ROAD TEST: The latest models to hit the best touring roads of North East Victoria | Southern Riverina
Story/photos: Chris Riley
CHRIS Riley has been a journalist for 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor, and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager, with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions – at the risk of sounding silly
e-POWER is Nissan's take on hybrids.
In the case of X-Trail, it's Nissan's competitor for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, a car so popular there's a two-year waiting list.
It's a little different from the system offered by other manufacturers and made its debut in the medium-sized SUV at the beginning of last year.
The X-Trail ST-L e-POWER with e-4ORCE is the cheapest of the X-Trail hybrids and comes as a five-seater with all-wheel drive.
ST-L e-POWER with e-4ORCE is priced from $49,990 before on-road costs.
That's from $3200 to $6300 more than its petrol-powered equivalent, but you can't quite compare apples with apples.
The conventional five-seat petrol model is two-wheel drive, while the all-wheel drive version comes with seven seats. Gotta love those tricky marketing people.
There's also e-Power Ti at $54,690 and the Ti-L at $57,690, also five-seaters.
ST-L e-POWER has a premium feel thanks to synthetic leather and two-zone climate air, with heated front seats, a leather-clad steering wheel, power-adjust driver seat, and darkened rear privacy glass.
It rides on 18-inch wheels, has LED head and taillights, along with LED daytime running lights and automatic high beam, as well as auto lights and wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror plus auto-fold, power-adjust heated exterior mirrors.
Infotainment comes in the form of an 8-inch touchscreen, with Bluetooth, AM/FM and DAB+ digital radio, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and six-speaker audio (but no navigation).
Ti and Ti-L get satnav, a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen and wireless charging.
There are four USB ports: USB-A and USB-C in the front and charge only USB-A and USB-C in the back, with 12-volt outlets in the front and luggage area.
Five-star safety includes seven airbags, including a centre airbag which provides added protection to front seat occupants in side impact crashes.
There's also autonomous emergency braking (Car-to-Car, Vulnerable Road User, Junction Assist and Backover) as well as a lane support system with lane keep assist (LKA), lane departure warning (LDW) and emergency lane keeping (ELK), and an advanced speed assistance system (SAS).
A digital around view monitor provides moving object detection, with front and rear parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring.
Without the initial start-up noise of a petrol engine, an acoustic alert system warns pedestrians that the car has begun to move.
Isofix child seat anchors are provided for the outside rear seats, as well as tethers for all three rear seats and rear seat alert prevents kids from being left behind in the car.
X-Trail comes with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty plus five-year roadside assistance, with service intervals pegged at 12 months or a tightish 10,000km.
The big difference between Nissan's hybrid and the others is that the petrol engine does not power the wheels.
No, sir. The petrol ICE is used only to produce electricity which powers the electric motors that turn the wheels.
That makes it a series hybrid, as opposed to a parallel hybrid like the Toyota Prius (sorry, forgot, they don't do Prius anymore, at least not here).
The beauty of this system, according to Nissan, is that the petrol engine is always able to run within its ideal rev range, not forced to lug or over-rev madly as in conventional cars.
The e-Power system feels a little weird and, in our experience, makes some strange noises from time to time.
In fact, it feels more like an electric vehicle than a petrol-powered one, which it is in a way.
The e-POWER with e-4ORCE system is comprised of a high-output 2.1 kWh battery together with a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder variable compression petrol engine, power generator, inverter and twin electric motors - 150kW for the front and 100kW for the rear (with a combined system output of 157kW).
Thanks to drive being provided by the electric motors, Nissan says there’s no delay in acceleration as with an ICE or traditional hybrid.
The instant response delivers exhilarating acceleration to make overtaking or merging on to a motorway easier.
Again, the response isn't quite as instantaneous or as thrilling as promised, but it is relatively brisk.
In fact, it feels faster than the claimed seven seconds from 0-100km/h.
All-wheel drive comes courtesy of front and rear electric motors, but like most SUVs it operates predominantly in two-wheel drive most of the time with drive to the front-wheels through a single-speed reduction gear.
However, it can deliver torque to the rear wheels when required up to 10,000 times faster than mechanical all-wheel drive.
A drive and terrain mode selector offers five different modes: Auto, Eco, Sport, Snow and Off-Road.
With a 55-litre tank, fuel consumption is a claimed 6.1L/100km using premium 95 unleaded and it generates 139g/km of CO2.
In comparison the 2.5-litre petrol version uses 7.8L/100km (of standard unleaded).
Maximum braked towing capacity is 1650kg, down 350kg on the petrol version.
It's quiet in the cabin of the X-Trail, thanks to the fact that the petrol engine doesn't have to work hard.
For example, at 40km/h, Nissan says the sound level in the cabin is 8dB lower than competitors (it doesn't say which).
A switch in the centre console enables one-pedal driving that slows the car as soon as the driver reduces pressure on the accelerator, slowing the car down to a creep - but not to a complete stop.
It takes the tedium out of constantly switching between brake and accelerator in stop-start city driving as well as turning corner to corner country driving into a new experience.
And, in case you're wondering, lifting off from the accelerator activates the brake lights, warning drivers behind you.
In Sport mode with one-pedal driving selected, the e-Power X-trail feels lively and almost fun to drive.
It makes short work of hills and remains reasonably tied down in corners, albeit with a bit of tyre squeal.
ST-L misses out on a customisable, fully digitised instrument cluster, but the conventional dials are large, clear, and easy to read.
It's interesting to note that many drivers prefer to switch their digital clusters to show a pair of old-style analogue dials anyway, which makes customisation kind of superfluous.
We're big fans of adaptive cruise control, but the current Nissan system is a struggle.
Setting the speed is easy and so is adjusting the distance to the car in front, but activating it is a matter of trial and error.
The gap to the car in front is still too large and does not deter aggressive drivers from cutting in.
We were getting 6.8L/100km short-term which dropped to 6.4L/100km after 2000km of mixed driving.
What we like
Better than predecessor
Almost fun to drive
Ticks the green box (or is that blue)
What we don’t like
Maths doesn't make sense
More expensive than petrol equivalent
Cruise control overly tricky to use
Not as fuel efficient as a Toyota hybrid
Tyre repair kit
The bottom line
Hmmm . . . Not quite sure what to make of the e-Power idea.
The whole point of the hybrid exercise has been as a bridging mode to full electrification, designed to reduce fuel consumption and harmful engine emissions.
While it provides a lively drive experience, the e-Power X-Trail can't match the RAV4 for emissions or fuel consumption, but at least it gives buyers a hybrid option and point of difference from competitors.
However, is it enough? Friends have a RAV and have been getting 5.7L/100km as regular as clockwork.