The diesel Trail­blazer

Nis­san’s back­flip could give it a sales edge, writes KEITHDIDHAM

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

EA­GER cus­tomers have forced Nis­san to add a diesel en­gine to its X-Trail com­pact four-wheel drive. The move could give it a cru­cial edge on non-diesel ri­vals, led by the Toy­ota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, and marks an im­por­tant back­flip for a com­pany with more drive un­der a new man­ag­ing di­rec­tor.

Only a year ago Nis­san re­peat­edly dis­missed the diesel as a vi­able X-Trail choice, say­ing it could not make a busi­ness case for Aus­tralia.

Now it has set the price of the diesel at only $1000 more than com­pa­ra­ble petrol mod­els and says the petrol ver­sions will sub­sidise the dif­fer­ence to win sales at a bud­get price.

Still, the X-Trail has been trav­el­ling a rocky road and the latest ver­sion, launched last year, has only man­aged ‘‘dis­ap­point­ing’’ sales, ac­cord­ing to Nis­san mar­ket­ing man­ager Ross Booth.

Nis­san, he says, was caught nap­ping and too slow to re­act to an in­ten­sive price-cut­ting blitz from ri­vals Subaru and Toy­ota.

It is re­tal­i­at­ing with a new mar­ket­ing cam­paign, ef­fec­tively low­er­ing the price of the petrol mod­els by pick­ing up on-road costs. Its deal­ers have come to the party on drive­away deals.

Booth says the X-Trail is the first vol­ume seller in the com­pact SUV mar­ket with a diesel, dis­miss­ing Suzuki as nei­ther a vol­ume seller nor se­ri­ous ri­vals with its diesel Grand Vi­tara.

The X-Trail will have a choice of two tur­bocharged diesels, both based on a 2.0-litre mo­tor sourced from its al­liance part­ner Re­nault.

But one comes with a penalty be­cause the auto loses the class­ing-lead­ing twotonne tow­ing ca­pac­ity.

And Nis­san ad­mits 80 per cent of buy­ers use their wagon for tow­ing. The sixspeed man­ual re­tains the max­i­mum braked trailer rat­ing, but six-speed au­to­matic buy­ers will be lim­ited to 1350kg.

The dif­fer­ence in tow ca­pac­ity is gov­erned by how the trans­mis­sions are cooled: man­ual mod­els have a con­ven­tional sep­a­rate ex­ter­nal oil cooler for the gear­box but the auto is wa­ter cooled in­ter­nally from the en­gine and can­not take the added tow load.

Nis­san, based on past ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­pects 60 per cent of X-Trail buy­ers will go for the au­to­matic so those want­ing to tow heav­ier boats or car­a­vans will have to buy the petrol model, which re­tains the two-tonne rat­ing.

The auto doesn’t match the man­ual for power or torque. It will come with 110kW and 320Nm, com­pared with 137kW and 360Nm for the man­ual.

Both en­gines are eco­nom­i­cal, rated at 7.4 litres for 100km for the man­ual and 8.1 litres/100km for the auto.

Peak torque is achieved at 2000 revs, with 90 per cent of that on tap from a low 1750.

The two spec­i­fi­ca­tion grades are the TS and pre­mium TL, both of which have sim­i­lar equip­ment to petrol mod­els.

Pric­ing starts at $36,990 for the TS man­ual and $38,990 for the au­to­matic.

The bet­ter-equipped TL starts at $39,990 for the man­ual and the auto comes in at $41,990.

But in an at­tempt to cut costs and keep the diesel price pre­mium to $1000, auto air­con­di­tion­ing, a leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel and leather gear knob have been dropped in the TS and re­placed with a ve­hi­cle alarm.

The TS has Nis­san’s smart All-Mode switch­able all-wheel-drive sys­tem with hill start and down­hill as­sist, six airbags, anti-lock brakes with elec­tronic brake dis­tri­bu­tion and brake as­sist, cruise con­trol, key­less en­try, al­loy wheels, six-stack au­dio and trip com­puter.

The TL adds leather up­hol­stery, pow­er­ad­justable front seats with seat heaters, a huge sun­roof and cli­mate con­trol air­con­di­tion­ing.

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