Road test: 2006 Nissan X-Trail SE AWD | Driving

15 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Road test: 2006 Nissan X-Trail SE AWD | Driving
Nissan X-Trail

Road test: 2006 Nissan X-Trail SE AWD

SMALL

The X-Trail is Nissan#8217;s entry in the growing compact sport-utility vehicle segment. The rationale behind its launch in 2005 is not difficult to grasp #8212; since 1999, Canada#8217;s appetite for these smaller sport-utes has more than tripled and now accounts for close to half of all SUV sales.

What#8217;s a little more difficult to follow is the pricing strategy. While the base XE front-wheel-drive X-Trail comes in at a respectably affordable $26,248, it is possible to add $11,000 in options to this base #8212; the end result is the fully loaded, leather-lined LE. Between the two extremes sits the SE tested here.

This model brings a decent audio package, comfortable heated cloth seats, a privacy cover and Nissan#8217;s #8220;Pana#8221; roof. This thing is about three times the size of a normal sunroof and, with the sunshade open, the cabin takes on a light, airy feel. The test vehicle also came with some pricey optional equipment that#8217;s new this year #8212; a full navigation system with a seven-inch colour screen ($2,500) and the adventure pack ($1,200).

The latter adds #8220;hyper#8221; roof rails (which have built-in overhead driving lights), 17-inch alloy wheels and P215/60R17 tires.

You#8217;ll also find the usual power items, steering wheel-mounted cruise controls and plenty of storage space including two glove compartments ahead of the passenger, another bin ahead of the driver, pockets galore and a large box in the centre console that is both heated and cooled (it taps into the HVAC system to blow warm/cool air into the box). The front cup holders are also heated and cooled and include a spot to store a bottle cap.

The X-Trail#8217;s low ride height allows easy access to the cabin#8217;s logical but unconventional layout. As the entire instrument panel is symmetrical about its mid-point, everything of consequence is housed in the overly dominant centre stack #8212; the instrumentation (which is clean and includes a tachometer and an outside temperature readout) sits at the top followed by the navigation screen, radio (which only has a single-slot CD because of the navi screen) and climate controls in descending order.

The design ensures everything is easy to reach. The notable exception is the power mirror control switch. It sits so low (down on the left lower dash) and far from the driver that it is not possible to adjust the mirrors while sitting in the usual driving position.

In the rear, the seat is rather bench-like but comfortable. Behind this is a large cargo compartment that delivers 29.2 cubic feet with the 60/40-split/folding seats up and 72.8 cu. ft. when folded flat. It also has some appreciated extras #8212; reclining backrests, a ski pass-through hidden behind the centre armrest, a cargo net and cargo floor that can be removed and hosed off when dirty.

The missing element is a rear window that opens independently of the tailgate, although it does feature a much-needed washer and wiper.

The same 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine (complete with variable valve timing) that does duty in the Altima powers the X-Trail. As such, it pumps out 165 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. While the initial launch is a little soft (which explains the zero-to-100-kilometres-an-hour time of 10.2 seconds), it picks up nicely as soon as the variable valve timing starts to do its thing.

This brings a decent mid-range (80-120 km/h in eight seconds) and a commendably quiet work ethic. The tester also came equipped with the $1,000 four-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is standard). Its crisp shifts and willing kickdown ensure overall performance is up to class standards.

The X-Trail#8217;s all-wheel-drive system is advanced for this segment, as it is more proactive than the straight slip first/grip later systems that tend to be the norm. When the automatic mode is selected (the system also offers front-wheel-drive and locked modes), all of the power is fed to the road through the front wheels. Should they slip (or the system detects the likelihood of slippage because of rapid throttle input), it begins to shuttle up to 50% of the power rearward.

In operation, the system is seamless and remarkably refined to the feel #8212; there is little drivetrain windup during a full-lock parking manoeuvre.

When it comes to ride and handling, the X-Trail is surprisingly well balanced, as the suspension (complete with anti-roll bars back and front) is compliant enough to deal with potholed roads yet firm enough to control body roll. Indeed, I have just two minor quibbles #8212; the steering is a little vague on-centre and there is a hint of trailing throttle oversteer.

When the gas is lifted heading into a corner, the nose tends to tuck in and so the back end feels a little light until the suspension hunkers down. The instant this happens, the X-Trail rides out a fast corner with little drama.

While the X-Trail is boxier than most of its competition, it has some very likable aspects #8212; ample power that#8217;s helped enormously by the transmission#8217;s performance, a better than average all-wheel-drive system, decent road manners and a versatile and comfortable interior. If you can get by the pricing, it is worth a test drive.

THE SPECS:

Nissan X-Trail

TYPE OF VEHICLE Compact sport-utility vehicle

ENGINE 2.5L DOHC four-cylinder

POWER 165 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 170 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm

TRANSMISSION Four-speed automatic

BRAKES Four-wheel disc with ABS

TIRES P215/60R17

PRICE: BASE/AS TESTED $26,248/$34,973

EQUIPMENT AS TESTED Air conditioning, cruise control, power locks/windows/mirrors, Pana sunroof, six-way manual adjustment driver#8217;s seat with adjustable lumbar, heated cloth seats, single-disc in-dash CD player, keyless entry/anti-theft and immobilizer, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and EBD, full-sized spare tire, Adventure package ($1,200), Navigation package ($2,500)

Nissan X-Trail
Nissan X-Trail
Nissan X-Trail
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