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Car reviews - Nissan - X-Trail - TL

Our Opinion

We like
Well-executed interior, impressive five-seat packaging, competent ride and handling
Room for improvement
Unrefined diesel engine, thrashy CVT, ordinary infotainment system

Gallery

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Nissan logo19 Feb 2018

Overview

WHILE the facelifted X-Trail range lobbed in May last year, it took diesel-powered variants another four months to join the party due to production constraints. Needless to say, updates were relatively minor, including the range-wide standard fitment of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and some cosmetic tweaks inside and out.

However, the big news was the arrival of an automatic option for the aforementioned all-wheel-drive diesel variants for the first time. Previously a manual-only proposition, these new variants open the door to a larger group of buyers who prefer their oil burners mated to a two-pedal set-up.

Considering that these new variants come with a larger 2.0-litre engine instead of their predecessor's 1.6-litre unit, are they worth the wait? We test the X-Trail in range-topping TL form to find out.

Price and equipment

Priced from the $47,290 before on-road costs, the Nissan X-Trail TL is the flagship variant in the venerable mid-size SUV range. While the facelifted X-Trail range lobbed in February last year, the diesel-powered variants were late to the party, arriving in September.

Brimming with standard equipment, the TL features adaptive LED headlights with dusk-sensing functionality, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights, a motion-sensing power tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, a space-saver spare wheel, a rear spoiler, power side mirrors with heating and LED indicators, and rain-sensing windscreen wipers. Premium paint incurs a $495 charge, with our test car finished in Gun Metallic grey.

Inside it features front and rear heated seats, an eight-speaker Bose sound system, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, digital radio, satellite navigation with live traffic, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a six-way power-adjustable driver seat with lumbar support, a four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, black leather-appointed upholstery, heated front and rear seats, and a heated steering wheel feature.

Interior

Nissan has done well to ensure a premium feel to the X-Trail’s cabin. Hard plastics are in abundance – mainly confined to lower trim – but their soft-touch counterparts grace the dashboard and front upper door trims to good effect. Better yet, lashings of (artificial) leather have been applied to the dashboard, doors and central storage bin lid. What makes these touches great is the fact that they are well cushioned, providing great comfort.

Speaking of comfort, the X-Trail offers high levels of comfort for all passengers. The driving position is great, while the seats themselves are kind to both back and bottom. Legroom and headroom are good for adults in the first and second rows, but the foot-operated park brake does have a tendency to get in the way of the driver’s left leg.

A clever EZ Flex seating system allows the 60:40 split second-row bench to fold, slide and recline at will. This is great if you need a little extra room in the boot but have to accommodate three or more passengers. Each of the three functions are easy to execute and speak to the X-Trail’s versatility packaging-wise.

Luggage capacity is 565 litres with the second row upright but can expand to 945L when the rear seats are folded flat. While it’s not the largest in class, the cargo area is certainly a useable space, enhanced by a motion-activated power tailgate with position memory that makes loading objects a breeze.

However, the X-Trail is let down by its sub-par infotainment system that lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Furthermore, the satellite navigation system is undone by vague map data that is neither crisp nor clear. The 7.0-inch touchscreen itself appears smaller than it is, thanks to its wide aspect ratio. For whatever reason, Nissan is off the mark here, easily outclassed by its rivals.

Engine and transmission

The big news here is the X-Trail TL’s new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that replaces the former 1.6-litre unit. Producing 130kW of power at 3750rpm and 380Nm of torque at 2000rpm, this turbo-diesel is a big improvement over its predecessor. Acceleration is markedly better, helping to move the mid-sizer with relative ease.

However, it is not the most refined powertrain. We would caution against muting the sound system while on the move, because the TL could easily be confused with a truck. The Germans seem to still be well ahead of the Japanese and Koreans when it comes to refined diesel engines.

This noise complaint is not helped by the TL’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that sends drive to all four wheels. Unfortunately a lot of the assumptions people have about CVTs hold true here. It thrashes, it drones, it feels like an elastic band.

Perhaps the most annoying part is how gutless it feels during low-speed rolling starts. Bury your right foot and it takes a while for anything to happen. The CVT never seems to deliver the oil burner’s best when required. However, shifting across to the Sport mode pushes the powerplant into its upper reaches, offering better performance.

