- Vehicle: Nissan Xterra (2nd Gen)
- Wheel Size: 35"
- Style: Overland Build
- Build Level: Pro
- Budget: $$$$$
- Capability Score: 60/70
- Owner: Connor Heckert
- Location: Herriman, UT
The Nissan Xterra has earned a reputation as one of the most capable and affordable off-road vehicles straight from the factory. And the second generation models take it even further, making an ideal platform for overland expedition builds.
For example, this black 2014 Nissan Xterra overland build (arguably, one of the best ever created) owned by Connor Heckert has been optimized for multi-day adventures into remote locations. With a coilover lift kit providing extra clearance for 35″ BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires, steel front bumper with winch, roof top tent and other upgrades – it’s ready to traverse rugged terrain.
We connected with Connor to get an inside look at the custom fabrication and effort required to create this ultimate overland expedition vehicle based on the 2nd gen Xterra.
2nd gen Nissan Xterra Overland Mods List
- Nisstec Titan Swap Kit
- Nisstec MKII front coil-overs with 650lb springs
- Radflo shocks 2.5 w/ remote resi long travel rear shocks
- Specialty Products Company Titan UCAs
- Alcanspring custom 3” lift leaf springs w/ 1000lb additional payload + adjustable shackle
- Expedition One Trail Series Front Bumper
- Heftyfabworks Steel Skid Plates
- Heftyfabworks Rear Bumper with Tire Carrier
- Whiteknuckle Offroad Products Rock Sliders
- Auxbeam lighting LED switch panel
- Baja Designs Squadron Pro Amber lights wide/cornering
- Baja Designs LP6 Pro Amber lights
- Baja Designs OnX6 Dual Control Amber/White LED Light Bar
Wheels and Tires
- Blackrhino Wheels Raid 17×8.5 +0mm — Bronze
- Mickey Thompson tires Baja Boss M/T 35/12.5/R17
- Boraoffroad 2.5” spacer for the rear
- All products purchased from Z1 Offroad:
- aFe power Twisted Steel Headers
- Magnaflow Catalytic Converters
- Nismo Off-Road Catback Exhaust
- Volantperformance CAI
- Airflow Snorkels Xterra Snorkel
- Smittybuilt 98612 XRC 12K Gen 3 Winch Comp Series
- Hiliftjacks jack
- Maxtrax hq Xtreme Desert Tan Recovery Board w/ Metal Teeth
- Bubbarope Power Stretch Recovery Rope 7/8” x 30’
- Bubbarope Gator-Jaw 176745Pro Synthetic Soft Shackle
- Uptop Overland Platform Roof Rack
- CVT Tents Roof Top Tent — Mt. Hood 56”
- Dometic dual zone refrigerator/freezer
- Jackery USA Explorer 500 Portable Battery
- Jackery USA Explorer 1500 Portable Battery
- Malooracks Seat Covers
- Midlandusa MicroMobile 15W Two-Way radio
- Trasharoo spare tire trash bag
- MR heater Buddy 4k-9k Portable Propane Heater
- Smittybuilt 5.65 CFM Air Compressor
- Morrflate Quad inflate/deflate hose and gauge
- Bushcompany 270 XT awning
- Roamadventureco 95L Rugged Case (x2)
- Renogy 175w flex solar panel (x2)
- Rammounts iPad mount
- Gaia gps
- ONX offroad
- Garmin inreach mini
Affiliate disclosure: we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you buy through some of the product links in this post.
Parts Recommended by Offroadium
- Mickey Thompson MK 35/1250R17/D BAJA BOSS – 35×12.5R17
- BlackRhino Raid Custom Wheels 17×8.5 +0mm — Bronze – Available in Various Sizes
- Smittybilt XRC GEN3 12K Comp Series Winch – With Synthetic Cable
Roof Top Tent
- Mamba 3 Clamshell Aluminum Roof Top Tent – Black Shell & Grey Body
- Overland Vehicle Systems Awning – 270 Degree
To ensure proper fit and compatibility, we recommend you verify any selected parts or accessories with a qualified professional or seller prior to ordering.
Interview With The Owner
Why did you choose a Nissan Xterra for your project?
I chose the Xterra platform based on recommendations from a professor I had in college and a family friend who also had one. I originally wanted a 4Runner on an FJ Cruiser, but at the time I couldn’t afford those, and I knew Xterras had a good reputation.
What is your favorite mod on the truck?
My favorite mod is hard to choose. I think for the camping aspect I would choose either my 270 awning or my solar panel setup. Both of these make base camp that much more convenient and comfortable. For off-road capabilities definitely the Titan Swap suspension I just recently upgraded to. It’s just so smooth, and makes the rig so much more capable than the previous suspension.
What was the most difficult part about putting it together?
The most difficult part of putting it all together would probably be just finding the vision of what I want out of the build. My wants and needs behind the build have changed over time. When I first started building the rig. I was doing primarily weekend trips. But now the rig has the ability to do much longer trips and has now become more of an overland vehicle.
Any future plans on improvement or installing new parts?
Future plans definitely include a front diff locker and upgrading the front differential to an m205. Along with regearing to better accommodate the 35” tires, to hopefully gain back some gas mileage.
Model: Nissan Xterra 2nd gen
Production years: 2005-2015
Approximate prices on the market (Used): $6,000-$19,000
Engine: 4.0 L VQ40DE V6
Construction: Body On Frame
Traction Enhancement Devices: Rear Locking Differentials
Low Range: Yes
Stock wheel size: 265/65R17 – 31″
Offroad Wheel Size: 35″
Build Level: Pro
Off-road Capability Score: 60/70
Why Xterra Is Worth It
The Nissan Xterra has a long history of being an off-road powerhouse on wheels. The first generation of this SUV was introduced in 2000, and it quickly gained popularity among those with an active lifestyle. The Xterra’s 4×4 capabilities and spacious interior made it a viable alternative to well-established competitors like the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler.
