|The current X-Trail is refreshed for 2013, and is the second generation variant that first broke cover in 2010. The X-Trail was well-received when it first debuted in 2001, before getting a new chassis (2nd generation) in 2007, which continued to enrich Edaran Tan Chong Motor’s (ETCM) coffers.|
3 years and many satisfied customers later, ETCM decided to bring in the fully imported mid-model refresh of the 2nd gen X-Trail, albeit with only one power and drivetrain choice of a 2-liter 2WD version with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT with 6 pseudo ratios. The 2.0-liter MR20DE DOHC powerplant with CVTC (Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control) in the X-Trail is the same frugal engine that drives the Sylphy and Teana, with 139PS@5,200rpm and 198Nm@4,400rpm on tap to drive the front wheels, and replaces the older, slightly more powerful but fuel hungry QR20DE. One jarring omission from its predecessor is the sophisticated All-Mode 4×4 AWD system (based on the Skyline GT-R). With local assembly no longer feasible for the ageing 2nd generation, ETCM had to decide on just one variant to bring in from Indonesia while keeping costs below the RM150,000 mark.
Nissan X-Trail: Looking Sharp
Aesthetics wise, the front grille has been reworked to make it sleeker, while the front and rear bumpers have also been restyled to give it a more sporty and modern appeal. The headlamps are a totally new affair, complete with Xenon (HID) equipped projectors and an L-shaped LED array. As per ECE regulations, said projectors come equipped with headlamp washers. The rear combi lamps have also received their fair share of rejuvenation with the inclusion of an LED cluster that helps improve visibility from further away. The wheels have also been updated to 17” alloys. All in all, the refreshed X-Trail remains relevant in today’s SUV market until the 3rd generation X-Trail with a totally new bodyshell comes along in probably two years. Considering the number of aesthetic enhancements made to the original 2nd gen X-Trail, Nissan deserves praise for spending considerable effort, where most manufacturers would simply make minor enhancements with minimal changes to the overall package.
Nissan X-Trail: Creature comforts
A new black-gray toned interior welcomes you into the cabin of the 2nd-Gen X-Trail. The first thing that I noticed as I stepped into the driver’s seat was a little stub covering the starter keyhole. With the remote in my pocket, all I had to do was twist the stub clockwise like I would any ordinary ignition sequence to get things started. It sure beats having to stick a key into the ignition keyhole, though it’s not as convenient and sophisticated as having a push start button. However, the stub is merely a different means to an end, which is to keep the remote in your pocket at all times. There are no steering mounted controls, but as far as modernization is concerned, you get a 6-inch Sat/Nav touchscreen console complete with reverse camera and iPod/BlueTooth connectivity. The touchscreen is of the resistive variety, but an adequately refined version that requires the softest of touches to get things moving along. Said resistive screens might still be more relevant for motoring, especially if you drive with gloves on.
A large tray with retractable lid resides on top of the navigation system, perfect for your wallet, smartphone etc and you can even keep a paperback novel in there; it’s quite sizeable. A cup holder sits on either side of the dash above the side air vents, with an option to direct cool air towards your choice of cola. I’m thinking out loud here, and it’s a long shot, but wouldn’t it be cooler (pun) to have incorporated a Peltier device to cool or warm your drinks instead? Additional cutaways along the front fascia provide space to organize your knick-knacks, while adequately sized cubby holes in the door panels and handbrake console provide even more space to store your possessions.
The Fine Vision Meter cluster provides excellent visibility in the day and at night, while a large, rectangular multi-information display (MID) reports on ambient temperature, time, instant and average fuel economy, distance traveled and gear position at a glance. The steering wheel, though minimalist in design, is leather wrapped so it feels premium to the touch and has a nice weighting, thanks to the inclusion of EPS. EPS systems have improved over time, doing away with early examples that were less engaging and lifeless. It all boils down to the tuning of steering effort which manufacturers are beginning to get the hang of.
Both front seats of the new X-Trail are of the powered variety, adding to the list of creature comforts. You can’t find many SUVs at this price point with this feature, so thumbs up to Nissan for keeping this in the feature mix, along with the fine Xenon headlights which were previously reserved for the higher spec-ed 2.5-liter model. The rear seats feature three height adjustable headrests and a convertible center armrest provides access to the boot area. Pulling the armrest down reveals two storage compartments to store even more knick-knacks, perfect for the kids to keep their PSPs and even an iPad Mini. Rear air-condition vents are a welcome sight, to keep the temperature in check when ferrying passengers.
There’s not much to talk about the cargo hold of the X-Trail as there’s not much that’s new, but for those unfamiliar with the car, let’s just say that the X-Trail will comfortably carry a few mountain bikes (with the front wheels removed) and more. Partitions along the floorboard allow you to configure the cargo hold between 479 liters and 603 liters (with the partition boards removed), while the 60:40 folding rear seats fold flat for a lot more volume should you ever need it. The right side partition board comes with a sliding tray complete with (more) configurable partitions within the tray itself. Talk about versatility.
