The Philippine automotive industry is on a very busy year; each player has launched vehicle after vehicle to reaffirm or boost their market share and positioning. That's the reason why the industry is on a record year and every automaker, importer and distributor are working hard to attract new customers to their latest machines.

Nissan is one such automaker on a mission. After relaunching as a new, unified national sales company, Nissan Philippines, Inc. has worked to introduce more new models to recapture the luster of brand from decades past. Leading the charge are models like the Sylphy and Altima, nameplates that replaced the Sentra and the Teana but are and aesthetically and mechanically identical to their international counterparts.

Whereas Nissan is undergoing somewhat of a reboot in the compact and midsize/executive sedan categories, the brand is bringing the new generation of their compact crossover SUV with the same name but with a far more exciting design and far more enjoyable dynamics.

So without further ado, we are about to take a spin aboard the all new 2015 Nissan X-Trail from Manila to Baguio to see what this latest generation Nissan has to offer.


The 2015 Nissan X-Trail

Getting acquainted with the 2015 X-Trail

We made our way to Nissan North EDSA for the start of Nissan X-Odus; a driving event to allow us the chance to experience what the 2015 X-Trail can do.

At first glance, you can see that Nissan drastically changed the design of the X-Trail. The new X has clearly veered away from its traditional boxiness and adopted a sleek body with modern styling. The difference is clear from the front of the 2015 X-Trail which, as Nissan describes it, is designed with a 'V-motion' grill, boomerang-shaped headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights.

The side profile of the X-Trail is indeed more car-like (albeit with more height) with a wedge-shaped front end and a steeply raked windscreen. The tailgate of the X-Trail is likewise sharper and features details such as the high-tech taillights and even a spoiler for this particular variant. Just about the only thing on the 2015 model that qualifies as a classic X-Trail design element are the addition of roof rails.

Open the doors and you're greeted by a black interior which has silver accents to break up the monotony. An LCD screen is placed between the analog tachometer and speedometer which displays information like the trip commuter, the fuel economy rating, the torque distribution, among others; this new generation has the gauges in front of the driver as opposed to the middle of the dash like the first generation X-Trail.

The key feature that stands out is the driver's seat of the X-Trail which are developed by Nissan in collaboration with NASA: the 'Zero-G' seat. Similar with the Altima, the 2015 X-Trail's driver's seat are optimized for low fatigue and therefore maximum comfort. We can attest to the fact that the said seats will surely be a blessing when you go for a road trip or when you're stuck in traffic. It's also very important to note that the 2015 X-Trail models in the Philippines are all seven seaters.

The 2015 X-Trail also has a number of new features that include the All Mode 4x4i wheel drive system, Active Ride Control, Active Engine Brakes and Hill Start/Descent Assist. The feature that I find very useful is the Around View Monitor, a system that gives the driver a 360 degree bird's eye view of the vehicle using four cameras placed around the X-Trail. With this, the monitor displays a near complete view of the vehicle's surroundings when parking.

This new X-Trail should make for an interesting drive, particularly given our route from Manila up to the City of Pines: Baguio.


Making the drive easy

We set off from Nissan's North EDSA showroom aboard a fleet of brand new 2015 X-Trails.

As the convoy started to take on EDSA , it became clear that maneuvering this crossover around traffic is easy, given the light, responsive and precise steering. Visibility is likewise good, allowing the driver to easily negotiate the tricky nature of rush hour traffic.

Upon reaching the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), we were finally able to stretch the legs of the 2015 X-Trail. The QR25DE engine has been a mainstay of Nissan's midsize models. The 2.5 liter motor makes 171 PS and 233 Nm of torque and is matched with an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The powertrain is smooth on the highway, but the transmission is a bit of a let down as the CVT does not kick down its ratios as quickly as, say, most modern conventional automatics. However, once it has kicked down, the QR25DE generates ample horsepower to compensate for the delay, making overtaking easy.


The 2015 Nissan X-Trail

Out of the Expressways

Past the long stretches of expressway and the provincial highways with barrio landscapes, we then enter the crucial test of the X-Trail's abilities: the challenging uphill climb of Kennon Road. As we drove up towards Baguio and took on hairpin after hairpin, the X-Trail never failed to deliver the goods, as a lack of power here will surely disappoint any driver.

The X-Trail's handling proved to be one of its best characteristics. As with traffic, maneuvering around the mountain road (originally a goat path, as we're told) wasn't a problem given the light, responsive and precise steering system. This X-Trail 2.5L may have a manual mode on the gearstick, but I would have wished for are paddle shifters so I could assume control over the transmission without having to take my hands off the wheel.

Throughout the trip, the 2015 X-Trail’s fuel economy readout registered about 10 km/l. That figure is a combined fuel economy during the whole duration of the drive which includes urban traffic, highway stretches and uphill roads towards Baguio. Given that we were on a brisk drive, the fuel economy isn't what we would call proper yet; we will do a full test of that later.

As a whole, the 2015 X-Trail is more than just a fancy redesign. Nissan has thoroughly worked out a crossover that can truly challenge against the dominant models in the segment such as the Hyundai Tucson. Responsive handling, comfortable interior, smart technology and two more seats bring Nissan's crossover challenger to the head of the pack, and that's not even counting the competitive pricing yet.

If you want a 2015 X-Trail, the 2.0L 4x2 models retail for PhP 1,375,000 while these top spec 2.5L 4x4 models are priced at PhP 1,580,000.

The 2015 Nissan X-Trail

What’s next for Nissan Philippines?

Nissan PH President and Managing Director Antonio ‘Toti’ Zara also joined the 2015 X-Trail drive. Zara said that the “all-new X-Trail is both a beauty to behold and an efficient vehicle ready for the road, making it the embodiment of Nissan’s innovation.”

Zara also said that it’s time to bring “passion back to regain Nissan’s place in the automotive industry.” He added that the X-Trail is just the beginning of a series of launch by Nissan and we should expect more “aggressive” market launches in the future.

Needless to say, we are going to keenly look forward to what other models Nissan has in store for the years to come.