Flowing with the on-going winds of change in vehicle buyers’ preferences for SUVs (sports utility vehicles), Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) is re-focusing its vehicle model range strategy in the Malaysian market.
The phasing out of the Teana means re-engaging customers with an alternative vehicle that serves similar demands and the newly introduced X-Trail facelift model has come in at the right time.
What makes the latest X-Trail a prime candidate to fulfil the demands of Teana customers is the move by Nissan to make the SUV a quieter and more refined vehicle to drive with better NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) solutions.
The improved NVH insulation measures were made in four key areas and among the usual places such as the firewall between engine bay and passenger compartment, it also included the wheel arches.
We could discern this more polished side of the new X-Trail right away and affirm the impression during the drives from the ETCM 4S centre in Glenmarie, Shah Alam to the Belum Rainforest Resort in Gerik, Perak and back.
ETCM arranged the media drive with two of the expanded four variants that the latest X-Trail now offers – the 2.0L Hybrid 2WD (a new two-wheel drive variant to top this model range) and the 2.5L 4WD (the previous range topper and only part-time four-wheel drive option).
The other new addition to the latest X-Trail range is the 2.0L MID 2WD (meaning mid specification) to pander to those who want the 2.0L 2WD model with a bit more standard equipment and leather upholstery.
The X-Trail 2.0L Hybrid 2WD also holds the boast of being the first locally assembled hybrid vehicle in the mid-range SUV segment.
As EEVs (energy efficient vehicles) already account for more than 60% of ETCM sales, the addition of the X-Trail Hybrid should boost that number further as all four variants are certified as such.
Following our positive take on the X-Trail Hybrid after the 300km plus drive (each way) over a variety of highway and b-grade roads, we feel ETCM is heading in the right direction with its model strategy here.
We began with the X-Trail Hybrid for the drive to Gerik and were impressed with the initial burst of speed as the battery kicked in to assist the primary source of power from the engine.
We were further impressed with the suppression of engine and CVT (continuously variable transmission) noise that we were already familiar with in the Serena S-Hybrid.
This was reconfirmed many times over on the highway to Ipoh where we could flex the engine to gain speed for overtaking or enjoying a quick gallop when the highway was clear.
And this impression was pretty constant right through the vehicle; from the driver’s seat, the front passenger’s viewpoint and the rear passenger’s perspective.
Wind noise was also effectively reduced even we were going above the legal speed limit and the only constant was the varying pitch of road noise coming through (gratefully at lower noise levels as well).
It must be duly noted here that the ‘silent treatment’ we enjoyed was also contributed by the updated 2.0-litre dual cam engine with twin CVTC (continuous variable-valve timing control) and more importantly, direct fuel injection.
This type of fuel feed allows better engine combustion that in turn leads to improved build-up in road speed; engine output is strong with 144PS and 200Nm.
If we had reservations about the initial vague brake pedal feel because of the unusual brake modulation that comes with energy regeneration for the hybrid system, we soon got used to its operation as we drove along.
From Ipoh to Gerik, we switched to the X-Trail 2.5L 4WD as scheduled and found the spongy brake pedal an initial set-back.
The braking performance was, however, better than expected with strong and progressive retarding action that allowed us to drive fast as we were confident we could apply the brakes and slow the X-Trail down in very good time.
With a port fuel injection engine that delivers more at 171PS and 233Nm, there was no lack of push but the greater intrusion of engine and CVT noise reminded us more of the Serena S-Hybrid.
Surprisingly, our observation of this higher engine noise intrusion was noted from the front passenger and rear passenger perspective; it sounded far better suppressed from the driver’s seat.
Perhaps the NVH insulation measures were greater around the driver’s area or there are more dashboard components and items that helped to stifle the roar.
What we enjoyed thoroughly was the good handling dynamics through the winding road route to Gerik with corners of varying camber and degree of tightness.
A taller vehicle like an SUV tends to lean more noticeably when pushed through a corner but the Nissan engineers appeared to have tuned the suspension system of the latest X-Trail well.
We could drive the X-Trail 2.5 4WD in 2WD mode very quickly through most of the corners without the SUV leaning too much and that boosted our confidence to push it harder in exploring its limits.
On a more social note, both X-Trail variants lived up to their executive tags in being silent cruisers for the benefit of everyone on board.And of course, to live up to its fresh new status are the visual changes in the front and rear such as the new V-Motion front grille and new front bumper with signature LED (light emitting diode) boomerang daytime running lights and headlamps.
The rear sees new smoked LED boomerang tail-lamps, fresh bumper design with chrome garnish and new 17-inch alloy wheels in dark titanium (except for the X-Trail 2.0L 2WD that has silver units).
Stepping inside, we noted the new leather-wrapped gear shifter to complement the leather upholstery for the variants we drove, new door panel decoration with carbon fibre design in gloss finish, fresh Piano Black air vent trims and new 5-inch Advance Drive Assist Display.
As it were, the X-Trail is already well endowed with a sporty flat bottom steering wheel with controls, dual power leather front seats with ‘Zero Gravity’ inspired technology, leatherette dashboard and kneepads, and a premium 7-inch touchscreen infotainment display.
In seating arrangement, only the non-hybrid X-Trail variants come with the 5+2 arrangement as the sizeable battery pack of the hybrid takes away a lot of interior space.
There is also a full list of ‘intelligent’ items to aid the driver in one form or the other such as the Intelligent Around View Monitor with Intelligent Moving Object Direction, Intelligent Ride Control, Intelligent Engine Brake and Intelligent Trace Control.
The last item applies the braking force on each wheel individually when taking a corner to help the driver steer smoothly through the turn, which duly did its work in getting a positive feedback from us.
The top three variants come with Lane Departure Warning (with noticeable beeps that would not come on if you use the indicators), Blind Sport Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert when reversing.
In addition, the top two models have the Intelligent Forward Collision Warning with Intelligent Forward Emergency Braking, Intelligent Cruise Control and High Beam Assist.
Despite the updates, the prices remain unchanged for the existing models; RM133,888 (on-the-road without insurance) for the X-Trail 2.0L 2WD and RM153,888 for the 2.5L 4WD.
The X-Trail 2.0L 2WD MID is available at RM145,888 and the X-Trail Hybrid tops the range at a premium RM159,888.
They come with a five years unlimited mileage warranty that includes HEV – Hybrid Electric Vehicle – components and lithium-ion HEV battery.
A two-year or 40,000km Periodic Maintenance Service is part of the launch campaign and there is a new colour to consider in the Imperial Umber hue (a metallic variation on the solid Wine Red theme).
Some good news for local Nissan customers is that a more compact SUV is due to arrive, probably within a year, to serve as the entry model with attractive prices.
That means there is an opportunity for them to enjoy a similar level of strong dynamic driving and refined motoring in a smaller and “intelligent” package.