Nissan X-Trail 2.5L: Standing Well Against Peers

By Lee Pang Seng

The SUV (sport utility vehicle) or Crossover sector is now an increasingly hotly contested one (even exclusive brands are making them) and the one with the looks and features is likely to gain good market share. With the new X-Trail, Nissan has made tremendous grounds in these two areas to be fully worthy of consideration by many in the market for such vehicles.

Taking a cue from the Transformers, it has indeed transformed from a boxy vehicle that would find good company with the Isuzu Trooper and Mitsubishi Pajero of the early 1980s to a well-rounded Crossover that takes its rightful place among the current slew of SUVs vying for the attention of a rapidly growing clientele.

The Nissan body designers probably adopted similar themes from the Murano and Infiniti FX to give the new X-Trail flared front arches and distinctive flowing waist lines that sweep elegantly to a rounded rear. All this is done while retaining the family face of the ‘V’ grille that holds the Nissan badge in the front; a case of portraying an accepted and familiar identity with new flair and panache.

That was how we felt when we first saw this Nissan SUV at the Tokyo International Motor Show in 2013. It took more than a year for the new X-Trail to get here and Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) is certainly having its hands full assembling enough vehicles to meet the higher demand. It wouldn’t be surprising if many of the previous X-Trail owners (more than 19,000 of the previous X-Trails were sold here since it was first launched in 2003) would be looking to trade up to the latest model.

Continuing the previous model arrangement, the latest X-Trail is made available as the 2.0L 4WD and 2.5L 4WD, both being part-time four-wheel drives with a new twist for the bigger engine displacement model. It comes with an all-wheel drive mode when 4x4 high is selected, which in the 2.5L’s case, it is Auto. In this mode, the 4x4-i (for intelligent) applies and engine drive is electrically controlled to the four wheels as per the traction need. Nissan calls this the All Mode Intelligent 4x4 system.

In 2WD mode, engine drive goes to the front wheels but in Auto (4x4-i) mode, drive is apportioned accordingly and this is seen on an info display between the two main dials in the meter panel. We didn’t go off-road to see how much engine drive could be channelled accordingly, although on-road impressions indicated some engine power going to the rear wheels during damp road conditions. The Hill Descent Control is also exclusive to the 2.5L.

Yes, we had a long weekend with the 2.5L and had a reasonably good time with this Nissan, albeit largely on paved roads. The latest X-Trail (T32) has grown a fair bit dimensionally over the previous model (T30); it runs on a 75mm longer wheelbase at 2705mm and is 110mm longer at 4640mm, 55mm wider at 1820mm and 30mm taller at 1715mm. The tracks front and rear are also wider at 1575mm against 1530mm and 1535mm respectively for the previous model. Understandably, this means more metal and materials are needed, leading to a slight weight increase of about 20kg to 1612kg for the 2.5L.

In its new profile, the X-Trail doesn’t look that much bigger over the old and we didn’t quite feel its ‘bulkiness’ driving in urban conditions; we could feel our way through tight areas reasonably comfortably and parking was very manageable. As the 2.5L model comes with reverse camera, that helped too although we relied more on the door mirrors when we had to reverse into our usual covered parking spot.

If we had a bone to pick here, it would be the rather thick A-pillars. We had to look twice to the left when we came to T-junctions before proceeding. This was because we nearly ran into the paths of approaching traffic as a cursory glance had us missing the vehicles, both cars and motorcycles, during the early drives as they were blocked from view by the A-pillars. Subsequently, we decided it was better to have a second look before moving out.

Being the top model, the X-Trail 2.5L came with more equipment; rain sensing wiper that was useful during the wet spell we had the Crossover, whitish LED headlamps with the auto beam leveller function to make night driving more visually pleasant, and leather upholstered seats that unfortunately became too hot when the vehicle was left parked under the blazing sun for too long.

The front seats were also electrically controlled with that for the driver available with more options – eight of them including lumbar support – against the four-way adjustable seat for the front passenger. It also shares a wide range of standard equipment with the 2.0L model, which happened to sell in greater numbers being about RM22,000.00 cheaper at RM136,188.16 on the road without insurance.

This included auto activation for the headlamps (halogen units for the 2.0L), front fog lamps, daytime running LED lights, high mounted rear combination lamps for better visibility, power foldable and adjustable door mirrors with LED indicator lights, 360-degree around view monitor, ECO mode, push start ignition, tonneau cover for the rear luggage compartment, audio system with 5-inch display that’s centrally located on the dashboard, to name some.

