Nissan X-Trail 2.5 SVE

They're not renowned for their lively performance or good road manners, but if you're looking to blaze a trail in an SUV, Nissan reckons it has the answer. Meet the new 2.5-litre X-Trail, which uses a bored-out version of the standard car's 2.0-litre petrol engine, tuned to develop 163bhp.

Nissan has recognised that most off-roaders rarely tackle anything tougher than misjudged maneouevres into the flowerbed, and concentrated on making the X-Trail a better machine on the road. The extra performance is welcome, but the engine is unrefined and thirsty.

They're not renowned for their lively performance or good road manners, but if you're looking to blaze a trail in an SUV, Nissan reckons it has the answer. Meet the new 2.5-litre X-Trail, which uses a bored-out version of the standard car's 2.0-litre petrol engine, tuned to develop 163bhp.

Its performance isn't lightning-quick, but for a 4x4 it has a surprising turn of pace, the 9.7-second 0-60mph time rivalling that of many 2.0-litre family saloons. From behind the wheel it seems faster - the X-Trail lacks the lethargic feel of many rivals, with a wide powerband and instant throttle responses. Combined with surprisingly taut suspension and a slick gearchange, the Nissan is more estate than big and bouncy off-roader.

So far, so good. But there is a downside to that extra power. The engine might be enthusiastic, but it's far from refined, screaming and wailing at high revs. In 2WD mode, the front wheels frequently scrabble for grip on damp roads. The steering still lacks feel and the car tends to understeer on wet or uneven surfaces, although the absence of body roll and well balanced chassis mean the X-Trail never feels unsafe. Engage 4WD and the car behaves far better - until it's time to go to the petrol pumps. While Nissan claims a combined fuel economy figure of 36.7mpg - not bad compared to the Freelander V6's 23mpg - in our hands the 2.5 could only match the Land Rover.

But the clever 4x4 system does give the X-Trail a notable edge over some rivals. Dubbed ALL MODE, it's designed to distribute drive to all the wheels electronically when required. Derived from the Nissan Skyline GT-R's system, it's great on tarmac, allowing the X-Trail to turn in with saloon car precision instead of the wayward feel of some SUVs. Off-road, ALL MODE works well enough, but the car is compromised by its road tyres and lack of engine braking.

Available only in SVE trim, the 2.5 costs £20,495. That's £500 more than the 2.0 SVE - worthwhile if you fancy a bit of trailblazing, but if economy is your thing, we'd stick with the smaller unit.

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