the second-gen SUV, and there’s enough travel to let you clear tall obstacles without the risk of scraping up expensive bits of the bumper.

Whether the all-new X-Terra serves as a worthy replacement of the predecessor is a question we’ll leave at the hands of the enthusiasts – but having thrown the hardiest of elements at it, we can vouch for its capabilities; those that continue to catapult the nameplate into territories that have long been held in position by the Nissan mainstay and a host of Asian and American competitors.

So, is the 2021 Nissan X-Terra worth it? Yes. And by a long way…