Feedback is a good thing.
One thing we always work to ensure is that we give feedback about any car we drive because that's what readers and customers expect, and what manufacturers need. Be it constructive or blunt, some manufacturers like the criticism, while others don't.
Nissan, however, is one of the former. And judging by what we can experience with the new Terra VL, they seem to have listened. Mostly, anyway.
If you've been waiting for the new Terra, then you know it's finally out. It re-enters the market at a very critical time given the impact of the pandemic on the economy and the purse strings of customers. It also doesn't help Nissan's case that many of the Terra's direct competitors are new like the Ford Everest, the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, as well as the Toyota Fortuner. Chevrolet has already bowed out of the running with the Trailblazer after they sold their factory in Thailand, but their ex-partner Isuzu is coming out with the all-new mu-X soon.
What Nissan is fielding is not a new generation model by any stretch; rather, it's a facelifted and upgraded model. The new-look Terra first debuted in the Middle East a few months ago as the X-Terra, leading many (us included) to speculate whether Nissan will actually retain the Terra or add the X for our market. One look at the tailgate and you'll know.
The face has received the most thorough redesign. Manufacturers usually don't make too many changes to the actual shape of the vehicle when they do facelifts. Typically they focus on altering the look of the plastic bumpers and bolt-on details (e.g. headlamps) to try and limit the alterations. This is to avoid having to change the steel presses and stamping dies to keep costs to a minimum. It's similar to what a tailor charges if you have to extensively alter a pair of pants to fit versus having to just chop off an inch or two from the bottom hem.
Looking at the Terra, what's apparent is that some of the exterior body panels in front are actually new. You can't lift those snappy quad-LED headlamps and fit them to a pre-facelift Terra because the cuts on the fenders are different. The bumper with the larger grille and edgier look can't be fitted either because it's completely different. Even the hood is different. This isn't a facelift; it's Face/Off.
What is clear is that Nissan went chrome maximum for the new Terra, particularly in this VL variant. If you've been reading and/or watching my reviews on YT, then you'd understand that I'm not a fan of bling. I prefer a little bit of black or gray as accents rather than chrome, but I do have to understand that the target market of the Terra does like a bit of chrome. Nissan even added a little fender garnish with a little bit of chrome which is similar to what Ford has on the Everest. On the Terra it is not functional, but it does give owners a place on which to cut through (we don't think there's a hole behind it) to install a snorkel if they so choose.
The side doesn't get much in the way of alterations apart from the new 18” wheel design. The tires are still the H/T variety, and this still comes with step boards that nicely stick out for easier ingress and egress. But the back is a different story.
Nissan remodeled the tailgate by quite a bit, and this is perhaps the bone of contention with the Terra. The new LED taillights look neat, but there's something about how they redesigned the tailgate itself with that chrome bridge. The place where the old garnish was is now a color-keyed (body color) panel with the Nissan emblem and the Terra lettering individually stuck onto it.
Here's an observation though: the first R on TERRA still doesn't look centered (a little to the left) in relation to the emblem. That's something we told Nissan about with the previous Terra during the regional launch at Clark, and we ended up stunning the Japanese project chief because he didn't notice it either. They retained that orientation because apparently, the R is mathematically (is that the correct term?) centered even though it doesn't look like it.
There's another more significant issue with the tailgate though: Nissan didn't add a recess for your hand to open it. There is a little recess above the plateholder where the release button is, but it's too shallow to get a grip and too high to get leverage. Nissan could have done what Ford did and added that to solve the issue or they could have added a power tailgate like what Toyota and Mitsubishi did. But the Terra has neither.
With the cargo area opened, it's clear that there were no changes here. The third row and second row do fold flat, and that's always a good thing because you've got a long flat surface to put cargo on. Do keep in mind that the seatback of the second row is also leather, so you may have to put a mat there to prevent scuffing it. You can also fold and tumble that second row via two switches on the center console
There is a trade-off with the fold-flat though, and that's the little compartment lid just aft of it. Honestly, I actually like it because it gives an extra compartment that's concealed neatly into the vehicle, but it does raise up the loadspace for cargo. At it stands, the Terra's floor is about 37 inches up from the road. Other competitor models are about 32 to 34 inches up from the ground. Nissan had to do that as a workaround for the fold-flat system because there's a spare tire underneath. So if you're loading some heavy items like a washing machine, then the lift can be an extra challenge.
So we like the front (it looks like a smaller Patrol facelift), the rear not so much, and the cargo area is good but with compromises. Let me tell you now that it's all pretty much uphill from here.
The interior has been the chief criticism of the Terra by customers. When Nissan launched the model in 2018, they used the exact same dashboard as the Navara that has been around since 2014 (2015 in PH). By 2018, it may have already seemed dated versus many competitors like the Montero Sport which was new in 2016. That's all been turned around now.
The new dashboard is several leagues ahead of the previous model, and dare I say, the best-looking one in the category. Nissan really remodeled it completely, and it looks very uncluttered and very premium. I particularly liked the slimmer A/C vents, the treatment with that burgundy red leather panel, the not-so-glossy silver trim, and many more.
The steering wheel has finally been swapped out for the new D-cut design as seen in the 2021 Navara, Leaf, and X-Trail. The instrument panel is the new one with a larger multi-info display. The shifter is new and feels more premium, and juts out from a revised console with deeper cupholders. The Terra did lose the cupholders below the A/C vents on the sides and Nissan didn't alter the inner door panels apart from the new burgundy inserts, but overall the impression is that the Terra is out to impress.
