A few months after the Y62 Nissan Patrol replaced the legendary Y61 in 2010, I had a chat with Michel Ayat, CEO of AW Rostamani Automotive Group. I asked him if he thought Nissan made a mistake by discarding the Patrol’s rugged, spartan looks for a curvier, refined, Land Cruiser-like shape. He said the change was a result of Nissan’s research that pointed to the new Patrol having to be a lot more sophisticated and luxurious than before. And added that sales figures will justify the change. Well, a decade later, the sheer ubiquity of the new Nissan Patrol on and off our roads justifies this research and makes my query seem rather pointless. However, to me, the soul of the Safari never seemed to have transferred to its successor. So late last year when I saw another off-road favourite, the X-Terra, making a comeback after a hiatus in a rounded, urbanised avatar, I was sceptical.

When I saw the new X-Terra in flesh though, much of my cynicism faded away. While the Safari had an old-world charm to its design, the previous X-Terra was just a plain, bland box on wheels, focused on utility than looks. So in this case, the redesign is more of a welcome change.

The restyling takes it closer in looks to its main rival, Toyota’s Fortuner, which had received a makeover a few years back. The designers have succeeded in adding enough beefiness to the SUV despite the overall lines being more smooth and rounded. The pronounced, muscular wheel arches and the sharp character lines add to the air of robustness. The grille with loads of chrome, the LED daytime running lamps, and the sleeker LED headlamps lend it a more urbane character compared to the previous version with its matte grille surround and blocky, rectangular yet highly functional headlights. It also ties the X-Terra in line with the rest of the models in Nissan’s current SUV range in terms of design language. And at 4,900mm long, 1,900mm tall and 2,100mm wide with a ground clearance of 243mm, the X-Terra has a fairly imposing presence for a mid-size SUV.

The efforts to urbanise the X-Terra are apparent in the cabin too, with the Platinum model getting beige leather interior appointments, a more flowing dashboard design, and some matte silver trim elements. It also gets all the creature comforts you would expect in a modern people mover. The seats are comfortable in both the first and second rows, however the third row seats are best reserved for kids. The second row folds down easily for better access to the third row, which can be folded down to free up more cargo space.

At 4,900mm long, 1,900mm tall and 2,100mm wide with a ground clearance of 243mm, the X-Terra has a fairly imposing presence for a mid-size SUV
Anas Thacharpadikkal

For all these refinements generally associated with soft-roaders, the X-Terra is equipped with a ladder-frame chassis, which Nissan says is reinforced to give it greater rigidity for off-road drives. It also features a five-link coil spring rear suspension system and rigid rear-wheel axle, and a dial on the console that allows drivers to quickly shift from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive.

It’s all great then, right? That’s what you would think until you start driving it, unable to fathom why all this good work had to be undone by replacing the brilliant 4.0-litre V6 VQ40 engine with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that is noticeably underpowered for this SUV. The four-pot here manages just 165 horsepower and 241Nm of torque, significantly lower than the 261 horsepower and 386Nm of torque churned out by the VQ40.

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To me this is disappointing, and takes much away from an otherwise great seven-seater, off-road capable SUV that’s also priced right between Dh99,000 and Dh134,000. But maybe there’s something that I don’t see that Nissan’s research has shown them to prompt this move. And maybe, like with the Y62 Patrol, ten years down the line I might be forced to ponder over the silliness of me lamenting the choice of this engine.

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