By on February 27, 2018

NissanTerra01-750px

Longsufferingtime readers of this author’s natterings know my preference for all things of the body-on-frame variety. That’s why I’m going to take every opportunity I can to trumpet the kinda sorta maybe possibility that Nissan will reintroduce the Xterra.

The old Xterra only hung around for two generations, offering righteous options such as a stick-shift manual, supercharged power, and a locking rear diff. It’s the polar opposite of a Qashqai Rogue Sport. Given today’s market tastes, I totally understand why Nissan offers a phalanx of unibody crossovers – like any smart company, its giving the people what they want.

It still doesn’t stop me from pining for a small, butch SUV from Nissan, though. With an introduction yesterday in China, that future is one step closer to reality. Maybe.

NissanTerra01-750px

The new Nissan Terra (see? It even has a similar name!) is touted as an all-new sport ute designed to bring rugged 4×4 capabilities to China and other select markets across Asia. It’ll be the first vehicle from Nissan’s “frame and LCV division” to launch under a company plan that looks ahead to the year 2022.

Nissan’s frame and LCV business unit – made up of frame SUVs, pickups, vans, and light-duty trucks – is said to be critical to achieving the company’s midterm objectives. Nissan says one in every six of its vehicles sold globally is a frame-based vehicle or an LCV, and that the company is focused on capturing this division’s full potential. In 2017, Nissan’s global frame and LCV sales reached 907,929 vehicles – roughly a 7 percent increase from the prior year.

NissanTerra01-750px

That number, of course, counts a good many products not found on our shores. However, given North America’s appetite for all things SUV, it’s a safe bet there’s a business case floating around the halls of Nissan to bring a machine of this type to America.

At its peak, the old Xterra handily sold north of 50,000 copies per year, nearly cresting 80,000 units all the way back in 2002. Towards the end, after the company allowed the stagnation of its development and thanks to a glacier-like redesign cycle, sales dropped to below 20,000 annually, making it an easy decision to pull the plug on what was once an innovative trucklet that still garners some fan appreciation today.

Ashwani Gupta, senior vice president for Nissan’s frame and LCV business, describes the Terra as “… practical, authentic, and designed to go anywhere. The Nissan Terra goes on sale this spring, first in China, with other Asian markets soon to follow.”

Gupta goes on to say, “Nissan’s frame and LCV business is seeing steady growth, and with our ambitious midterm plan and growing product lineup, we’re confident that this growth will continue. We have the Nissan Terra arriving soon, the award-winning Nissan Navara is now in 133 markets worldwide, and more drivers are purchasing our LCVs around the world.”

NissanTerra01-750px

Encouraging words for this body-on-frame fan, then. For the nine-month period to December 31, 2017, Nissan’s global unit sales were 4.109 million units. Over the same period, In the U.S., Nissan sales increased by 1.1 percent to 1.177 million units.

With the North American market making up a decent chunk of Nissan’s global sales, I think there’s a solid chance that the boffins at Nissan’s frame and LCV department are making a case for some sort – probably not the Terra shown here – of BOF trucklet to wend its way to our shores.

[Images: Nissan]

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38 Comments on “Frame Games: Nissan Rolls Out Body-on-frame SUV...”


  • avatar

    “The old Xterra only hung around for two generations”

    In which Nissan (like you mention) did almost nothing to update it or make it competitive. That irritates me to this day.

    Also they forgot to rustproof the earlier ones.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      The 2nd gen was doomed by the high gas prices and recession of ’08-’09 that beat up all the big SUV nameplates in terms of sales, but if you were just a smaller player you really got hurt. I’m sure that experience and resulting massively lowered sales made Nissan second guess any serious cash infusions into modernizing it. Having driven a few gen 2s, they really just needed to put a 5-link axle on coil springs under the rear end, and stretch it a hair for a bit more rear legroom (read: fit child seats better). Highway ride/control and NVH and comfort are notably worse than even my 22 year old 4Runner, the Xterra’s extra soft rear leaf pack shouldered a good bit of that blame IMO, but some extra sound insulation would have made a difference as well. Of note, what I drove was a Pro-4X with the meaty A/T tires that added a lot of road noise and some ride stiffness. I’ve since put similar tires on my 4Runner so it’d be an interesting comparison to revisit.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        A friend of mine had a Pro-4X for a few years and I can confirm all of the above observations.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Biggest win on the Xterra: VQ40 mated to the 6spd manual. That thing will chirp 2nd without even trying, even on those wide all-terrains. A hoot to drive in dilapidated urban environs, feels like “god mode” in a video game.

