New Nissan Teana: Bigger and More Dynamic

By Lee Pang Seng
THE Nissan Teana has returned as a new model to slug it out in an increasingly competitive market. When it was introduced as a locally assembled model in 2010, its main rivals were the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Since then, the D-segment market has progressively seen new faces that are available at very competitive prices, both from the west and the east: VW Passat and Peugeot 407; and the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima respectively.

Malaysians are, however, generally loyalists in that they like to stick with the proven and Nissan strikes a familiar chord with many. It is the younger generation of buyers who have different ideals and are more willing to try newer brands, and as long as they are paying for the car, the new players have a chance to get a foot into the market.

It’s pretty clear that Nissan still command a strong following with progressively increasing numbers in vehicle sales to back that over the past decade. And the new Teana will continue to find favour among the many loyalists who had found the previous model appealing and attractive.

The latest Teana has evolved a fair bit although its basic profile is largely similar, giving it a fresh aura to heighten its appeal. Dimensionally, there are significant changes in the body although the wheelbase has remained unchanged from the old at 2775mm. It is 35mm longer at 4885mm, 45mm wider at 1530mm and marginally taller by 5mm at 1485mm.

The more important changes are under the skin such as the new four-cylinder 2.5-litre engine replacing the V6 unit in the previous model, an updated XTRONIC CVT (continuously variable transmission), an electro-hydraulic steering system to replace the previous hydraulic item, and an Active Understeer Control (AUC) for safer vehicle handling under adverse conditions.

The two model line-up is retained, this being the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre options. The former, which is available in two variants – higher spec 2.0XL and 2.0XE – retains the same MR20DE engine as before with single CVTC (continuously variable-valve timing control) on the inlet valves. This is the undersquare unit with 84mm bore and 90.1mm stroke, displacing 1997cc, which delivers 100kW (136PS) at 5600rpm and 190Nm at 4400rpm.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder unit is the newly developed QR25DE model with twin CVTC acting on both the inlet and exhaust valves. It is also undersquare in configuration with an 89mm bore and 100mm stroke (a shift from the oversquare design of the previous V6) and output is mixed: power is lower as expected at 127kW (173PS) at 6000rpm from 134kW (182PS) at the same peak point while there is more torque at 234Nm peaking at 4000rpm against 228Nm at 4400rpm.

The XTRONIC CVT common to both models (with different final drive ratios, a taller one for the smaller displacement model) sees 70 per cent of its components being improved and redesigned to reduce internal friction. This enhances its efficient running and durability while being more positive in acceleration performance to be on equal footing with the automatic transmission. This ‘next generation’ CVT is also said to return better fuel mileage than the previous version, and Nissan’s internal tests revealed the new Teana 2.0-litre model achieving a combined fuel mileage of 13.5km/l and the 2.5-litre model slightly behind at 13.3km/l.

On the move, the new Teana has the pace to stretch its legs on the highway easily at speeds above legal benchmarks, with the engine turning over easily in the 2000 to 3000rpm range (the Teana 2.0 did 190km/h quick enough with the engine turning at 4500rpm). Flooring the accelerator for overtaking or just to sample its gut acceleration brought out a busy and sharp note from the engine at above 4000rpm in the mix of intake roar and exhaust extraction. It wasn’t intrusive with the good insulation material on the bonnet and firewall to mute the higher engine noise.

Those who are used to the guttural roar of the V6 would note the difference as that was definitely missing. There was now no audible difference in driving either displacement model, other than to enjoy the slight advantage of power-to-weight ratio with the bigger 2.5-litre Teana. After all, both are now powered by four-cylinder engines that produce similar resonance and characteristics.

There did seem to be better engine response with the new 2.5-litre model during overtaking as it was now lighter than the previous model. Having a lighter four-cylinder engine against a heavier V6 unit helped to reduce overall vehicle weight. The new Teana 2.5 now tipped the scale at below 1520kg (kerb weight), while the previous V6 model weighed in at 1540kg. The 2.0-litre weighed more or less the same as before at about 1447-1456kg, depending on models.

Although there was no major change in the suspension set-up – MacPherson strut front and independent multi-link rear – the new Teana took to the winding stretches of the Felda areas near Tanjung Malim well during the 200km media preview drive. Body lean was nicely checked, no doubt with reasonably thick anti-roll bars front and rear. We also selected Sport mode on the XTRONIC CVT that kept engine speed at 3500 to 4000rpm so that optimum torque was available to maintain good road traction (going back to normal drive mode lowered engine speed to the 2000rpm range). The Teana 2.0 ran on 215/60 R16 Continental tyres and the 2.5 was on 215/55 R17 rubbers.

We believe the AUC (Active Understeer Control) might have a hand in that too. We had a better impression of this AUC in action at an open carpark back in KL that was hosed in certain sections to simulate a wet patch. The procedure was to drive to the wet section, turn sharply right and lift off the accelerator pedal. The AUC came into play by ‘logically’ controlling the VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) and TCS (Traction Control System) to stabilise the car so that we could subsequently turn sharply left without losing car control.

Speed also factored in strongly: we hit the wet spot at about 60-70km/h during the three runs we made and came away fairly neatly. There were other media members who attempted higher speeds and the law of physics showed clearly that there was a limit to everything, resulting in loss of vehicle control through spins, fishtailing and ploughing into cones set to mark the course. Nevertheless, driving within one’s limits should allow one the pleasure of enjoying proper vehicle control with the AUC on adverse road conditions.

An important feedback that was relevant to the Teana and cars of this segment was the ride comfort, both in feel and audibly. On the highway, the Teana’s aerodynamic efficient body, which was similar to the old, was good enough to keep air turbulence to a minimum. Other than the slight rustle around the door mirrors, the upper window areas and the roof, we could carry a normal conversation while gunning along the highway.

We didn’t feel much of the road either. The suspension impressed as well tuned to absorb impact harshness over bumps, potholes and ridges as well as rumble strips and reduce the noise generated by the tyres over the varying surfaces. Playing its part in all this are the improvements made to reduce vibration: new engine and exhaust mounts, greater body rigidity, and higher use of noise absorption materials (an increase of 30 per cent over the previous model) in several key areas including the roof, instrument panel, and floor mats.

Driver comfort is also emphasised in the ‘Zero-Gravity Inspired’ seat, an offshoot of space research. What it is supposed to do is to support the spine area so that there is minimal load, reducing driver fatigue on long distance drives. We felt pretty good at the end of our drives (despite the many driver changes along the 200km route), particularly with the adequate thigh support.

The instrument panel now featured individually located dials instead of overlapping ones in the previous model, while the centre dash area saw an integration of the fairly large mutli-info display with the radio and air-conditioning control panel. And the passive safety standard was raised with six airbags for all the new Teana range. At the time of the drive, we were not told of the price other than it would remain competitive. (See the car launch story.)

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