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06 March 2011

Nissan X-Trail X-Train Challenge

Words and photos by Ferman Lao
Regular readers at would recall that a few weeks ago, I wrote about a road trip to Pico de Loro in Batangas which took us through a challenging bike trail. Well, exactly a week later, I was up early again for Nissan Motors Philippines Inc.'s (NMPI) X-Trail CVT test drive-slash-road trip.

Our destination for the day trip was some three hours away in Acuatico Resort, San Juan, Batangas which meant that a 6:00am call time would give me plenty of seat time spent in the X-Trail. My phone rang at exactly 5:45 am and the guys from Nissan informed that they're just 20 minutes away from the agreed pick up point. Getting there several minutes before they did, the group arrived in a Nissan Urvan consisting of Business Mirror's Ira Panganiban, Manila Bulletin's Iñigo Roces, and Auto Review's Ron and Ronald delos Reyes. Although I know that it's going to be a long day, I wasn't going to be the one to make it longer for the other guys in the van. 
Off to a slow start
Breakfast and briefing was waiting for us at Nissan Westgate Alabang and was just an hour's trip away from Quezon City. For one reason or another, we arrived 45 minutes late! Someone was late, and that puts a couple of guys who were early in a cranky mood, although they were polite enough not to say anything much about it. Cursory greetings and words of sympathy from the other journalists who arrived on time offer some comfort as we quickly wolfed down breakfast. 

Briefing started later than scheduled because our host NMPI President and CEO, Allen Chen, did not want to start without us. A warm welcome from him lightens up everyone as Andy Leuterio of Alpha Training Systems and Raul Ylanan of Elite Multisport Resources briefed us on what the day had in store for us. This was the first-ever Multi Sport Training Camp for us spoiled motoring media peeps at the Acuatico Resort some 130 kilometers away. No sweat as the Nissan X-Trail's CVT transmission will take some chore out of the long drive. The X-Trail's excellent climate control system that Nissan's always been known for and the cushy leather interior helps too. 

Vehicle assignments are given out along with road books with distance markers and tulips, to make sure we don't get lost. “See you in Acuatico,” said our hosts. 

Curious as to what the X-Trail can do, I volunteered to take the hot seat while our team mate, Kit Joaquin, agreed to take care of the drive home. Our other team mates, Ira Panganiban and James Deakin of C! Magazine, were more than happy to oblige. We loaded up all our gear on the split level cargo of the X-Trail and headed out.

Driving car number 4, our small convoy was released rally style by Mr. Chen. With almost 10 minutes between car number 1 and us, I said to myself, “It's going to be a long drive ahead.”
Powering ahead
The road book took us the roundabout way to the Total gas station near Alabang Town Center where we topped up the tanks, took a few photos, and headed back out. Before I put the hammer down on the X-Trail, it took Kit and I several kilometers to get ourselves familiarized with the road book. With pedal to the metal, the X-Trail delivered what I demanded without drama, although it took me some more kilometers to get acclimated on the best way to get it to do exactly what I asked of it. 

From that point on, we easily passed slower moving traffic as we used the newly-built extension out to San Juan, Batangas. The roads were really nice, flowing, and provided more than enough room to maximize the power that's available from the QR25DE engine that resided right in front of us. 

After we left the highway, Kit and I had to pay more attention to the road book as we navigated thru narrow two lane asphalt roads which gave a good measure of how well the X-Trail handled the twisties. I played around with the shift on the fly AWD system by flip-flopping between 2WD and AWD. Although I couldn't perceive the difference between the two modes under the driving conditions we encountered, it was most likely because I wasn't pushing it hard enough. It handled the rough stuff nicely as we hit a few “craters” along the way that were deeper than expected and would have done horrors to the under pinnings of lesser cars. It definitely took them in stride much better than the previous generation, that's for sure. James and Ira chided me about hitting them, but otherwise don't complain.

We arrived exactly two hours and ten minutes after departure; ahead of everyone else. It seemed that I enjoyed flogging the X-Trail a wee bit more than the others in our convoy. We unloaded and got ready for the rest of the day's activity that would begin after lunch.
A quick spiel from Andy enlightened us on what multisport is about - it allows the well-balanced athlete who trains properly, not just one that's strong in one particular area, to shine. Edmund Mangaser of All Terra followed with his talk on how one should get familiar with the bikes (one aspect of multisport) we'll be using. He also taught us the necessary skills on how to best handle them. Hhmmm... sounds like what we just did with the X-Trail. We then proceed to the day's activities, and to keep things interesting, everyone was informed that we would be scored on how well we'd be doing the exercises, of the different aspects of multisport, as a team. 

Time passed quickly as we finished the exercises with some time to spare that allowed us to enjoy Acuatico's facilities before dinner time. Dinner was sumptuous and filling. It bore good news too; Ira, James, Kit, and I whooped the other teams and won top spot as well as some nifty prizes from Suunto, Elf, Pocari Sweat, and Fissan. Special prizes go to Dino Directo of Manila Standard and Noelle de Guzman of Total Fitness for standing out in the day's activities.

Everyone packed up with more stuff into their respective X-trails for the long trip back to Nissan Westgate, Alabang. I took the chair behind the shotgun seat as Kit took the wheel. It's now his turn to warp time and distance in the X-Trail. We arrived at about 10 p.m., said our good byes and took our respective rides back to our final destinations.