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First drive: Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 177. Image by Nissan.

First drive: Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 177
Nissan finally gives its largest SUV, the X-Trail, the powerful diesel motor it has been crying out for.

   



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Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 177

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Nissan chooses to give the X-Trail SUV, which can be optioned with seven seats, a 2.0-litre diesel engine to go with the 1.6-litre units that have previously done all the donkey work since it was launched in 2014. The extra oomph is most welcome, but the 2.0 dCi doesn't exactly transform the X-Trail into a class-leader...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 177 manual
Pricing: X-Trail from 22,855; 2.0 dCi 177 from 29,500
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 149g/km (VED 200 first 12 months, 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 50.5mpg
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 9.4 seconds
Power: 177hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 2,000rpm

What's this?

Nissan doing the decent thing and giving the X-Trail, the biggest of its SUVs (no, no, we say, wagging our fingers; the NP300 Navara is a truck, not an SUV) the sort of 'cojones' it should have had from the start. Previously forced to lug around up to seven humans on board, employing nothing friskier than a 1.6-litre diesel engine with 130hp/320Nm or a 1.6 DIG-T with 163hp and 240Nm with which to do so, now the 'big Qashqai' benefits from a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel. This cranks out an additional 47hp and 60Nm over the 1.6 lump, which raises the top speed by 9mph to 126mph, but, more usefully, cuts the 0-62mph time by 1.6 seconds to a far healthier clock-stopper of 9.4 seconds, while at the same time throwing in a great dollop of extra mid-range grunt to make life behind its wheel much more pleasant.

And that's it. Nothing else has changed. You won't know whether the X-Trail in front of you at the lights is a 2.0-litre or not, unless it has a number plate prior to 2017 affixed to it or it surges off the line in impressive fashion, instead of creeping away in a ruckus of combustion clatter. Naturally, there's a premium to pay for this extra muscle. It looks a lot at first, mainly because the 2.0 is only available on the three higher of Nissan's four specifications (you can't have it as a Visia, essentially) and therefore its starting ticket of 29,050 is four-and-a-half grand above a basic 1.6 dCi's 24,550. But that's comparing apples with oranges. For a start, the 2.0 comes as a manual four-wheel drive as tested here, or with the option of the Xtronic CVT auto, which can be paired to either AWD or front-wheel drive. The 2WD 2.0 is the cheapest, while this manual starts at 29,500 - but a four-wheel-drive 130hp X-Trail in the same specification is only 1,250 cheaper, so it seems like there's little obstacle to going for 177hp.

Shame the X-Trail is visually unadventurous. It's not ugly on the outside by any means, but it's also not that striking either. The second-gen Qashqai is a fine-looking machine, but its appearance stretched over the larger proportions of the X-Trail's frame doesn't quite work as well, while the larger SUV doesn't have the sleek rear light clusters of the smaller Nissan crossover. Inoffensive and forgettable, is probably the summation of the bodywork... and the interior, too. It's spacious enough for five adults, even if the optional rear-most seats are rather cramped, and everything is laid out in a pleasant enough fashion, while Nissan is generous with the kit levels - especially at N-Vision level (from 32,615 for a manual), where it comes with practically every toy going. It's just that, what with its small and dated satnav screen, and the plain black-and-white dials in the cluster, and the strange faux-carbon dash trim, and the grey-on-grey plastics arrangement, it's all a bit, well... meh.

How does it drive?

Same goes for the driving experience, sadly. Again, the big Nissan does nothing particularly badly and the extra punch of that 2.0-litre powerplant is most welcome, making the X-Trail less of a mobile chicane for other traffic than it was before. The engine stays smooth when it revs out to the 4,500rpm redline, the gearbox is positive enough in its throw action, the brakes do the job required of them with assurance, the body control is good if not spectacular (pitch, roll and dive are all present, albeit not at debilitating levels for cornering) and the four-wheel-drive system blesses the car with masses of traction to go with its high levels of grip. Wind, tyre and engine noises are all muted on a motorway cruise, where the ride quality of the X-Trail is at its very best, and with light controls for town-speed work, it means the Nissan feels pretty confident dealing with all manner of traffic conditions and flows.

All very admirable. But not very exciting, or engaging. And there are one or two significant issues, too. Like the gearing. For reasons unknown (all right, they're not unknown, it's to keep the emissions down) Nissan has made fully half of the gearbox's six ratios overdrives. All of fourth, fifth and sixth are higher than 1:1, which seems like CO2-focused overkill to us. Especially as this long-leggedness exacerbates the relatively high point of peak torque delivery, at 2,000rpm, when most big turbodiesels get going at 1,750- or even 1,500rpm, or lower. The net result of all this carping is that the X-Trail 177 really struggles to leave 30mph zones in fourth gear, something that is not a problem for rivals. It's frustrating having to clog it down into third just to get up to 50- or 60mph, each and every time you leave a village, and by contrast you don't want to drive through towns in second and third in a car with 380Nm on tap.

The 2.0-litre might also be smooth to rev and hushed at motorway speeds, one beneficial corollary of the transmission's plethora of overdrives, but it is not quiet during any sort of meaningful acceleration. A distinct diesel gargle can be heard at all times you've got the throttle pressed down beyond 20 per cent travel and this notable lack of refinement is obvious in a marketplace that now sports the silky 2.0-litre TDI jewel in the Skoda Kodiaq and Land Rover's improved Ingenium four-pot in the Discovery Sport.

Meanwhile, you're dealing with steering that's incredibly light in weight and lacking in feel. This is not an SUV foible that is by any means unique to the X-Trail, as there aren't many 4x4s available anywhere that have steering you would actively praise, but the Nissan's does feel particularly ineffectual at times. For all the chassis' grip, the steering perpetually keeps the driver one step removed from what's going on beneath the X-Trail's tyres. That's a pity.

So, adding the 2.0-litre has improved the Nissan... but not by enough for us to start wildly singing its praises. It has moved the X-Trail closer to the class elite, yet not among their number. More work needs to be done here.

Verdict

The 2.0-litre dCi 177 is definitely the default choice of the X-Trail range, but it's not the default choice if you want the best mid-sized, seven-seat SUV going. The engine's a bit noisy, the interior is starting to show its age and it's definitely a '5+2' within, rather than a genuine seven-seater. That places it behind the larger Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe alternatives, which have fairly gruff drivetrains, but excellent warranties, decent price tags and much more space on board.

And even if you counter by saying you only need a 5+2 anyway, then the hero-of-the-hour Skoda Kodiaq does this sort of thing so much better and for similar cash. The Land Rover Discovery Sport is also preferable, although it admittedly is rather dear. Nevertheless, in this weird, catch-all segment that sits between five-seat crossovers/SUVs from the mainstream and genuine seven-seat, premium leviathans like the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7, then if you've been keeping up with our musings so far you'll realise we currently rank the X-Trail 2.0 dCi 177 fifth out of five.

The saving grace for Nissan is that a major midlife update is just around the corner for the X-Trail and, if the Japanese marque gets the interior and exterior alterations right, while simultaneously dampening the noise of the powerful, but raucous 2.0-litre turbodiesel, then we might end up liking this large SUV a lot more than we do right now.

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 27 Apr 2017



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2017 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan X-Trail. Image by Nissan.








 

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