Nissan X-Trail: Mechanical considerations
Keeping in tune with current market demands, Nissan decided to drop the fuel efficient MR20DE DOHC motor into the heart of the X-Trail to replace the ageing QR20DE. On paper, the former loses 11PS and 2Nm to the outgoing motor, but fights back with better efficiency. As mentioned, the MR20DE currently serves the Sylphy and Teana, and being mated to an XTronic CVT, the loss in output is largely academic. A continuously variable transmission dynamically adjusts its ratios to suit driving conditions and loads, allowing the engine to work at its most efficient rpms; in other words, more horses are available at any given ratio and vehicle speed, akin to a soft turbo application. A CVT also has minimal transmission losses compared to a traditional slushmatic, so in reality the X-Trail is hardly ever caught short or out of breath. A major benefit, apart from better efficiency, is the smooth, cosseting drive of a CVT where you can’t feel the gears changing up.
Up front, the X-Trail is suspended by independent struts with coil springs, while a multi-link system with coil springs holds up the rear. Going over speed breakers, the front clears it with a supple yet firm rebound, but the rear tends to feel a little harsh for my liking. It’s as if the front and rear suspensions weren’t in sync; whereas the front dispenses humps with aplomb and finesse, the rear jars you back to reality. The only reason I can think of for this setup is to accommodate large amounts of luggage in the substantial cargo hold of the X-Trail, where a softer setup would bottom too easily. The only way around it is to take your time to cross the obstacles in your way. While the absorbers do a good job of damping the ride, the coil springs were a little on the soft side, with the net result of a slight wallowing effect on uneven terrain, which pretty much sums up most of our roads, tarmac or otherwise. Passengers reported feeling a little lethargic after a long drive. The X-Trail, in my opinion, deserves a slightly firmer spring setup. Having said that, straight line stability was excellent up to legal highway speeds and slightly beyond. As far as overall ride quality is concerned, the X-Trail gets the job done.
In terms of output, the XTronic CVT mates well with the MR20DE to deliver a seamless driving experience in everyday situations, be it climbing inclines or overtaking. Simply step on the throttle, the CVT switches ratios, and you’re off. As expected, there is the usual slight delay in between flooring the throttle and waiting for the X-Trail to surge ahead, due to the “rubberband” effect of a CVT. You can also choose to drive it the old fashion way by switching over to Manual mode with 6 prescribed ratios, though the absence of paddle shifters makes it a little cumbersome. I prefer to stick to plain ol’ Automatic mode and let the gearbox take care of business in the background.
Nissan X-Trail: Sound and noise
The Sat/Nav unit in the X-Trail sounds adequately pleasing, but try not to boost the bass or treble too much; it will muddy up the sound. When we collected the car, the audio sounded awful, like having two cheap portable players in the doors. Keep things neutral and the unit will reward you with a pleasing sound. It’s not the best out there, but certainly not the worst. A full range speaker sits in each of the 4 doors to deliver the audio, with no additional tweeters mounted in the dash of 6 speaker setups in other vehicles. As far as full range speakers go, there’s only so much that they can do. Nonetheless, after tweaking the tonal controls, I was able to coax the unit to sing a more pleasing tune; it actually sounded decent!
As for noise, you won’t find any cricket orchestra playing in the background. The car has clocked more than 6,500km when we took it, and everything felt tight and still new. Tire noise was well damped up to 90km/h, and reasonably inaudible up to 110km/h. Wind noise was present at higher speeds, but it was muted enough for carrying out a conversation with the rear passengers without having to shout out loud. The engine and CVT are really great bedfellows, pulling the X-Trail along without much fuss and theatrics in the noise department. It is only when called upon to breach 4,000rpm did we hear the MR20DE through the firewall, and even then it wasn’t loud or coarse. In most situations, you will find that 2,000 turns is all you need to go about your daily routine.
Nissan X-Trail: Relevance in today’s market
Being a rehashed variant, the 2013 X-Trail isn’t fundamentally too different from its predecessor. However, the lack of drive and powertrain choices will indeed alienate some buyers, but for the majority of X-Trail customers, this 2nd-gen X-Trail might still be well received until the next generation arrives. At RM148,800.00 OTR, this pits the X-Trail squarely against its equivalent from the Honda camp, the new CR-V. However, in its defense the X-Trail has factory-fitted Xenon projectors, powered front seats, efficient and seamless XTronic CVT and a highly configurable cargo hold, and is fully imported. It also has that more rugged outlook to suggest an active outdoor lifestyle. If any of the above rings a bell, it might be worthwhile to give the X-Trail a look.
Text and images by Greg Yang