2nd generation Nissan Xterra was produced from 2005 until 2015 and gained huge popularity among the fans of off-roading. The truck has a perfect base for starting a 4×4 project, as it’s equipped with a 4WD, low range, and rear locking differentials, plus it’s spacious, reliable, and relatively easy to maintain.
Although production of the Xterra ceased in 2015, this SUV remains popular among off-road enthusiasts. Thanks to its robust design and wide range of features, the Xterra is still considered one of the best off-road vehicles on the market.
“2nd generation Nissan Xterra has made its way into the list of 15 Best Modern Off Road SUVs and proudly scored 121.6 points overall according our evaluation tests”.
Finding The Right Base
When searching for a solid 2nd generation Nissan Xterra to transform into a capable overland rig, plan on budgeting anywhere from $6,000 for a basic high mileage example up to around $19,000 for a lower mile truck in top condition per used car market data. The coveted off-road focused PRO-4X models tend to sit at the higher end of that range in today’s used marketplace.
Overall, the 2nd gen Xterra is quite reliable for an adventure-ready 4×4. The truck earned SUV of the Year honors in 2009 from 4Wheeler magazine and featured stout axles, with all manuals and PRO-4X versions packing a Dana 44 rear axles. A factory electronic locking rear diff further boosted traction. This rugged base provides an ideal foundation.
The other vehicle we’d most likely take along in the backcountry would surely be the Nissan Xterra. With the excellent F-Alpha platform, designed with wheeling in mind, the Xterra showed its grit on the trail, often going ahead to scout the trail and yanking out other stuck competitors. In fact, the Xterra never got a flat or stuck throughout the testing process. The rear locker, great approach and departure angles, and well-tuned suspension meant the Xterra could be hustled through terrain and confidently tackle obstacles without reverting to the bypass as other vehicles had to do. – Sean P. Holman, Motor Trend.
Basic Repairs and Maintenance First
While fundamentally tough, the Xterra isn’t immune to some common issues, here’s what I observed throughout the years working on client’s vehicles at the shop:
- Motor mount failures
- Timing chain tensioner/guide wear causing engine noise
- Rust and body corrosion in salty areas
- Rear axle seal and bushing leaks
Addressing these maintenance items early on ensures your overland build starts off on the right foot. The 4.0L VQ40DE engine otherwise offers plenty of grunt for the trail when maintained properly. Pro tip would be to follow the Nissan Service manual and using good quality parts (preferably OEM).
With any repairs or maintenance issues corrected on your 2nd gen Xterra, the fun can begin upgrading capability. This platform responds especially well to modifications tailored for overlanding adventures off the beaten path.
Why It’s a Good Base for an Overland Project
As a seasoned mechanic and off-road enthusiast, I’m particularly impressed by the Xterra’s versatility for overlanding. Simply folding down those rear seats opens up serious cargo capacity in my eyes. Going further and yanking out the bottom seat cushions leaves you looking at basically a flat bed stretching all the way from the back liftgate to the front captain’s chairs. To me, that spells ample room for throwing down sleeping bags and crashing in the rig during multi-day adventures away from civilization. I can comfortably sleep two grown adults back there no problem after clearing out the rear seats.
And I haven’t even gotten to the roof rack yet! The standard removable front basket gives you a rock-solid platform for strapping on all kinds of overland goodies. I’m talking spare fuel cans, tents, camping supplies – you name it. That’s why I endorse the Xterra for budget-friendly (or unlimited budget) overlanding.
How we test?
Offroadium Verdict & Score Explained
We have created our own rating and classification system to differentiate and evaluate the off-road capabilities of vehicles showcased on Offroadium. Based on it, we can conclude the following:
Off-road Capability Score: 60/70
With its rugged body-on-frame construction (+5 points), 4WD drivetrain, locking rear differential (+10 points), and low range transfer case (+10 points), this Xterra build starts off strong in terms of off-road hardware. Adding the long travel suspension lift kit and massively oversized 35″ tires (+30 points) pushes it into highly capable territory. The full body armor (+5 points) provides protection across rugged terrain, for an overall off-road capability score of 60 out of a possible 70 points.
Complexity Level: Advanced
The extensive custom suspension fabrication, drivetrain upgrades like the Titan swap kit, and premium accessories like the roof top tent demonstrate that no expense has been spared to optimize this Xterra’s capabilities. With nearly every system enhanced from stock, we classify this as an Advanced overland build.
No compromise was made in selecting top-tier components to transform this Xterra into the ultimate overland expedition platform. Significant investments into areas like the long travel suspension and Titan drivetrain swap pay dividends when embarking on remote journeys far from civilization. We estimate the total budget for this highly capable adventurer falls into the $$$$$ category.
- Legendary reliability and durability for going anywhere off-road
- The last Land Cruiser with 3 standard locking differentials
- Poor fuel economy, especially when loaded down for expedition use
- Can be expensive to purchase and maintain
Watch the progress and find out more about this Nissan Xterra project by visiting the Instagram profile of the owner: @conheck_offroad!
Stay tuned for more project reviews on Offroadium.com – Follow us on social media, and share this write-up if you enjoyed reading it!
Matt is a professional mechanic, experienced off-roader, writer and founder of Offroadium. With over 15 years immersed in the off-road community and 100,000+ miles logged on rugged trails across the Americas, Grabli shares extensive real-world knowledge. He previously worked as an automotive technician before shifting focus to specialty off-road projects. His passion is prepping capable rigs for off-roading and helping others to build the 4x4s of their dreams.