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Dude, don’t call me hybrid! Nissan takes aim at rival RAV4 with its own petrol-electric SUV

16 Feb 2023



NISSAN has offered the Australian motoring media a steer of its X-Trail e-Power with e-Force this week, around six weeks after the model first started making its way into local dealerships. And to be truthful, the wait was worthwhile.


Although technically a ‘hybrid’, the petrol-electric mid-sized and five-seat-only SUV is not cut from the same cloth as rivals like the Toyota RAV4, instead using a petrol engine to charge the battery – or supply current directly to the inverter – which in turn powers the electric motors driving the wheels.


Typically, hybrid setups such as those found in the RAV4 can use the petrol motor to provide motive power, and therein lies the difference, Nissan says.


But to what cause, I hear you ask. Is it more efficient? Not especially. Is it cheaper to build? Most certainly not. Is it better to drive? You betcha!


And for Nissan, that last point is worth the heartache (check out our interview with Nissan Technical Centre of Europe deputy director Adam Robertson here).


Away from the techy side of things, the ‘hybridised’ X-Trail is no more difficult to operate or understand that any other self-charging hybrid. There are no messy cables, no lengthy wait times at the charging dock, no annoying subscriptions, and no look-at-me EV styling. Just put petrol in the tank and drive away.


Available in two trim grades for now – Ti and Ti-L – the highly specified e-Power with e-4orce X-Trails are priced from $54,190 and $57,190 plus on-road costs respectively, or around $4200 more than the petrol-powered equivalent.


To look at it another way, the very-long-name X-Trail Ti is $2990 more than a Toyota RAV4 Cruiser AWD Hybrid and the Ti-L some $2040 more than the RAV4 Edge AWD Hybrid.


Nissan says its innovative e-Power technology, which has been available in other Nissan markets and in other Nissan vehicles (e.g., Note) for some time, is EV-like since the drive wheels are powered only by the electric motors and not the internal combustion  engine.


Response is always instant, linear, and smooth while the twin-motor all-wheel-drive system promises to deliver strong levels of traction and acceleration in all conditions.


Power comes from a high-output 1.8kWh battery integrated with a petrol engine, power generator, inverter, and twin electric motors (150kW/330Nm front axle, 100kW/195Nm rear axle with a combined system output of 157kW). Petrol power comes from a 106kW/250Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder variable compression (from 8:1 to 14:1) Atkinson cycle turbocharged unit.


Torque may be split between the front and rear axle in a fraction of a second, or from left to right (torque vectoring by brake) as required. When full acceleration is needed, the system can hustle the X-Trail to 100km/h in a zesty 7.0 seconds.


ADR Combined cycle fuel economy is listed at 6.1 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions are listed at 139 grams per kilometre (when operated on 95RON premium unleaded petrol).


To read more specification and pricing details of the Nissan X-Trail e-Power with-4orce click here.



Driving Impressions


e-Power with e-Force… seriously?


There are more e’s here than a 90s rave party. I mean, we get it. There’s electricity involved, and it is good. We’re just not sure we need so many descriptors (and badges) to get the point across.


Nissan really wanted to prove how driveable the electrified X-Trail is by throwing it down some of the Queensland hinterland’s most gnarly C roads. These are the kind of stretches you’d happily enjoy on two wheels, in an MX-5, or perhaps a Nissan Z; and not, ordinarily, in a family-sized mum bus.


But the drive was entirely enjoyable – and we guess that’s the point. Owning a planet-saving hybrid needn’t mean missing out on the joy of a weekend drive; nor packing the kids, the dog, the camping gear and anything else you want to take along with you. Heck, it can even tow.


Unlike other hybrids we’re perhaps more used to, there’s little of the on-and-off sensation when driving the X-Trail. The petrol engine is far less intrusive and the sensation between ear and throttle better connected. While other petrol-electric cars may peak and rev unnecessarily – and out of sync with the throttle position – the e-Power system is more progressive and, dare we say, more natural.


Progress is far more linear too. The X-Trail accelerates more like an electric car than a vehicle with a petrol motor on board. It is quick to get underway from the lights, and smooth when passing. We had no issue climbing steep grades and, pleasingly, found the electric side of the operation was able to sustain itself far longer than is possible in conventional hybrid arrangements.


And while the battery pack, electric motors and inverters do add a chunk of weight to the X-Trail, we have to say it is well centred and suitably contained. The clever braking system employed by the X-Trail e-Power with e-4orce helps calm the pitching motion experienced both under throttle and braking to keep the car more level – a bonus for sufferers of motion sickness and a great all-round addition to a more serene drive.


Even poking along through undulated roads and in and out of winding corners the X-Trail remains very well composed, the all-wheel drive system contributing its own smarts in helping to deliver a sure-footed drive, even over the appropriately named “Goat Track” we experienced as part of the launch route.


We also found how easy it was to regenerate power to the battery courtesy of some extended downhill runs. Selecting B (or Braking mode) from the gearshift allowed us to top the battery up to 90 per cent within a short amount of time, which contributed significantly to our next uphill grade.


With a little thought, we believe it would be possible to achieve the manufacturers claim with relative ease, but in enjoying the power and grip offered on Queensland’s cracking hinterland roads, the best we managed was 8.4 litres per 100km.


The Nissan X-Trail e-Power with e-4orce might sound like something of a mouthful, and it may be a little tricky to understand the technology involved. But in practice the vehicle is easy to live with and an absolute pleasure to drive.


Let’s hope Nissan makes a cheaper one, perhaps a 2WD version without all the bells and whistles so that more of us have a chance to experience it. Like Nissan’s engineers said, bums in seats will sell this car. We reckon they might be right.


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