Nissan also worked on improving the driving and riding experience. It gets dual-zone climate control with the control for the rear A/C, but what really elevates the Terra is the new and enhanced multimedia system. The larger 9-inch screen is so much better than before in terms of how clear and crisp the display is.
It now comes with some new features such as wireless Apple Carplay, along with Android Auto, Bluetooth, satellite navigation, and many more USB ports than before. There's a USB (data) and a USB C port on the center stack between the 12-volt outlet and the 4x4 dial, along with another USB and USB C port behind the center armrest which still has a 12-volt outlet inside.
The Terra does lose that tray on top of the dashboard with the 12-volt socket, but that's OK; this is more of a family vehicle rather than a truck like the Navara. But given that Nissan fitted this VL with an 8-speaker Bose package, I'm not complaining at all. Not even a little bit.
Another welcome upgrade is the new seat upholstery. It just feels fantastic on your back especially with how Nissan shaped the seats up front for maximum comfort and low fatigue even for long drives. The same upholstery style was also extended to the middle row which looks a bit puffier than before.
That's actually OK; it looks more like a comfortable sofa now, and there's still that drop-down screen. It's actually nice to hook up a mini Playstation to it via the HDMI port in the very back, and power it via the USB port there as well. Our video crew enjoyed playing the OG Metal Gear Solid and other classic PS1 games while I was driving.
Driving the Terra VL around town, I actually felt like the ride had taken a turn for the worse. Only then did I realize that the vehicle hadn't been PDI'd (pre-delivery inspection) yet; that means the tires may still be at the higher pressures used for shipping. And upon checking the TPMS, it was clear that it was: the recommended pressure was 240 kPa (about 35 psi) but the front tires were at 280 (41 psi) while the rear tires were at 270 (40 psi). After correcting that, the ride turned to butter. Smooth on any surface in the city.
One clear improvement is the NVH of the vehicle. It just seems quieter inside, and I confirmed that when I used my decibel meter which read 53 dB at 60 km/h on asphalt. That is very quiet for a diesel SUV in this class. Nissan also says they have a new power steering unit in the Terra; there is a difference, but not night/day and not that obvious.
The big-ticket upgrade with the Terra VL is the expanded advanced safety package that the manufacturer calls Nissan Intelligent Mobility. Almost every one of those features does have the word “intelligent” attached to them, but I'll give Nissan a pass because they do work well. I like the rearview screen that activates when you put the rearview mirror into night mode. The forward collision warning, the rear cross-traffic alert, the lane departure warning, and even the autonomous emergency braking system are all very much appreciated.
One NIM feature that isn't in the Terra VL is ProPilot, or their adaptive cruise control system. But that's not a big deal; I don't like using adaptive cruise control anyway. The feature I like the most is the new 360-degree camera system which is integrated with the front and rear sensors to warn you if something or someone is in close proximity. That just makes you a parking boss.
Nissan did hold back on one key aspect though: the mechanical aspect of the Terra. Yes, there's a new power steering unit (hydraulic, not electric), new rear disc brakes (for the VL), and maybe even a few adjustments or revisions to the suspension and components, but the engine and gearbox are still the same.
All variants of the Terra still have the 2.5-liter turbodiesel that has been around for a while in many other models. That's not to say it's a lackluster unit; at 190 PS and 450 Nm of torque, it may not be class-leading but it's not a slouch. But what I wanted Nissan to work on was when the torque comes in and the gearing of the 7-speed automatic at third and fourth because those would have had a big impact on fuel economy.
On the highway it doesn't matter that much; the Terra does about 13 km/l. It can do more if I try to be more mindful of overtaking, but it's under normal driving conditions is what I was getting. At low-speed urban driving, however, is where it matters more for most of us living in cities as I was averaging 8.2 km/l (average speed 21 km/h) with the Terra if I drive normally.
The reason is the gearing at third and fourth at about 30 to 40 km/h. The transmission holds on to those gears a bit longer than I feel they should. There's actually a difference when you jump from a Terra to an Everest, a Fortuner, or a Montero Sport at those speeds. Maybe it's the programming of the transmission's computer box, the gear ratios, or even the fact that the max torque of competitor models come at an earlier rpm, but it's there.
Nevertheless, the Terra VL is still a pleasant driving and riding experience. The handling isn't fantastic and I feel that the Montero Sport is still the best of breed, but that's not the priority. What does matter more is capability. This VL 4x4 still has shift-on-the-fly, hill descent control, rear diff lock, so on and so forth. Ground clearance is still at 225mm, and maximum water wading is still 800mm. So yeah, nothing has changed that we can spot, but they didn't need to anyway. The Terra's capability is proven, so we'll be confident to take it off-road once these quarantine measures are ended. Actually I'm looking forward to it, and it'll come soon enough.
If I was to grade the upgrades, I'd give the 2022 Nissan Terra VL 4x4 an 85/100. Many of the improvements really drive the vehicle forward in light of what customers want, save for a few important ones. To score higher, Nissan needs to make some powertrain upgrades, revise the polarizing rear design, and maybe add a motorized mechanism for the tailgate. Had that last feature been included, we could have overlooked the rear and the powertrain carryover.
The critical thing is the price: Nissan set the SRP at PHP 2,339,000. It's a good price for what you get, but we're not sure how the market will receive that because Mitsubishi and Ford cleverly stayed under the 2.3 million threshold with the Montero Sport GT 4WD and Everest Titanium+, respectively.
There's also the prospect of an all-new mu-X that could reach PHP 2.45 million in top trim. Of the current crop, only Toyota dared to go higher with the Fortuner LTD at 2.4 million. But that's Toyota.