Driving the new X-Trail couldn’t be more convenient with this wide range of equipment and overall comfort wasn’t bad either. The driver’s seat just barely passed the test in thigh support as we are rather sensitive to this aspect of driving comfort. And it was just as accommodating with its flexible 5+2 interior.

The design of the second row seats is well thought out to make entry and egress as easy as possible for the third row occupants. Nissan says the latest X-Ttail is the first in its model range to offer third row seating and this is an option that can be used when required. Getting the equally split third row seatrests up is merely a matter of pulling a strap on each of them; folding them away is easy too.

Firstly, you need to get the tonneau cover out of the way and that may require you to climb on board if you are of a 165cm frame like us. One end of the item is springloaded and removal is quite hassle-free. Although it could be stored in a compartment on the luggage compartment floor, we haven’t figured out to get the item in.

The second row seats, split 60:40, can slide to and fro, providing better legroom for the third row folks on short trips in urban conditions. The seatrests come with incline functions and there is a seat-fold feature to allow entry and egress as easy as possible for the third row people. You just need to use the right controls for the respective function, which should come naturally after a while. The centre console has air vents that should keep the rear passengers travelling in cool comfort on hot days.

Power-wise, the X-Trail 2.5L comes with the boast of a new engine (QR25DE-K2) with twin CVTC or continuously variable valve timing control on both inlet and exhaust valves. The four-cylinder engine is very undersquare in configuration with 100m bore and 89mm stroke to displace 2488cc. It delivers 126kW (171hp) at a relatively high 6000rpm and 233Nm at 4000rpm. It is mated to a new, or what Nissan calls the Next Generation, Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission).

On the go, the X-Trail 2.5L shed its weight quite effortlessly as it picked up speed smoothly. We could cruise easily at legal highway speeds of 100-110km/h with the engine turning over leisurely below 2000rpm. And during the few times we had the open road to put our foot down on the accelerator pedal, it did 160-170km/h easily at around 3500rpm. If you want to select the ‘gears’, all you have to do is push the gear lever to the right from D(rive) and engage sequentially.

What we found somewhat amusing was the exhaust growl, an audible feature similar to that in the new Serena. It sounded kind of sporty and it was because the ride was so quiet with good body aerodynamics and sound deadening measure to keep noise from intruding into the passenger cabin that this was clearly heard. The X-Trail may be no GT-R but it accelerated quick enough to earn some ‘agro’ points.

Nissan is also proud to note that the latest X-Trail comes with a slew of dynamic features that it described as ‘ground-breaking’ Active Chassis Control technology. This covers Active Ride Control and Active Engine Brake (hailed as two world firsts) and Active Trace Control (a Nissan first).

The Active Engine Brake comes into play when slowing for a corner or coming to a stop. The system operates by using the CVT to apply engine braking, akin to downshifting with a manual transmission, and achieve smooth deceleration. We did find the X-Trail reducing speed more readily during drives on winding roads and in urban traffic.

Similarly, Active Ride Control is meant to achieve the same function through using different mean to slow down gently. Nissan says it automatically applies braking and adjusts engine torque after hitting a bump to smooth out the ride. Unfortunately, the roads we used frequently had been resurfaced and all the bumps that we were used to at one time were gone. The short off-road drive didn’t tell us much about this aspect.

Active Trace Control is for taking corners with confidence; it works by braking the respective wheel individually to help one steer through cleanly. We found the new X-Trail pretty confident through the corners during our drives along our favourite winding stretches. It steered well enough to tell us where we were pointing, an encouraging factor that egg us to push the Crossover at a higher speed.

Although the new X-Trail is taller than before, its body lean angle was nicely checked and that helped boost confidence further. The tyres did squeal some through the tighter corners as understeer built up progressively but that didn’t stop us from revelling in some reasonably quick corner drives.

This drive impression reinforced the one we had in Japan recently at a race track just outside Tokyo central, where we had a couple of laps with the X-Trail Hybrid. There is little doubt that the latest X-Trail is now given the technology and body profile to make its presence better noticed in the respective market, including Malaysia. Rivals had better take notice of this Nissan Crossover as it might gain attention from supporters of other brands looking for something different and more appealing.

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