In the circus that the international motor industry has become recently, roles have altered and versatility has become a true virtue. The crowd has stopped paying to watch tired elephants from the bleachers and now wants to see dynamic magic shows from a comfortable seat. Nissan, always a solid performer has now stepped up to the main stage and shown that it has a few tricks up its sleeve. The latest X-Trail is a testament to Nissan’s ability to try new moves and listen to its audience whether applauding or jeering.
The concept of a highly versatile, easy to operate, compact 4wd is a true tightrope balancing act. The 2008 X-Trail is the model’s second incarnation, and although the styling is very similar, improvements have been made in many areas over Nissan’s first attempt.
The X-Trail’s styling is square and basic, it’s the type of shape that will always get an even split of critics and admirers. Chrome detailing and sharp 17-inch alloys dress up the basic look of the X-trail. What impresses me about the overall styling of the X-Trail is its ability to still look like a 4wd, with a chunky and sharp-angled appeal. One big advantage of the boxy styling is being able to see exactly where the front ends, and also being able to guess well at the rear. Unfortunately the rear pillar is quite wide and this can create a blind spot, but this is negated to an extent by large and effective wing-mirrors.
The X-Trail’s interior is where the real magic happens. The cabin is spacious and comfortable. The seats could offer more side support but are well padded and finished in soft leather. There is a feeling of quality to the cabin – everything that opens shuts again well and anything that’s touched feels sturdy. The centre control console is easy to use and the buttons are thoughtfully laid out so you seldom need to take your eyes from the road for more than a split-second. Equipment-wise, the X-Trail brings a big bag of tricks including climate control, cruise, power-heated front seats, six-stack CD player, sunroof, alarm and trip computer. The back seat has a 40/20/40 split system where two passengers can sit in the rear while folding down the centre seat for long objects like skis. For the X-Trail’s grand finale there is a false floor in the back with drawers underneath, so expensive items can be hidden away. When this floor is removed and the backseats are folded down the X-trail has a whopping 1773 litres of storage space, so there is little need for a roof rack.
At performance time the X-Trail is no clown. The tested vehicle had a 4-cylinder diesel motor with a 6-speed automatic transmission putting out 110kW of power and 380Nm of torque. It won’t break land speed records but can move well when required. The diesel motor runs quite loud particularly when cold which was disappointing. Fuel economy is top notch considering the X-Trail’s portly weight, achieving 8.1l/100km combined. The 6-speed box changes gear well but the power delivery from accelerator pedal through to tyres has a moment’s delay, and needs to be worked accordingly.
The X-trail can’t offer sports car handling, and does have the body roll you’d expect from an SUV. However, the steering is very predictable and the despite the X-Trail’s size it’s very manoeuvrable at all speeds. Grip is good thanks to the large wheels and the overall ride is absorbent and comfortable with generally good noise suppression in the cabin while cruising. If the scene changes and you’re heading off road the X-Trail can be changed into 4wd with the flick of a knob. There is also an ‘AUTO’ setting where the driver can relax knowing the vehicle’s clever electronics are dictating how to divide power for optimum traction. Drive can be redirected as much as 100 percent to the front (with 0 percent to rear) or up to 43 percent rear (57 percent front) almost immediately and as required. This makes the X-Trail well capable of sliding round a paddock or climbing a steep gravel path.
When it comes to safety the X-Trail is a total strongman, packing an electronic stability programme (ESP) with hill descent control and hill start assist. Six airbags are loaded and ready to turn on a pyrotechnic show if things turn ugly.
To summarise, the X-Trail is rightly marketed on its versatility but is no one trick pony and has strengths in ride comfort and ease-of-use. It has a solid build quality, works well for carrying various cargo and passengers and offers good value for its admission price. Even with the X-Trail’s generous dimensions you never feel like you’re riding an elephant and it gives the illusion of a smaller car for the driver while retaining all the advantages of a large vehicle. The new X-Trail is undoubtedly one of Nissan’s finest acts.
Click through to the next page for specifications.
Price: from $35,750
What we like
- Highly functional
- Off-road capable
- Clever interior storage options
- Good economy for size
What we don’t like
- Noisy diesel motor
- Wide rear pillar
- Front seat support
- Looks like a circus freak from some angles
Nissan X-Trail Diesel (2008) – Specifications
2.0 litre, Turbo Diesel
Displacement (cc) 1995
Bore x Stroke (mm) 8 84 x 90
Compression ratio 15.6:1
Max power (kW @ rpm) manual/auto 127@3750/110@4000
Max torque (Nm @ rpm) manual/auto 360@2000/320@2000
Induction — Sequential multi-point fuel injection with detonation sensor
Common-rail — Direct Injection
Emission control — Catalytic converter
Alternator — 12 volt
6-speed automatic with M-Mode Opt OptContinuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with M-Mode Opt Opt OptIntelligent
ALL MODE 4×4-i with electronic 4WD selection Including Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) & Traction Control System (TCS).
Ratio 1st automatic 4.199
Ratio 2nd automatic 2.405
Ratio 3rd automatic 1.583
Ratio 4th automatic 1.161
Ratio 5th automatic 0.855
Ratio 6th automatic 0.685
Ratio Reverse automatic 3.457
Overall length (mm) 4630
Overall width (mm) 1785
Overall height (mm) 1685
Wheelbase (mm) 2630
Track front/rear (mm) 1530/1535
Turning circle (m) 10.8
Ground clearance (mm) 200
Tare weight (kg) manual/auto 1643/1673
GVM (kg) manual/auto 2150/2170
Approach Angle (degrees) 26
Departure Angle (degrees) 22
Rated Towing Capacity
Trailer with brakes (kg) manual/auto 2000/1350
Trailer without brakes (kg) 750
Fuel type — Unleaded (ULP)
Fuel tank capacity (litres) 65
Fuel economy — ADR 81/01 1/100km manual 7.4
Fuel economy — ADR 81/01 1/100km CVT auto 9.3
6-speed auto 8.1
Words Adam Mamo, photography Adam Mamo and Darren Cottingham