          • 0 avatar

            Also, the VQ40 is THIRSTY. V8 thirst with V6 noises and power.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I’d call it more like small V8 thirst with small V8 power, and yes V6 noises. Nissan is much more aggressive with throttle mapping so the VQ feels much more alive than Toyota’s competing 1GR (4.0L) V6 in everyday partial throttle operation, even though power/torque is right there neck and neck.

            I still pine for GM to stuff the 4.3L Ecotec into the Colorado, and especially if they saw fit to bring back a Blazer/Trailblazer as a BOF SUV. Then again with the new 8spd apparently the 3.6 Colorado is snapping off some eye-raising 0-60s.

  • avatar

    I can see this being a thing which comes to Canada (as an X-Trail probs) but not to the American Market. It’ll also be in Mexico.

    No smaller BOFs here!

    • 0 avatar
      Heavymetal_Hippie

      Yep, while Toyota is selling 4Runners as fast as they can make them, showing that there is still a sizeable crowd out there that wants an SUV with a spine, I’ve gotten pretty used to automakers usually taking the safe (boring) route. Toyota seems to be the ONLY carmaker currently stepping up to the plate to still make fun and exciting small trucks and SUVs.

      This Nissan looks great. And as a resident of the USA, I’m looking forward to being disappointed!

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      Agreed, the CAFE rules will never make a small BOF SUV viable unless it’s super high margin AND high volume in the States.

    • 0 avatar
      shane_the_ee

      A BOF X-Trail? But the X-Trail was never BOF… (We owned a 2nd gen.)

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah but they can use the chunky styling name on a BOF thing rather than build a new name!

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Corey,
          The XTerra came about as a cheaper alternative to the Pathfinder.

          One of the prerequisites was to use Nissan’s parts bin. So many parts and even panels came from the Frontier.

          The XTerra was a Nissan USA exercise from the Nissan design studio in La Jolla (San Diego).

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            My impression was the 1st generation Xterra was a response to the sales lost when the Pathfinder went from body-on-frame of the 1st generation to the unibody of the 2nd generation. The pickup was still basically the same as before so it was easy and cheap to derive a second suv from it. Though the 2nd gen Pathfinder turned out to be both tough and reliable, the image was lost.

            So the 1st gen Xterra is somewhat of a revival of the 1st gen Pathfinder. In the interest of safety they moved the gas tank from behind the rear axle as on the 1st gen Pathfinder, to below the back seat. Adequate rear seat headroom necessitated the signature bump up in the roofline. Probably to be cheap they retained the pickup’s rear leaf springs instead of using the 1st gen Pathfinder’s superior multi-link setup. This did allow putting the spare under the back instead of on a rear carrier like the first Pathfinder.

            All of these other than the 2nd gen Pathfinder had torsion bar front suspension, which allowed mounting the engine and drivetrain low. This resulted in a lower floor and center of gravity. Had the 4Runner not been a Toyota the market would have killed it for its poor packaging and stability, and being overpriced.

            Of course the 3rd gen Pathfinder and 2nd gen Xterra are body-on-frame based on the Titan pickup.

            The 1st gen 4Runner may have been a tough offroader, but it was a dreadful vehicle otherwise. Woe to anyone banished to the back seat.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I don’t know if it was so much sales lost specifically because consumers were educated enough to care about the R50 Pathfinder losing its frame so much as Nissan wanting a cheaperentry to combat the lower end of the SUV market (XJ Cherokee and cute utes like Rav4 and CRV) by playing up the tough/X-games/super-outdoorsy angle.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            brandloyalty,
            I remember reading an article on these a long, long time ago in Popular Mechanics or Popular Science.

  • avatar
    gtem

    It’s interesting to note that generally the BOF compact/midsize SUV class overseas trends towards very car-like styling both inside and out, without an emphasis on overt “butchness” as seems to be the requirement for anything remotely marketed as offroad capable here in the US. Look at the overseas Pajero, Fortuner, Everest, etc. But go back a few years and I’d argue the US SUVs didn’t push as caricature-ized of an image either, in fact the 2000 Xterra might be the progenitor of that concept (even the Xterra name was for the Nissan sponsored outdoors competition). Durangos, Explorers, 4Runners definitely had ncie meaty wheels, but the sheetmetal itself and interiors were supposed to be handsome, modern, comfortable more so than blatantly chunky and gnarly.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    They might as well take a stab at this market again in NA, Toyota can’t build 4Runnners fast enough.

