You can have Nissan New Zealand’s swish new X-Trail family SUV with a completely conventional petrol engine should you want it. But for those who want lots of electrification without having to buy separate Road User Charges (RUC) at the Post Office, there’s the X-Trail e-Power.
Surely the technology flagship for Nissan’s SUV range (at least for now, more on that later), the X-Trail e-Power is basically a hybrid, because you don’t plug it in. But not a hybrid as we know it: the three-cylinder petrol engine runs as a generator, charging a very small battery (1.8kWh) that is used to power electric motors. Full electric drive then… just not technically an electric vehicle.
It’s similar in concept to Honda’s e:HEV powertrain, although Nissan has ramped up the technology significantly (and the price to go with it, mind) with a variable-compression engine and trick “e-4force” all-wheel drive system; because that AWD is also fully electric, Nissan claims it can react 10,000 times faster than a mechanical setup.
It’s all a bit headache-inducing, but actually you don’t have to worry about any of it. The X-Trail e-Power just gets on and does its thing with minimal knowledge or button-pushing required from the driver.
It’s an astonishingly refined and luxurious-feeling family SUV as a result – as it should be for the $67k tag attached to our top Ti-L test vehicle. As with a more conventional hybrid (okay, a Toyota), the battery is only big enough to power the electric motors for 1-2km without petrol assistance; but you’re often not aware of the little petrol-triple running during urban driving anyway. It really does feel like an EV much of the time; you can even activate a one-pedal driving mode for the full effect.
The petrol powerplant does fire up in a more vocal manner when you’re pressing on, and sometimes it’s an odd sensation because it’s not always revving up and down in the way that road speed and throttle position might dictate in a conventional car; it’s just thrumming away making electricity, remember. Takes some getting used to.
More speed does mean more potential to get the best from the e-4force AWD, which is astonishingly capable on everything from wet roads to loose surfaces. More importantly, it’s impressively unobtrusive. Again, the car is just getting on with its thing and you reap the rewards. There are five drive modes to choose from, but the car’s powertrain is so intelligent they feel more optional than essential.
The X-Trail also has upped its game in terms of interior luxury and refinement. There’s never been a mainstream Nissan SUV that has felt quite as upmarket as this; still a conventional look and feel with plenty of physical controls, but the quality of materials and clarity of the displays is really impressive.
Practicality has always been the X-Trail’s forte and despite the posh new presentation, the e-Power still delivers. It’s not just the space: it’s detail touches like the European-style 40/20/40 split rear seats (they slide and oh, they’re also heated) and back doors that open to an incredible 85 degrees; nearly a right angle, making access so much easier for occupants.
The boot is 10l down on the standard X-Trail thanks to the packaging required for the battery, but that’s really not enough to worry about. It’s still a generous 575l.
The elephant in the room right from launch has been the X-Trail e-Power’s fuel economy. With a rating of 6.8l/100km under the Kiwi 3P-WLTP standard, on paper it doesn’t seem to deliver the kind of fuel economy that justifies all that tech, not to mention a $7k premium over the same Ti-L specification with a conventional 2.5-litre powertrain. The extra 250kg the electric hardware adds to the e-Power’s weight is another factor in the fuel economy – is it all a bit self-defeating?
Our real-world experience has been that e-Power is what you’re prepared to make of it with your driving style. It’s not as effortlessly consistent as a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, but we found it easy to equal that official figure in open-road driving and eased it down to 4.8l/100km in city commuting – admittedly by trying really very hard. But it was kind of fun and that is pretty impressive for a vehicle of this size and weight.
Fuel economy is only part of the argument for e-Power, of course. It’s also partly about extreme refinement and the ability to run that techy AWD system. You have the choice, at any rate: there’s a slightly cheaper $62,990 ST-L e-Power and the conventional X-Trail also has a pretty good AWD setup, but gulps 8.2l/100km.
It might seem odd for the brand that pioneered mainstream pure-electric family vehicles (you might have heard of the Leaf) over a decade ago to be introducing complex new hybrid technology. But the X-Trail e-Power is just one piece of the puzzle; there is of course a pure-electric Nissan SUV coming to NZ soon in the form of the Ariya. Should all fit together nicely.
NISSAN X-TRAIL Ti-L E-POWER
ENGINE: 1.5-litre petrol-turbo three-cylinder generator with e-Power hybrid system and dual electric motors
POWER: 150/100kW (front/rear), 330/195Nm (front/rear)
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, AWD
CONSUMPTION: 6.8l/100km (3P-WLTP)