Sport Utility Vehicles: often they are made status symbols these days. Given that statement, the propensity of many to automatically buy the top-of-the-line 4x4 model is the only way to go. Unfortunately, we see a number of said models do nothing more than ferry passengers from point A to point B. We get that some can simply afford it, and we can’t fault them for that. But to not get to use it for what a 4x4 is engineered to do (read: off-roading), that is rather sad.
In this review, perhaps we can steer some of you away from the “TOTL (that’s short for top-of-the-line) is always best” mentality. We got our hands on the highest-tier 4x2 Nissan Terra, the VL variant, and we think this is a good option if you want an SUV for daily use, but have no intentions of bumping and scraping it on the road less traveled.
It helps when you drive around (or are being driven around) in a truck that looks both tough and elegant at the same time. The Terra’s big brother, the Patrol, looks that part. Take a look at this SUV, and you’ll see that it does so as well. Heck, we even called it “Patrol Junior” when we first drove it, and that goes with good reason; The Terra is huge. Okay, Maybe it’s not a lumbering truck, but it has the makings of a rugged-looking yet classy SUV. Flared fenders, high ground clearance, an in-your-face grill, the Terra is all about catching your attention and making you look an extra time, too.
The cabin, on the other hand, has none of the gruff traits of the exterior. Everything screams premium from the seat material, the upholstery’s color, and the piano black accents and silver trim adorning the dashboard and doors. A small tidbit I personally liked is how the shifter lever is actually finished in chrome. Instead of it having the same silver shade, or being wrapped in a leather boot, the “bling” is a good nod to the classy SUVs of old.
Seats are of great quality, and the comfort they provide is top notch. Whether you’re cruising on paved roads or on rocky terrain, your bum and backside feel none of the shock (this coming from a guy with a bad back). Everything is also within arms’ reach, whether as a driver or a passenger up front; more oriented towards the driver, though. Also, most noteworthy is that the infotainment system is a totally modern touchscreen. Everything you need to keep you, well, entertained, you can control via a very intuitive system.
For passengers, where most people who buy vehicles like this prefer to sit, you have a lot of good reasons to do so. Look at all that legroom and you know that cramps aren’t something you’ll need to worry about. Next, the headroom as well as the shoulder room – there’s a lot of it. Now, combine that with the aforementioned supple ride and you have yourself a comfortable couch on wheels. It’s not of furniture dimensions, but you get a lot of seat space in the back.
The backrests recline, too. Although not too much, but I find that the angle at which it does is just right. The 2nd row can easily fit 2 adults with the center armrest down, and even a third not-so-big adult with it stowed up. Either way, Nissan did a good job of giving ample room for passengers. Nissan saw fit to include a nifty feature, too, and that's a lever to automatically fold the middle row from the front. Pull on a switch, and the seats would fold, and quickly at that. Very handy for when you need to carry longer objects.
Speaking of space, let’s not forget that the Terra is, in fact, a 7-seater. Granted that 3rd rows are usually reserved for smaller individuals (read: children), the Terra’s is just a little bit more spacious that others we’ve previously reviewed. We don’t really advise putting adults in said row. That's mainly due to the low mounting of the seats that force its occupants (especially tall ones) to sit with their knees up. At least the kids won’t be as cramped.
Should you want to fold it, though, it does fold flat and with just the pull of a strap. Again, the seats fold right into the cargo area’s floor, and for those who want as much space for cargo as there is for people, the Terra has you covered in that department. Two full-size photo and video gear cases, bags, rigs, and other personal wares were stowed in the back and there was still a lot of space left for the kitchen sink. Or a personal refrigerator.
But what did Nissan tout as one of the bigger selling points of the Terra? The answer: Nissan Intelligent Mobility. With just a flick of the rearview mirror, it turns into a screen that shows the vehicle as viewed from different vantage points. It gives you a bird’s eye view, which is perfect if you need to squeeze into tight spaces. It gives you your standard rear camera for when you have to back up while parking. It also gives you a blind spot view, which is quite self-explanatory. We wouldn’t want to scratch one side of the Terra now, would we?
The views and the layout are also customizable to a certain extent. But really, Nissan Intelligent Mobility just shines a lot better with a bigger vehicle. Not that small cars or sedans or crossovers don’t benefit from it as much as an SUV. It just makes sense to have more eyes on a larger vehicle from every which way to make parking, and driving, a lot safer for you and others.
Looking at how it performs, obviously it’s no Patrol. That doesn’t mean you don’t have enough juice on tap, though. On paper, the Terra has 450 Nm of torque. It’s also available at a mere 2000 rpm. Simply put, just step on the gas and you have yourself a lot of pull on-demand. Sure, there’s a bit of weight that the engine has to deal with given its size, but that’s enough to really get you going. 190 HP may sound a little low for some, but it's actually one of the most powerful 4x2 mid-size, truck-based SUVs out there. With that, it's really is more than enough, especially in the city. On the highway, it complements the 7-speed transmission well, too.
City-driving being mentioned, we would do up to 9.5 Km/L, whereas highway driving brought us up to about 12.5. All in all, girth and weight considered, these are still economical numbers from an SUV. Of course, there's no such thing as a perfect vehicle and the Terra isn't exempt from that rule. The engine, while punchy and efficient, can sound gruff and clattery, which betrays the comfortable nature of the Terra.
So does this top 2018 4x2 Terra variant do just as much as the top-of-the-line 4x4 model? Is it a better bang for the buck if you plan to use your SUV on roads and just the occasional trail and not for hardcore off-roading? The answer is plain and simple: yes. At about PhP 200,000 less than 4x4, this variant is something worth considering. Given that price point, it's a good competitor alongside the Ford Everest Titanium 4x2, Toyota Fortuner 2.4 V, and the Montero GLS Premium 4x2.
Again, no one can fault anyone for opting for the top-of-the-line model, especially if they can well afford it. But in a more budget-conscious age where vehicle features, safety, and technology are almost all the same spanning all variants, considering a lower tier with just the right amount of things ticked on the checklist makes for a more practical choice. Practical does not necessarily mean scrimping on the essentials; you just have to know what you need and for what purpose you're getting it for.
For those who want a large vehicle that’s good mainly for the city but with just the right amount of SUV to get you through rough roads and patches, the 4x2 VL Terra serves its purpose well.