    • 0 avatar

      The interior needs improving for our market, but then again so does the 4Runner’s.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        See my comment above, my initial reaction to the Nissan was “pff how bland and generic, looks like a Altima/Sentra.” Then I thought about it a bit, my ’96 4Runner has a steering wheel lifted right from an Avalon, the dash likewise is just a generic functional mid 90s Japan Inc. layout, you’d have a hard time telling it apart from a Corolla/Camry/etc interior aside from the “fighter jet joystick” shift lever on the 4wds (RWD autos got a regular “sedan” t-shaped handle). So I’m actually A-OK with that Nissan interior, hell it’s probably an improvement in comfort and material quality over the gen 2 Xterra which just looked and felt cheap/blocky/plasticky, with uncomfortably shaped seats. I’ll gladly take a generic but comfy Altima interior instead!

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Corey,
        This is a Chinese version. Wait and see what comes to Australia.

        As your comment on interiors sort of matches mine regarding these station wagon versions of pickups. But they are slowly getting better.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I like it. Its a new Nissan that’s handsome and desirable. In other words, no chance of seeing it here.

    If Nissan is serious about stepping up its retail sales and backing away from the fleet buffet (in our market), this would be a good way to start.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Heck if they wanted to dump some of these things into fleets (as Toyota was doing with 4Runners in ’14-’15) or as Nissan does with SV trim Armadas, I won’t complain!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    A significant snippet of information not presented is this is based on the Navara.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Can we get a BOF car next? *har har* like that will ever happen again.

    • 0 avatar

      I think their last BOF sedan was in 1991 with the 929.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Not a Mazda buff, but I likes me a 929. Because, ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Corey, 929 was definitely unibody. I know because it forms the basic underpinnings of the MK1 MPV which is likewise unibody, but with a solid rear axle borrowed from Mazda’s B-series pickups (pre-Ford).

        • 0 avatar

          HECK

          I was thinking it was a BOF platform with the MPV and B-Series.

          I too like the formal hardtop styling of the 929 before it got all roundy. Anyway, maybe they never actually had a BOF sedan. Mazda is not my forte.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            There is a MINT gen 1 929 that parks in my neighborhood occasionally, black with gold badges. I’m tempted to leave a note inquiring about it. But I must relent, MPVs are expensive enough to buy parts for, I need a 25 year old flagship Mazda sedan like I need a hole in the head.

            I actually just flipped the “$500” Pilot for a cool $5k, on the prowl for another cheap stick shift truck now (expanding my gardening activities plus other projects).

  • avatar
    TW5

    CAFE 2025 is the headwind against all BoF vehicles, except the largest crew cab trucks. The Wrangler will be required to make 37mpg combined by 2025. Not gonna happen. For small BoF SUV’s to survive, the manufacturers will need regulatory relief or they will need to move lots of hybrids and electric vehicles.

    Hopefully regulatory relief will happen because city-slicker rules don’t work well in rural areas. About 20% of the population lives in the middle of nowhere. That’s 60M people who are choosing from about 10 different non-luxury name plates. Surely, the auto manufacturers can do better.

    The best thing they could possibly do, imo, is to create a special exception that gives BoF light trucks with at least one solid axle the most lenient fuel economy standards (23mpg combined in 2025). That sort of exception would give offroaders a reprieve and it would create incentives to sell smaller, fuel-efficient trucks. It probably wouldn’t change the CUV shopping carts because people want car-like ride and 30mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      TW5,
      Diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      CAFE 54.5 is really headwind against everyone including those just wanting to have an affordable, simple, small car. Want a Yaris sized car that is simple and easy to maintain? Good luck, because with all the federally mandated equipment it better get close to 60mpg in a few decades else it will run afoul of the rules. The 54.5 target rammed through at end of ’16 was extremely regressive toward the poor and the frugal drivers, but who cares, they voted for the guy twice so who cares if they have to spend more down the road..

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        I think vehicles the size of Yaris will “only” need to make 43mpg combined on the EPA sticker, but that’s still a tall order. There is no doubt CAFE 2025 is a rich man’s game. If you can afford the equipment, you can have comfort and luxury. Everyone else can pound sand.

        CAFE 2025 is an onerous set of regulations. The manufacturers never should have caved regardless of bailouts or $100-$140/bbl oil.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        TwoBelugas,
        CAFE doesn’t represent real FE. Instead of calling it mpg’s it should be renamed CAFE units of efficiency.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    CAFE 2025 is another bold chapter in the legacy of Barack “Settled Science” Obama. Along with internet creator Al Gore and Doctor Bill Nye, the Kenyan has issued a set of historic standards that will save the planet. It’s either that or Tarpon fishing off the coast of Nebraska by 2050. “You can keep your doctor, not your real car though.”


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