Off-roading with Nissans more fun than I expected

Nissan pickup

An automaker occasionally gives me the chance to whip a new car around a racetrack.

I'm not a fan of that.

I have to think that how a car behaves on real roads is far more relevant to you than how it performs on a track.

When was the last time you took your Ford Fusion to the Brickyard?

But I love the opportunity to take a new truck off-roading.

I know most of us who own a 4x4 -- I'm not talking about a crossover with all-wheel drive but a real 4x4 -- never leave the asphalt.

But we can take to the dirt when we're so moved, and off-roading is a lot of fun.

I've also had a fair amount of practice, and I'm not half bad when the pavement disappears.

I just spent a day off-roading Nissan trucks at the Medina River Ranch in Texas Hill Country about 60 miles outside San Antonio.

If you asked me about competent off-road trucks before that event, I would not have thought to mention Nissan. It just wasn't on my off-roading radar.

But, I must say that after using 4x4 Titans, Armadas, Frontiers and Xterras to tackle a rather challenging 4- or 5-mile course around the ranch, Nissan made me a believer.

As full-size trucks, the Titan and Armada are competent enough. However, they are big and somewhat unwieldy on tight, forested trails.

Smaller vehicles are always more maneuverable, and consequently more fun, in tight quarters.

The more compact Frontier and Xterra are highly competent in the brush. They fulfill the definition of a real truck with their hardy body-on-boxed-frame design. They are built to tackle tough terrain.

Equip them with Nissan's Pro-4X package with special shock absorbers, bigger wheels and tires, additional skid plates to protect the undercarriage and an electronic locking rear differential, and these trucks can go just about anywhere.

The theme of this posting: If you have a 4x4, get off the highway and have some fun.

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