GRR Garage: Nissan X‑Trail – Some unexpected fun on the commute
At some point in our time with the big orange Nissan X-Trail, we're probably going to have to take it off road and really try out its capability in the rough stuff.
However, if we really wanted to pretend and tell anyone we'd already been doing that we'd have no problem. The roads of West Sussex have suffered during the wet and windy winter that we have been experiencing recently. Potholes are more like sinkholes and the spray from cars around us on the road is less water and more the kind of mud that hippos would be found dancing around in. So, therefore, it's quite hard to tell just how orange the X-Trail really is, it could just as easily be brown.
What no one ever really talks about is how much fun you can have attempting to drive in a spirited fashion in a car that wasn't necessarily meant for it. Sure hot hatches are small and based on cars that would normally live life on a commute, but they've still been fettled for fun. Then there's fast estates which are big and heavy but also have been fiddled with until they can do unspeakable things.
But to wrestle a big machine round country lanes that really wasn't set up for it? That's a fun that seems to be taboo, one that no one really wants to talk about unless it's a car so steeped in history that we all know it MUST be cool. So unless you're hurling a Defender or G63 around, no one wants to talk about that private fun you can have in a big car.
For a start, they roll. They wallow through the corners in a way that would leave anyone not particularly confident behind the wheel nervous. But in 2018 they roll with grip. They stick themselves to the road and present you with the opportunity to gather everything up should you be ready for it.
We're not talking lift-off oversteer and wild wheel-cocking cornering (unless you're really on the ragged edge), but we are in a world of really being part of what's going on. And muscling our X-Trail through the winding A272 every day really can be a barrel load of fun. Brake and the nose dips, pitch the front in and the innate grip of a modern car pulls you round while the high centre of gravity sends the chassis flying around the wheelbase like a suitcase on a flatbed truck as it attempts to keep going straight ahead. But that built-in grip isn't going to give up, so hang on, keep your course true and you can gather it all up, ready for the next corner.
Sure, it's laggy because the turbocharged engine wasn't really meant for hard acceleration, but there's enough torque to drag you away from the apex, and then when you're through you get that sense of accomplishment. Something some faster cars don't allow any more, you've really been the one to do that, not the car on its own. It could not have done it without you.