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Bigger and better Nissan X-Trail
  |  First Published: April 2008



The new Nissan X-Trail has changed in one dramatic way – it’s bigger. Deciding to stay with a shape that buyers were obviously happy with, Nissan simply enlarged the X-Trail to give it more interior room and a new look.

The new model has maintained the familiar Nissan 4 X 4 grille, with totally new headlights, changed rear arch design, extended wheel arches and a cargo area that's around 50% larger. With the rear seat in upright position the previous model offered around 410L of cargo space. The new model upgrades to around 603L. And with the rear seat down and folded flat (a 40 -20- 40 split) it gets even better with the load space being nearly 1700 long and close to a metre wide between wheel arches.

And just while we are looking at the tailgate area let's not overlook the fact that a very useful drawer is under the main floor as well. The floor happens to be removable and is built so that it can be hosed down.

Revised interior

The interior, particularly the dash area, has also been upgraded. Instruments are now clustered close to the steering wheel, which has many functions including the all important cruise control system. The relocation of instruments and gauges has seen the provision of a storage compartment in the central upper dash area. The compartment is large enough to easily take care of several wallets, phones, or other personal items.

Drink holders in the dash side corners are also very handy for the traveller. A nice touch in the Ti-specialised model is a larger sun roof.

Creature comforts abound with power assistance for every feature, plenty of carpet, great sound system and air conditioning, a drive computer, halogen headlights and in the Ti (as reviewed), leather trim on seats, gear shifter, park break and steering wheel. There is no need to struggle with seat adjustments either, as the Ti features six way power adjustable front seats, plus rear park assist that warns of approaching obstacles.

An upgrade to the interior has seen a move to some attractive colour schemes with black/grey tones blending nicely with brushed metal surfaces throughout.

Engine upgrade

The changes to the X-Trail go more than skin deep. The 2.5L four-cylinder engine has been refined with counter rotating balance shafts and continuous valve timing making it smoother and more responsive. Performance has been lifted: there's 125kW of power, 226Nm or torque – all slightly up on the previous model. Of interest is the vehicle's 2000kg (braked trailer) tow ratings. Can it tow a tinny? No sweat!

Two transmissions are on offer, namely a six-speed manual or Constantly Variable Transmission that is in effect a stepless auto (which I loved on the Murano) that has manual override to a six speeder. Of note is that Nissan claims that the CVT unit is even more economical than the six-speed manual, which is food for thought considering Nissan also claims consumption of 9.5L per 100km.

Backing the engine and transmission set-up is the X-Trail's All Mode 4x4-I system that allows the driver to choose between 2WD, auto, and lock modes. Two-wheel drive is suited to most normal driving conditions but can engage auto if required to shift power back to the rear wheels. In auto mode the system monitors sensors to apply the correct amount of torque between front and rear wheels at all times. When lock is selected from the dash-mounted knob, front/rear torque is split evenly to keep all four wheels driving.

Also featured are Hill Start Assist, which keeps the brake engaged for a very short time before the accelerator is depressed, plus Hill Descent Control, which uses the ABS system to apply braking pressure during steep descents. I used both systems a couple of times on fire trails in the Stanthorpe area and found the on-dash switches responded instantly to the touch.

Other X-Trail driver assist items are the Electronic Brakeforce Distribution system, Electronic Stability Program and Active Brake Limited Slip that sends power to wheels with the most grip in slippery conditions.

On the road

One must remember that the X-Trail is still an SUV (soft roader) and while blessed with a reasonable 200mm ground clearance it cannot go where a Navara or Pathfinder might simply because a low range gearing system is not part of the package. That said, there couldn’t be much wrong with the concept – this is arguably the hottest contested section of the new car market today.

The Nissan X-Trail, on the other hand, does a remarkable job of achieving that hard to find balance between on-road performance and off-road driveability. And it's all in a refined package that offers comfort, safety and a host of very practical features.

The six-speed manual Ti X-Trail that I drove was very nippy on the highway, at home in the cut and thrust of city traffic and yet surprised me with it's off road capability on bush tracks. Gullies, washouts and rough areas were traversed easily in 4x4 Lock mode. The clue was to make sure exactly where the wheels were on the track and just proceed nice and slowly.

For Mum, Dad and a couple of youngsters seeking a well finished wagon with reasonable off road credentials the X-Trail in ST, ST-L and Ti form are all worth a good hard look. The ST starts at around the $33,990 mark for an auto, which makes the overall X-Trail pricing as very sharp indeed.

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