We were invited to Slovenia, the ‘green heart of Europe’ to check out Nissan’s all-new, 4th generation X-Trail, with its new unique ‘hybrid-electric’ powertrain and e-4ORCE AWD system. It is an adventurous combination that delivers an ‘EV-like’ driving experience on all terrains, without the need to plug in.
With over 21,000 units already gracing NZ roads, it’s fair to say that the previous three generations of the Nissan X-Trail have already made a big impression. However, not happy to rest on their laurels, the new ‘fourth-generation’ X-TRAIL is completely new from the ground up.
It sits on an all-new CMF-C platform and is shorter, wider and taller than the outgoing model. It has a more adventurous design that’s more in keeping with the 2nd generation X-Trail but with a far more modern bent.
Up front, there’s an evolved take on the ‘V-Motion’ grille, new LED headlights and functional lower air vents. The new X-Trail showcases a ‘floating’ roofline with a full-sized panoramic sunroof that’s supported by big ‘b-pillars’, while space has been intentionally left within the wheel arches to emphasise the SUV’s adventurous attitude. The doors open 85-degrees for easy loading of carseats and the like, with the rear boasts an automatic tailgate, and boomerang lights.
A wider stance on the outside makes for a roomier cabin, and when combined with Nappa leather and a high-quality fit and finish, it’s a really nice place to be. The technology has been vastly improved, with a the flagship Ti-L e-POWER with e-4ORCE featuring a 12.3-inch, navigation-equipped touchscreen, a 10.8-inch Head-Up Display, wireless phone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay, and a 12.3-inch TFT digital driver display.
Now about that powertrain. It’s easy to call the new X-Trail e-POWER/e-4ORCE a Hybrid, however, it’s vastly cleverer than that. Its three-cylinder 1.5L variable compression turbo petrol engine engine acts as a generator supplying power to an inverter, which, along with brake regen, feeds the 1.8kWh battery that drives the two electric motors. So at no point does the petrol engine drive the wheels. As complex as this may sound, all you have to do as a driver is fill the tank with fuel and drive it like an EV – and drive it we did.
Like I said, seemingly to emphasise the new X-Trail ePOWER/e4ORCE’s green credentials we hit the ‘off piste’ trails of Slovenia in order to really test the SUV’s capabilities. If you haven’t been there (and I urge you to go), Slovenia is an obsolete gem of a country, with vast alpine valley’s surrounded by snow capped mountains and all interspersed with centuries-old churches and ski-style chalet homes – it’s both dramatic and breathtaking. But more importantly, the roads are a challenging mix of 130km/h highways interlaced with tight, snaking ‘single vehicle’ small-town lanes and hairpin-cornered Alpine tarmac.
Ljubljana (loo-bee-aa-nuh) airport was our start and finish line, however, the Bohinj hotel, an elegant alpine-style establishment nestled beside the Bohinjsko Jezero lake, was our main base.
The push-button start is the silent experience that those that have driven an EV would be familiar with, engage Drive with the chunky e-shifter gear knob and you’re away, it’s as simple as that.
The claimed 7 seconds 0-100km/h has the X-Trail up to speed quickly, it’s not performance EV acceleration but it doesn’t feel lacking in any way. Having such a small battery means that the X-Trail can only travel a few km’s in EV-only mode, and this in turn means that the petrol engine appears to be constantly working, but fear not, the NVH (Noise Vibration Harshness) that Nissan has focused on in this new SUV means that you only really hear the engine if you want to, and in fact you very quickly forget about it leaving you to concentrate on the driving experience itself, which is really, really good.
There are five drive modes to flick through (Eco, Normal, Sport, Snow and Off-Road), each change the characteristics of the X-Trail like throttle response and braking but on the whole I stuck with Sport on road and Normal heading through the forest tracks.
EV-only can be engaged at the push of a button on the centre console and there’s an e-Pedal Step button that offers a ‘one pedal’ driving experience should you wish, meaning that in many cases you don’t need to use the footbrake much at all – just for complete stops.
Of particular note is Nissan’s new e-4ORCE all-wheel drive, it’s terrific. The system has been designed to work exclusively with Nissan’s electrified powertrains and delivers physic-defying traction regardless of what terrain you’re on. Behind the scenes its rear torque acts 10,000 times faster than a mechanical 4WD system and virtually eliminates pitch and roll – it’s an incredibly smooth ride.
As a final farewell to Slovenia and to emphasise the new X-Trail e-POWER and e-4ORCE’s off-road capabilities, Nissan had set up a ‘workshop’ track that had us doing sand slaloms, downhill descents, sand drifting and a hill hold climb that had the left side wheels resting on wet wooden planks. Utilising the ‘off-road’ mode had this new adventurous SUV conquer these tasks with ease – it was really impressive.
There will be two NISSAN X-TRAIL e-POWER and e-4ORCE trim levels launched into the NZ market, the generously equipped X-Trail ST-L and the ‘flagship’ Ti-L.
The X-Trail ST-L features ProPILOT with Lane Keep Assist, privacy glass, fog lights, a digital Around-View monitor, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, sliding rear seats, front parking sensors, synthetic leather trim and 18-inch alloy wheels. However, the Ti-L e-POWER with e-4ORCE comes with all the additional fruit such as a panoramic sunroof, Bose 10-speaker sound system, full Nappa leather seating and the significant tech upgrades (a 12.3-inch, navigation-equipped touchscreen, a 10.8-inch Head-Up Display,wireless phone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay, and a 12.3-inch TFT digital driver display – to name but a few).
We only drove the Tekna+ (essentially the equivalent of the top spec TiL – just with a few extra Euro Specific apps) so I can’t compare. But for me, having all the new Nissan fruit is worth the premium price tag.
The emissions and fuel economy figures make it somewhat removed from the full EV purchasing experience, but the new X-Trail e-POWER and e-4ORCE is an ideal ‘transition’ vehicle, that is as easy to use as a fossil-fueled car and yet gives a great introduction to the way an EV feels to drive. It’s impressive both on and off the road and incredibly well appointed – can’t wait for a local follow up drive.