Nevertheless, efficiency is the hallmark of any good CVT, and the Xtronic does a decent job of such, thanks to its Eco mode and the engine’s idle-stop technology. According to Nissan’s claim, fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres, while carbon dioxide emissions have been tested at 162 grams per km. During our time with the TL, we managed 8.9L/100km, which is a commendable effort when factoring regular city traffic and some spirited driving.

Braked towing capacity for the TL is 1650kg, a 150kg increase over the petrol-powered X-Trail variants.

Ride and handling

Despite measuring in at 4690mm long, 1820mm wide, 1740mm tall with a 2705mm wheelbase, the X-Trail is relatively adept around corners for a 1664kg (tare) mid-size SUV. An electrically assisted speed-sensitive power steering system delights with its ease of use, making parking painless and highway cruising worry-free. The main takeaway here is that it feels smaller than it is, which is a pleasant and welcome surprise.

To make things better, the X-Trail rides pretty well, too. Its independent suspension consists of MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear set-ups with stabiliser bars. On the road, this translate to a compliant ride that is happy to navigate coarser surfaces with few complaints. Like most, it is not immune to nasty potholes and the like but never feels out of control.

Happily rolling on 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/55 all-season Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Plus tyres, the TL does not suffer from the usual large-diameter issues that often spoil an otherwise good ride. Meanwhile, stopping power from the X-Trail’s ventilated disc brakes is aided by an Intelligent Engine Brake. This combination is more than adequate, even if speed is not washed away as confidently as we would like.

Safety and servicing

While the TL is yet to be tested by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), the petrol-powered X-Trail range was awarded a five-star safety rating in June 2017. Scoring 35.28 out of a possible 37 points, the Nissan had perfect scores in the side impact (16 out of 16) and pole (two out of two) crash tests.

Whiplash and pedestrian protection were assessed as ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’ respectively.

Driver-assist technologies extend to cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree camera, hill-descent control, hill-start assist, high-beam assist and a reversing camera.

Strangely, the TL misses out lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control, which are key features found in its petrol-powered Ti flagship counterpart. Why are they in one but not the other? We have no idea. To make matters even more confusing, this X-Trail does not even have front and rear parking sensors.

Passive safety features include six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), the usual electronic stability and traction aids, electronic brakeforce distribution, anti-skid brakes and brake assist.

As with all Nissan models, the X-Trail comes with a three-year/100,000km factory warranty and three years of roadside assist. Service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km – whichever comes first.

Verdict

The Nissan X-Trail has carved out its own niche in the mid-size SUV segment over the years and continues to attract buyers at a considerable rate. Thus, the facelifted TL is a significant release as X-Trail customers finally have the option of a diesel engine with all-wheel drive and an automatic. To make matters better, it is a larger, more powerful unit than before.

Unfortunately, the noisy diesel and the droney CVT hold the X-Trail back. If the powertrain was more refined and the transmission was more composed, the TL would be more appealing.

Nevertheless, the typical X-Trail characteristics carry over, including the model’s well-executed interior, impressive five-seat packaging, and competent ride and handling. One important point for buyers to be aware of is its lacklustre infotainment system which could frustrate some.

A member of one of the fastest-growing segments, the X-Trail TL has high-quality rivals left, right and centre. Is it the most exciting offering around? No. But for most buyers it is all they will ever want or need.

Rivals

Hyundai Tucson Highlander AWD diesel from $47,450 before on-road costs
Steering, handling, packaging and powertrains are all strong points for the Hyundai Tucson, but it is let down by a firm ride, vocal tyre noise and a dull cabin.

Mazda CX-5 Akera AWD diesel from $49,990 before on-road costs
Undoubtedly the driver’s car in its segment, the Mazda CX-5 features an impressive cabin and, thankfully, reduced NVH levels, but key safety tech comes at a premium.

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser AWD diesel from $50,500 before on-road costs
A segment stalwart, the Toyota RAV4 tempts buyers with roominess and practicality but detracts with its lack of rear air vents and unresolved dashboard design.

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