First drive: 2018 Nissan X-Trail in Lebanon

First drive: 2018 Nissan X-Trail in Lebanon

The latest in a string of recent crossover and SUV launches from Nissan, the 2018 incarnation of the ever-popular X-Trail seems an intentionally conservative mid-life refresh focusing on aesthetic, refinement and technology updates. The “world’s best-selling SUV” according to Nissan – and brand’s best-selling model with 835,000 units sold in 2016 alone – the Japanese automaker understandably doesn’t quite yet feel the need to upset such a successfully well-positioned proverbial apple cart. Unchanged mechanically, the 2018 X-Trail instead builds a winning formula of adept user-friendly driving, versatile practicality and affordability. We drove the updated model in Lebanon.

Subtly updated in comparison with the outgoing model, the 2018 X-Trail is snoutier and more assertive, with a wider, lower and more prominent chrome ‘V-motion’ grille element, framed within a black outline. Grille and intakes now feature slats and slots in place of honeycomb mesh, while front and rear bumpers are more sculpted and upright, and include a rugged-looking metallic rear skid plate-style lower design. Fog lights and side sills are also revised.

The X-Trail’s squinting moody lights now feature a lower kink, and boomerang LED outlines featured in both front and rear light clusters. Ditching its predecessor’s clear rear light cluster casing and introducing a shark fin style rooftop antenna, the restyled X-Trail looks both sportier and more elegant, while the ‘boomerang’ motif is also incorporated into its forward-angled C-pillar for a sense of forward motion. Alloy wheel options range from 17-inches to 19-inches.

A smaller, contoured and flat-bottom steering wheel, improved padding and better quality materials and textures lend the new X-Trail a somewhat more up-market flavour, which was best noticed in conjunction with two-tone black and tan leather interior on the range-topping SL model driven. Warmer and more welcoming, the X-Trail’s new tan leather interior option joins existing black and beige, while five new and more vibrant exterior colours include two hues of red, orange, brown, blue and gold beige.

With a client demographic mostly consisting of married people with children who use it daily and opt for the 7-seat rather than 5-seat version, the X-trail revamp concentrates on improving its usability and practicality, and includes a motion sensing automatic tailgate. The only 7-seater in its specific segment, the X-Trail’s sliding and reclining 40/20/40 split middle bench allows for nine versatile configurations and easy access to rear seats and cabin-to-cargo space allocation, with a minimum 455-litre luggage volume extending to a maximum 1996-litres.

Even with optional panoramic roof, the X-Trail well accommodates tall and portly auto journalists in the middle row, and provides a supportive and comfortable front driving position with good visibility to negotiate Beirut’s dense and chaotic traffic. Nevertheless, blind spot sensors were handy in spotting lower cars overtaking from the outside lane, and are complemented by a 360° Around View Monitor and sensors, rear cross-path traffic detection and wide Intelligent Rear View Mirror with built-in LCD screen.

Updated to keep up with evolving automotive tech, the X-Train SL features standard adaptive front headlights, and Intelligent Emergency Braking and adaptive Intelligent Cruise Control, as part of an optional Technology Package. Meanwhile inside, it features an improved navigation system, with 7-inch screen infotainment system, six speakers and Bluetooth and mobile connectivity.

Carried over unchanged, the X-Trail’s 2.5-litre transversely-mounted four-cylinder is consistently progressive and flexible, with 233 Nm peaking at 4000 rpm and a maximum 169 hp arriving by 6000 rpm. Mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that minutely adjusts ratios to exploit engine speed for efficiency and torque output, the X-Trail proves smooth and flexible in delivery, with a broad variety of short and tall ratios for responsive performance and a 6.5 litres/100 km rated fuel efficiency.

With a slight slingshot effect as engine revs and transmission ratios constantly shift under hard acceleration, the X-Trail’s CVT may not have the ultimate clarity of a traditional automatic gearbox. However, pre-set manual mode ratios well-mimic distinct gears in most situations, and allow for engine braking on steep descents, making it more willing to rev than in auto mode. Responsive and versatile, the X-Trail has all the performance needed for the city and highway, but slightly more muscle wouldn’t have gone amiss on the rare overtaking opportunity along steeply inclined and winding Chouf mountain roads.

With unchanged suspension, steering design and calibrations for 2018, the X-Trail remains stable and refined on the highway, and manoeuvreable in the city, with good noise, harshness and vibration refinement. Unexpectedly eager in its segment when first launched, the X-Trail retains the same tidy handling and turn-in, with Active Trace Control torque vectoring braking the inside wheel through corners for enhanced agility and more precise cornering lines. Keen and chuckable through corners, the X-Trail’s steering is quick and light, while suspension rates and 225/55R19 tyres find a happy medium between comfort over imperfections and cornering control.

Light on its feet but sure-footed, the X-Trail feels settled on rebound and over dips and crests. Driving with a distinct front-wheel bias in normal conditions, it can reallocate power to the rear wheels when additional traction is necessary.

Nissan has done just enough to keep the X-Trail fresh for a few more years, with notable upgrades in trim and tech. With UAE pricing set between Dhs 87,000 and Dhs 129,000, it is favourably priced in relation to its Japanese rivals as well, while being a bit more than the Koreans, as seems tradition.

For GCC prices and specs, visit the Nissan buyer guide.

Photos by Nissan Middle East.

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