Top speed: 116mph
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Our city streets are clogged with Chelsea tractors; their massively over-qualified drive systems patiently coping with the tediousness of the tame tarmac. So it’s a relief to set one free in the actual countryside, to let it bounce across fields on its sturdy axles and grind up treacherously muddy narrow lanes which offer all the adhesion of a water slide.
I’ve just spent a week in Nissan’s new X-Trail exploring the beautiful Golden Valley, which snakes along the flanks of the Black Mountains on the border of Wales and England, . I feel like I’ve let a hobbled pit pony have its head. This stunning wilderness is a proper brute camp for off-roaders. You can drive for miles and barely get out of second gear. And the muddier and dirtier and steeper it got, the more the X-Trail dug in. We forged fords, bumped across moors and thrashed its paintwork with brambles. The irony, of course, is that though the Welsh Marches are crying out for X-Trails and their like, most people we passed were driving knackered old Micras. Maybe all the 4x4s were off on a posh city break.
The X-Trail was launched in 2000 in Japan. It’s predecessor was the Nissan Rasheen, a name which doesn’t have quite the same tech-savvy punch. Back then, the X-Trail was a neat and boxy compact SUV, but for it’s third-generation make-over it went up a couple of sizes (it happens to us all). It is now officially the world’s best-selling SUV – and it’s easy to see why. This is now a (reasonably) affordable, tough-as-nails campaigner that is likable and reliable. It’s an all-rounder that can swallow seven people. It will tow trailers and lug heavy stuff, and it’s as happy on tarmac as it is in the mud.
The engine range kicks off with a choice of a 1.6-litre petrol or diesel, and a new more powerful 2-litre 177bhp diesel in either two- or four-wheel drive and six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. You won’t have any complaints about the handling, though equally you won’t find much to relish either. This is a car that gets the job done. And though the petrol is refined, the diesel still tends to the agricultural, even by countryside standards, though it does produce a scarcely believable 57.6mpg.
Nissan prides itself on its tech and there’s much to admire in the new X-Trail. The car has an intelligent All Mode system which swaps between 2 and 4WD, sending different levels of torque and power to each wheel as conditions demand. Soon you’ll be able to buy an X-Trail with a “ProPilot” autonomous system to make you, the driver, feel like even more of a spare part. Inside, it’s comfortable enough, but it’s been built for durability rather than luxury – it will be years before anything squeaks or rattles. In this fast-changing world, it’s good to know some things are fine just as they are.
Email Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MartinLove166
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