Massing for the charge
Nissan hopes its new models will make it No 1 in imported vehicles, writes Bruce McMahon.
NISSAN is out to be Australia’s No 1 vehicle importer, and its goal is supported by a small army of fresh machinery headed this way. The first will be the tiddler of the bunch – the all-new Micra, arriving next month – but there’s a good deal of firepower to follow.
For the past 18 months, Nissan has been brand-building with the likes of the GT-R, the 370Z twins and new Maxima, says Nissan Australia managing director Dan Thompson. Now comes volume-building.
From December, the new Micra will sell in three grades, with a choice of engines and transmissions. Mr Thompson says 18,000 of the five-door hatchbacks could sell each year.
A Micra sedan will follow and in 2012 come a new Tiida and the bigger, more luxurious Patrol.
The seventh-generation Patrol boasts a 5.6-litre V8, seven-speed auto plus a ‘‘world-first’’ Hydraulic Body Motion System, said to be taken from rally cars. This eliminates stabiliser bars (allowing for greater wheel articulation in the rough stuff) and keeps the big wagon on an even keel when thrown around on the bitumen.
It is a big truck, a little more than 5m long, almost 2m tall and wide and weighing 2.7 tonnes. Not everyone’s in love with the style but it does have a real presence and a load of cabin space.
A quick trot through the scrub shows it to be a very capable, very comfortable machine. It has moved far from the utilitarian style of the current Patrol and into Range Rover league. And 550Nm of torque is closer for the smaller Pathfinder wagon and the dualcab Navara with a three-litre, 170kW V6 diesel option for both next year.
Maximum torque (up 100Nm over the ST-X’s four-cylinder diesel) arrives from a pretty low 1750rpm then works through a seven-speed auto for some pretty smart acceleration at all types of speed. It makes for a very flexible, most driveable ute.
The price will jump to $60,990 – the dearest of all dual cabs – for the Spanish-built ST-X 550, which arrives in January. Extras over the fourcylinder ST-X include roof bars, hard and lockable tonneau cover, under-seat storage and the most power in its class.
The Pathfinder has the same engine option, taking the price to $75,990 and towing capacity to 3500kg.
Down the line, the X-Trail has had some minor upgrades, such as telescopic steering column and rear knee improvement. Prices have dropped across most of the range, now starting at $31,990, and consumption is down for both diesel and petrol engines. From January, the X-Trail will also be offered as a two-wheel-drive, with petrol engine only and in ST and ST-L grades.
Below the X-Trail sit the two-wheeld r i v e a n d a l l - whe e l - d r i v e Dual i s wagons, since July also available as the seven-seater Dualis +2.
FIREPOWER: Nissan’s 2012 Patrol and, inset, the Navara 550 and, below, the