|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Reaching the flag-off point at Nissan North EDSA, there’s something about seeing 17 X-Trails parked side-by-side that leaves you in awe. By and large, it’s a show of strength—no other car manufacturer in recent memory has had this massive number of a convoy for a driving event. Next, your eyes focus on a single X-Trail and then it hits you: it’s a handsome looking thing. Whereas the first and second-generation X-Trails looked rather boxy and upright, this new one is sexy sleek with soft, flowing contours and just the right amount of curves and lines. It contains all the styling elements that tie it in with Nissan’s latest crop of products like the Sylphy and Altima without simply looking like a lifted version of one.
Around the X-Trail, there’s a good amount of chrome embellishments, headlined by the V-Motion grille. Flanking the grille is a pair of halogen headlights with boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights which is niftily echoed in the rear lamp’s lighting signature. Across the line, the X-Trail rides on 17-inch alloys with fuel-efficient Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max 225/65R17 tires. One single nitpick though: the rear hatch handle could have been integrated into the panel above the license plate, like most crossovers, instead of just appearing a couple of inches above the bumper.
After the short briefing (and the mandatory photo opportunity), it’s time to board the cars. Stepping inside the X-Trail reveals a dramatic departure from the previous-generation models. The overall look and feel is certainly more premium with aluminum, carbon fiber, and piano black accents scattered throughout. The X-Trail feels larger than it really is, especially from behind the wheel. The small diameter steering wheel (for its size) and the expansive dash contribute to this and so does the higher seating position. The instrument panel is crisp, clean, and very easy to understand. There’s a full-color LCD that’s sandwiched by the analog tachometer and speedometer. Using the buttons on the steering wheel, the LCD displays a wealth of information from the usual trip computer functions to service interval reminders to even a screen that displays real-time torque distribution.
After disengaging the footbrake and slotting into reverse gear, the X-Trail automatically activates AroundView which offers a full 360-degree view within the car’s proximity using several cameras mounted around the X-Trail. It made getting out of the tight parking very easy and after that, you’ll never want to use anything else. The mad dash towards NLEX immediately reveals the X-Trail’s underlying character: this isn’t a sporty crossover nor is it pretending to be. Instead, it embraces the feel of a larger crossover—it’s less agile, but plusher and much more comfortable. And all the on-board systems from the steering, suspension, and even drivetrain are geared towards that fact.
Piloting the X-Trail 4WD means having the services of the QR25DE engine. It’s an evolution of the powerplant found in the previous X-Trail, but now packing 171 horsepower and 233 Nm of torque, which is about one horsepower and three Nm more than before. Mated to it is probably one of the best CVTs on the market today: Nissan’s Xtronic. It’s sweet and responsive, happy to hold revs in the range where power’s needed. It must be noted though that the engine does sound slightly boomy at the top end, thus it’s best to keep throttle mashing to a minimum. Pushing some 1,604 kilograms of weight, the X-Trail does feel initially sluggish off the line (or up hilly roads). As it gains momentum though, it gets into the zone. It’s a smooth operator with great levels of NVH isolation. Tire, wind, and road noise are kept in check even at high speeds enabling you to actually carry a normal conversation without having to shout. Nissan is promising top-notch fuel economy figures for the X-Trail, reaching up to 16.4 km/L in Japanese market tests. During this drive though, the figure topped out at 13.5 km/L and hovered at around 10 km/L throughout the trip. These figures were achieved with the ECO function turned on. This system turns on an ambient coaching light, regulates pedal input, and even the CVT’s response.
Driving the X-Trail is a fatigue-free experience. Aside from not having to deal with shift shock, the front seats are simply amazing. The “zero gravity” seats sound like something straight off the Home Shopping Network, but they absolutely work. Even after four and a half hours of driving, you won’t even feel a single ache or pain. And while driving, you won’t find yourself sliding around or wiggling for better support or comfort.
In terms of dynamics, the X-Trail is well beyond its predecessors. At low speeds, the electric power steering is feathery light and can be turned by finger effort alone. At higher speeds, it becomes nicely weighted with good on-center feel. Aside from good steering feel, the X-Trail rides comfortably on almost any surface. In the city, it’s simple and easy enough to maneuver, but it’s also stable and smooth on the highway. Nissan has also employed a host of technologies to keep the X-Trail on the road including Active Engine Braking that enhances slowing on grades and improving stopping feel, Hill Start Assist, and Hill Descent Control. There’s also Active Ride Control which applies the brakes and adjusts engine torque to reduce body roll and vehicle vibration. All these systems work well and largely go unnoticed by the driver unless you happen to find yourself in the ‘Chassis Control’ menu of the multi-function display.
Aside from its host of techy features, setting the X-Trail apart from most compact crossovers is the standard third row of seats. This bumps up the overall capacity to seven. Accessing the rearmost seats is easy with a second row that slides forward and back with the pull of a lever. But warned though: this is a feature clearly designed more for children. In other words: don’t think third row, think jump seats. That said, the second row is perfectly comfortable complete with its own air conditioning vents.
With a strong model name recall, the X-Trail is probably single-handedly the most important vehicle for Nissan Philippines to get right. And they have. With pricing that tops out at P 1,580,000, the X-Trail is speced and featured to compete in the ultra-competitive compact crossover segment. Buyers and pundits alike may have dismissed the Nissan brand of late, but the arrival of the X-Trail will undoubtedly change all that. Not only is it a far better offering than the model it replaces, it also manages to carve up a new reputation for being a comfortable and enjoyable crossover.