11 MAY 2009

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Article from BTNews 11 MAY 2009

MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi Sport 150 Expedition

FIAT’S audacious plans to partner the ailing American car giant Chrysler will bring one quick benefit for the once troubled Italian operation opening up North America to both Fiat itself and its subsidiary Alfa Romeo previously sold in the US.  In Europe Fiat wants to take over much of the GM operation which could mean the end of the remaining parts of Vauxhall in Luton, and Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.  In the modern EU the fact that a plant is efficient and makes a good product means nothing.  The Peugeot factory at Ryton on Dunsmore is no longer and is currently a desolate industrial wasteland.

GKN is a name both in motoring and the aviation industry.  It is a major component supplier to the British car market and at the beginning of this year took over the former Airbus UK plant at Filton which manufactures part of the wing structures for all current Airbus products.  GKN says that it has moved back into the black after a loss making start to the year as solid aerospace sales helped mitigate “extremely challenging” markets for private and commercial vehicles.  During the period GKN also bolstered its trading position by securing guaranteed payment for goods supplied to Chrysler and General Motors in the US through the government-backed supplier payment schemes.

LOTUS
has begun to prepare for first deliveries of its eagerly awaited Evora 2+2 unveiled at the London Motor Show last year.  The first new Lotus since the Elise of 1996 the car follows in the Colin Chapman tradition of being lightweight and quick with outstanding handling.  Prices start from UKP45k.  AERBT plans for offer an  appraisal in the coming weeks.

RENAULT’S
new Clio range, embracing a total of 38 models across three-door, five-door and Sport Tourer models, officially arrives next Friday (15 May). With a choice of seven trim levels available – Extreme, Expression, Dynamique, GT, Privilège and Initiale, plus TomTom Edition – on-the-road prices for the three-door range start at UKP9,995 for the Extreme 1.2 16v 75bhp rising to UKP14,445 for the GT 1.5 dCi 106.

ROADS
Minister Paul Clark has confirmed that tougher parking regulations are to be introduced by English local authorities from 1 June.  Councils which carry out parking enforcement will be able to issue Penalty Charge Notices to motorists who park at dropped kerbs or double-park, without the need for these prohibitions to be indicated with specific traffic signs or road markings.  The DfT says that Authorities in London have successfully used this tool for a number of years to help wheelchair users and those with prams manoeuvre on and off pavements – as well as stopping inconsiderate motorists from blocking residents' driveways.  It has also helped deter motorists from blocking the road when parking.

PORSCHE and Volkswagen (VW), historically always close, have confirmed that they are to merge.  This come after weeks of talks between the two firms' management. A statement from the luxury carmaker said that it wanted to see the "creation of an integrated car manufacturing group".  Porsche will not actually takeover VW and the future structure of the new format is expected to be decided in the next four weeks. The VW brands include Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT and Skoda plus various commercial and military vehicles.

 

ROAD TEST:  Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi Sport 150 Expedition

Here’s A Reasonable 4x4!

No, I have not jumped on the anti-4x4 bandwagon but I find it increasingly hard to justify the use of the largest examples of the breed on congested urban roads.  However, several years ago when, for another publication, I tested the original Nissan X-Trial 4x4 I reported that the model made a lot of sense by combining exceptional competent off-road ability with refined road manners, good interior space and tidier than average, for the class, body dimensions.

I also recall recommending the X-Trail to a fellow motoring journalist who was shopping for a vehicle that would meet his critical driving requirements plus suiting his energetic out-door activities.

What stopped him from owning one at that time was that he wanted a diesel-powered version complete with automatic transmission and that combination did not feature in the X-Trail line-up at that time.

Good news is that the latest generation X-Trail, introduced in late 2007, not only included an all-new product, including high efficiency petrol and diesel engine but the availability of a 6-speed automatic transmission designed for dealing with the massive torque generation by a diesel engine and also for controlling the vehicle in the most testing off-road conditions.

Just what my colleague wanted and just what, I suspect, is required by a good number of drivers who genuinely require a competent 4x4 that can also give them an easy life under less challenging driving conditions.  A vehicle that stacks up strongly for so many reasons.

Tested here is the version that I feel is tailor-made for the current climate, it is powered by a 2.0-litre relatively clean living diesel unit that develops just short of 150 bhp in a quietly efficient manner and with a smooth acting yet very responsive multi-mode automatic transmission that is claimed to provide a top speed potential of 112 mph and able to reach 63 mph (100 kph) from rest in 12.5 seconds.  A turn of performance to ensure that on-road driving is competitive and offers easy driving in a civilised manner.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that the X-Trail drives ‘small’.

By pooling development resources with Renault, Nissan has certainly strengthened all aspects of the quality and design of its current product range, especially when it comes to power units it is right up there with the best.  This diesel unit not being too hard pressed to return around 30 mpg under mixed driving conditions more than good for a vehicle using all wheel drive, automatic transmission and a spacious 5-seat body that obviously does not match the aerodynamic efficiency of say a conventional estate car.

The loftier than average driving position is easily accessed despite the lack of a grab handle (one is provided adjacent to all three passenger doors) and the manually adjusted driver’s seat is generous in dimensions and padding and has a wide range of adjustment to cope with all sizes of occupant.  Amazing how many diminutive women drive this sort of vehicle!  Tilt reach steering column adjustment and good pedal positioning also combine to make the driver feel ‘at home’.

Though a seriously efficient vehicle in all respects, the X-Trial provides the driver with a very easy life with light yet positive feeling controls, highly efficient braking, impressive road grip, a very civilised ride and, a smart yet functional fascia area (with easy to use satellite navigation), good driver vision, the latter being augmented by a rear camera when reversing.  Powered exterior mirrors can also be folded flat.
 
The X-trial also shows up some larger bodied 4x4 when it comes to interior space ratios, this is a roomy 5-seat car with generous luggage capacity with a removable double deck floor plus also a removable sliding drawer compartment and easy folding (60/40) rear seats.  Other notable items also included fixed roof rails, keyless start/stop system, push button/remote door locking, efficient air conditioning throughout the cabin.

This Sport model, falling between the Trek and Adventure models, is extensively equipped though but obviously lacks leather upholstery and a few extras but still manages very high trim standard and, of course, hard to beat build quality.

Pitched in a very competitive market sector this latest X-Trail range builds on the high regard achieved by the original and strongly deserves to be on the short list for all buyers seeking a mid-size user-friendly 4x4.  Price from UKP23,201.

SOME RIVALS: Land Rover Freelander 2.2 TD4 GS  UKP23,324, Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0 Di-D Elegance UKP22,735, Honda CR-V 2.2  Dci EX UKP24,599.



STAR RATINGS:   
Performance 9
Handling 9
Transmission 9
Noise 8
Economy 9
Ride and Comfort 9
Accommodation 9
Styling 8
Brakes 9
Finish 9
TOTAL: 88%

 

TECHSPEC: Engine: Transversely mounted: Capacity: 1,995cc, 4 cylinders, 16 valves, high pressure common rail turbo diesel, max power: 147.9 bhp/150ps @ 4,000 rpm. CO2 Emissions: 190 g/km. Transmission: Four wheel drive, 6-speed automatic. Suspension: Fully independent Brakes: Ventilated discs front/rear with ABS/EBD/EBA Steering: Electric power assisted, 10.8m turning circle. Dimensions: Length: 4,630mm, width 1,785mm (excluding mirrors). Height: 1,685/1,770mm. Weight: approx 2,170kg, max towing weight: 1350kg (braked).  Fuel tank capacity 65 litres/14.2 gallons.  Range approx: 450 miles. Insurance Group 13E.

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