Drive: This one surfs sand

2010-12-03 13:57

Serious off-roading is always loads of fun, but leaves you thinking you need a big 4x4 to tackle any sort of obstacle. I had my doubts about the new Nissan X-Trail bringing me back from Atlantis’ famous sand dunes in Western Cape.

While the X-Trail’s name goes hand-in-hand with the driving style it’s made for, its size doesn’t represent the average big truck.

The 2011 model looks more aggressive than its predecessors, giving it a rugged sports utility vehicle (SUV) look even though it is referred to as a semi-SUV.

The launch kicked off in Bantry Bay, Cape Town, with a drive to the Atlantis sand dunes. Sand ­surfing in a 4x4 brings out childhood glee in most of us. The only people who won’t smile about it are nature conservationists but if you get a day permit at the municipality office you’re good to go.

The top-range model houses a 2.0 litre diesel and automatic gearbox combination, and the petrol derivative features the continuously variable transmission gearbox.

Once we got to the dunes’s gate we deflated the tyres, made sure the cars had the vehicle dynamic control turned off and mounted old-fashioned walkie-talkies to keep in contact while driving in convoy.

The weather was perfect and the slightest of breezes blew over the shimmering soft white sand.

I was convinced that I was going to stay put in the passenger seat because, much as I love off-roading, I also fear it.
The X-Trail conquered the sand dunes, which put me at ease when I had to take my place for a down-hill obstacle.

Thanks to the advanced hill descent control system, it was a breeze and gave me the confidence to drive the rest of the route. I wish I had done it earlier – it’s like drifting and a lot of fun.

The 4x4 I-drive together with the active brake limited slip programme helps to give the driver the best grip on slippery surfaces. The hill-assist start also helps you get up ascending gradients.

The X-Trail has a fresh front-end which includes a redesigned grille and headlight cluster while the rear has new LED tail-lights. There are also new alloy wheels and an intelligent key system. The interior has been improved with colour coordinated and upgraded materials.

And there is more leg room and a few more compartments to store all the goodies when one goes on holiday or bundu-bashing. I particularly like the two drawers beneath the floorboard in the boot.

There’s also a rear-view camera with in-mirror display on the high-spec model which comes in handy when you’re out playing.

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