Driving report: Nissan X-Trail e-Power: Electric petrol engine

When Nissan launched the first generation of the X-Trail a good 20 years ago, the robust Japanese was still classified as an off-road vehicle.

Driving report: Nissan X-Trail e-Power: Electric petrol engine

When Nissan launched the first generation of the X-Trail a good 20 years ago, the robust Japanese was still classified as an off-road vehicle. Today, now in its fourth generation and more than seven million units built later, it has long since become a family car. The new X-Trail, available with either five or seven seats, is primarily intended for trips with the whole family and to transport the equipment of modern sports from surfing to mountain biking to hiking, says Nissan.

The once angular off-roader has become softer and softer over the years, and has also visually changed into a modern SUV. If you are traveling in one of the higher quality equipment lines, you will think twice whether you want to drive the X-Trail through mud and dirt or scratch the noble paintwork on gravel roads. At 4,680 mm, it is just one centimeter shorter than its predecessor and is about as long as a Mercedes C-Class. It is 1,840 mm wide and 1.72 mm high. The front is characterized by narrow headlights with integrated daytime running lights that extend down to the bumpers. The flared wheel arches give it a muscular look. The C-pillar, find Nissan's marketing poets, "reminiscent of a dolphin fin". At the rear, the taillights emphasize the width of the vehicle. The X-Trail is based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance CMF-C platform.

A special feature of the new Nissan X-Trail is its special electric drive, if you order it as an e-power version. The principle is not new, but it is rare. Because when driving, the Nissan advances purely electrically. Only one electric motor drives the wheels, with the e-4ORCE all four together with a second electric motor. The Stromer for the front axle develops 204 hp / 150 kW, the one for the rear axle another 136 hp / 100 kW. The all-wheel drive X-Trail has a system output of 214 hp / 157 kW. The electric motors are not supplied with power from a heavy battery pack in the vehicle floor, but directly from a three-cylinder petrol engine with a displacement of 1.5 liters and an output of 158 hp / 116 kW via a backup battery. It serves purely as a power generator and is not itself connected to the drive train.

What does this construction bring? First of all, fuel savings. Because the petrol engine can work well in the optimum speed range, its consumption is therefore lower. For example, Nissan says that the SUV, which weighs almost two tons, has a combined average consumption of 6.3 liters per 100 kilometers. For comparison. The 1.8 ton pure petrol version of the new X-Trail needs around one liter more on average. At our exit in Slovenia, the electric X-Trail leveled off at around seven liters. Another advantage: no fear of range. The X-Trail can be charged normally and quickly at the petrol pump.

What's more, it drives like an electric car. If you step on the gas, you accelerate without any shifting interruptions – there is no such thing as a gearbox. The throttle response is immediate and the maximum torque of the electric motors is available from the first revolution. The sprint from zero to 100 km/h takes seven seconds and the top speed is 180 km/h. However, it takes some getting used to the fact that the combustion engine turns much higher and louder when accelerating quickly in order to generate more electricity for the electric motors. Acoustically, this is reminiscent of a CVT automatic. Otherwise, however, the noise level in the X-Trail is not quite, but almost as low as in a purely electric car. The petrol engine is only faintly audible in the background. The electrical system also ensures that the X-Trail can be regulated at the push of a button using the accelerator pedal: as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, it brakes to walking speed. The cornering behavior of the four-wheel drive X-Trail is excellent. The brakes on all four wheels can be controlled independently via the e-4ORCE system. This helps especially on damp, muddy or snowy roads. Pitch and roll movements are reduced. The steering itself is precise but plenty feelless. Numerous assistance systems are already included in the basic version, but the range of options is also extensive.

Inside, the X-Trail has become a comfortable vehicle. Plenty of space, even in the second row. This is ensured by the design-related omission of the cardan tunnel. Even getting in is easy: the rear doors can be opened at almost a 90-degree angle. The materials and their processing are noble, down to the finely quilted leather, the seats are comfortable and have a lot of lateral support. A 12.3-inch display in front of the driver provides information about the current data, optionally supplemented by a large head-up display that is reflected in the windscreen. Many of the settings can be adjusted via the large display in the center of the dashboard, but the most important functions are still easily accessible rotary controls and push buttons. You don't have to work your way through various menus and submenus. There are plenty of shelves, a charger for mobile phones and various USB sockets. The cargo space offers between 575 and 1,396 liters, the loading sill is flat and pleasingly low. The trailer load of the Stromer is not quite as ideal: a maximum of 1,800 kilos is possible. That's enough, for example, for a horse trailer with one horse, with two animals it's already too heavy.

The X-Trail is also only suitable for off-roaders to a limited extent. gravel roads? No problem. A camera helps when climbing hills. When the driver can only see the sky, it projects onto the center display how things are going in front of the vehicle. A hill descent system, which independently controls the descent, helps to get back down – the driver only has to steer. Grounds with different levels of wheel slip are not a problem; the electric motors take care of that. Difficult terrain, however, is not the specialty of the X-Trail - the sufficient ground height alone is missing.

As an alternative to the electric all-wheel drive, Nissan also offers the X-Trail purely with front-wheel drive and as a conventional turbo combustion engine with a 12-volt mild hybrid system – at an entry-level price of 35,500 euros. The motor there is the same one that generates the electricity in the e-Power. The electrified all-wheel drive starts at 44,400 euros.