Don’t go by the specification sheet as 150bhp and the 32.7kgm don’t provide the full picture. To really understand just how rapid the X-Trail is, you have to climb behind the wheel and run the motor through its six gears. Only then will you fully understand the frenzied performance that this Renault-Nissan-developed diesel is able to muster. Unlike most diesels that feel strained from around 4200rpm upwards, this diesel just loves to rev. The tug starts from 2500rpm and then it just builds and builds, until it reaches a high of 5200rpm. The X-Trial leaps towards the horizon off the blocks, and you can keep this charge going by snapping through the six-speed gearbox. Each shift puts you directly into the explosive part of the power band and performance is startling,to put it mildly. At full charge, 100kph comes up in 10.8 seconds and 140 in 21sec. Not only is that easily faster than the similarly geared Chevy Captiva, it’s also faster than the 2.4-litre petrol CR-V, which also has a six-speed manual. And the X-Trail is faster in-gear than the Captiva as well. Another indication of the pace of the X-Trail is the fact that we timed it all the way to 180kph and got a top speed of 201kph. With its really tall sixth gear, the X-trail also cruises very nicely. High speeds can be sustained with very little engine speed and the car really feels special in this mode, fast and effortless. 100kph in sixth needs just 2000rpm.
What aids the X-Trail’s performance is its relatively light kerb weight which, at 1630kg, is almost 200kg lighter than the Captiva. And that’s despite the fact that the Nissan has a four-wheel-drive transfer case and extra driveshafts that the Chevy lacks. Also very impressive is the six-speed manual gearbox, one of the best we’ve tested. It has a short throw, engages precisely and can be engaged with a mere flick of the wrist. An absolute gem.
But the strong top-end performance means that there is also some turbo lag, despite the X-Trail using a variable geometry turbo. There’s some amount of lethargy below 2000rpm and this can sometimes be a bit of a pain in stop-start traffic. Despite using piezo injectors for high pressure, multiple injections of diesel, this is not one of the most refined diesels around. This is especially true at start-up where a considerable amount of clatter comes filtering in.
However, once on the move, this quickly evaporates, the sweet-sounding motor now far less obtrusive.
With its comparatively light weight and a modern diesel engine, the X-Trail is very efficient. It needs only a litre of diesel every 11.3 kilometres in the city and on the highway, the tall sixth gear helps give it an advantage as well. It goes 14.8 kilometres on a litre of diesel at highway speeds.