Have you noticed how many models of the car you have just acquired suddenly appear on the roads? Nothing less happened when I first got into the new metallic pearl-white Nissan X-Trail 2,5 during March 2005.
The salesperson's offer to "just sit in it" initiated a chain of events leading to the papers being signed. First to hit the senses was the snug armchair-like driver's seat. Next came the aura of spaciousness, brought about by the elevated seating position, the large windows and the absence of an instrument cluster in the straightahead position. The soft-angled boxy shape also offers just enough machismo without pushing the off-road looks beyond credulity.
The centrally placed instruments are easy to read and, due to the height of the placement, the road is still visible in peripheral vision when the instruments are read - no different from a lower-placed behind-the-steering-wheel position.
Half-sold already, the quietly powerful and very tractable 2,5 litre straight-four closed the deal almost before fifth gear was reached. 132 kW power at 6 000 r/min and 245 Nm torque at 4 000 r/min haul this 1,5 tonne car from naught to 100 in slightly more than 10 seconds.
Load-carrying ability is abundant and four adults (plus a small kid) with reasonable long-weekend baggage are easily handled. Throw in the excellent suspension, and a comfortable and relaxing trip for all is assured.
Extras include two additional 12V power outlets to take care of the cellphone charger, remote MP3 player, electrical cooler box, light or whatever gadget comes to hand. Two very well placed beverage holders for the front occupants and a mini vault in the centre of the dash (all airconditioner-cooled) are but a few of the nice-to-have extras thrown in by Nissan.
Fuel consumption averages a commendable 10 l/100 km for a combination of stop/start town driving and high speed freeway trips. An interesting feature, no doubt due to the powerful engine and well-spaced gear ratios, is that average fuel consumption is little affected by the amount of cargo.
Due to body lettering proclaiming only "Nissan" and "X-Trail", the mechanical capabilities of this vehicle are understated. With the dashboard-mounted rotary dial in the 2WD position, power goes only to the front wheels.
Treacherous surfaces such as wet tarmac and gravel roads may be negotiated with much more confidence and safety by clicking the dial to AUTO. Electronic sensors then detect conditions such as acceleration or front wheel spin and automatically exerts varying amounts of pressure on a clutch just in front of the rear differential, transferring part of the available torque to the rear wheels. LOCK position ensures a permanent 57/43 front/rear torque distribution for pulling away and low speed driving in mud and sand.
The X-Trail's ride clearance of 200 mm and powerful four-wheel traction capabilities considerably broadens the horizon of the driver who is not doing serious off-roading, but does not want to shy away from difficult driving conditions that would stop any ordinary car dead.
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