Nissan Bringing Back Body-on-frame With Terra SUV, Starting in China

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Nissan has twice confirmed production for its Navara-based body-on-frame sport utility vehicle. Called the Terra, rumors of the new model had off-road enthusiasts cocking their hands in preparation for a round of high-fives. Unfortunately, the vehicle appears to have been specifically designed for the Chinese market and may be spending all of its time in Asia for a while.

That hasn’t kept people from speculating that the Terra might eventually replace the Pathfinder or return as a successor to the defunct Xterr a. We’re dubious of any claims that the Pathfinder might return to body-on-frame status. Sales of the model have been steady in North America and have not been hurt by its unibody design. But, with Nissan’s Frontier badly needing an update, it is not inconceivable that it could spawn an SUV using the Xterra name in a couple years.

Nissan has been careful not to suggest that the current Navara would become the blueprint for the next incarnation of the Frontier. But Nissan’s North American executives have also said they are aware that there has been a growing interest in body-on-frame vehicles.

However China remains the current priority, according to Ashwani Gupta, global head of light commercial vehicles for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. He again verified the Terra as a model created for the Chinese market in a recent interview with Automotive News but wouldn’t rule out the model for North American entry later on.

“We can do anything,” he said, suggesting a strong case would still need to be made if the Terra were to make into the United States, “[The Terra has] authentic capability to go off-road — even if the customer only wants to go off-road once a year.”

It is a little weird that so much of the domestic advertising for trucks and SUVs in the U.S. focuses upon ruggedness and trail-worthy capabilities when so much of the market is saturated with unibody crossovers. America could probably handle one or more two body-on-frame vehicles that aren’t over 200 inches in length. The Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner shouldn’t be having all of the fun.

[Images: Nissan]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
2 of 51 comments
  • Kato Kato on Mar 18, 2018

    Hopefully they'll redesign it before bringing it to North America. That thing in the photo is even uglier than the 4-Runner, which takes some doing.

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Mar 18, 2018

    Isn't it traditional to switch between body-on-frame and unibody for every new generation of Pathfinder?

  • Mgh57 I like the complete silence of an electric.
  • Kcflyer This is a joke right? Kevin James invented this in a movie years ago. As I recall queen latifa loved it. The movie was called "The Dilemma". It was even a dodge. Life imitates art indeed.
  • RHD This is the modern equivalent of the Horsey Horseless. (If you don't know what that was, look it up!)
  • Loser What’s next, simulation of the “Hemi tick”?
  • Ajla There's a melancholy to me about an EV with external speaker-generated "engine" noise and fake transmissions. It feels like an admission from the manufacturer that you're giving something up and they are trying to give back some facsimile of it. Like giving a cupcake scented candle to someone on a diet. If I was shopping for an EV I'd rather go to a company enthusiastic about it rather than apologetic.