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2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
by Karl Peskett

2008 Nissan X-Trail Off-road Review

How does Nissan’s baby 4WD tackle the rough stuff?

Model Tested:

  • 2008 Nissan X-Trail TL dCi – $39,990


  • Metallic Paint $395
  • Automatic Transmission $2000

Space, build quality, engine response, VDC
Lack of ground clearance

CarAdvice Rating:

2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review

– by Karl Peskett

The good wife wants a new car. The mates want to go camping off-road. The missus needs space, visibility and ease of drive, as well as being economical. The mates want you to keep up when they’re going off the beaten track. Its gotta be affordable, so what’s a guy to do?

Well, the Nissan X-Trail seems to fit the bill for all of the above, but is it a pretender? How does it really fare off road, especially in diesel guise?

In reading several reports on the previous X-Trail, the All-Mode all-wheel-drive system overheated if severely pushed, and reverted back to front wheels only, a disaster if you’re in soft sand. Reading through the owners manual of the new one, it seems the same scenario will produce the same result.

2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review

A quick expedition on the sand behind our local service station with full tyre pressures revealed that with the speed kept up, the X-Trail would cope quite well. Our time at the beach should be an interesting test, then. Three or four hours of constant work would certainly show any problems.

We loaded up the gear, whacked the family in, and along with two other cars (it’s always wise to have companions when going off-road) we headed out to our favourite sandy spot.

The tyre pressures were all dropped to 15psi, still leaving ample air in, so rolling tyres off the rims wasn’t a worry. Except for right at the start.

2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review

You see, having made our way past the rocky section and onto the softer sand, we left it in Auto mode, which detects wheel slippage and apportions the power front and back. It works a treat, too, but coming onto the beach, there’s a fair slope, and we thought it would be a good test for the hill-descent control, which comes standard.

Not realising that it has to be on Lock mode for it to be active, and not just Auto, we headed over the crest and picked up speed. By the time we realised it wasn’t working, we were approaching the base of the hill with plenty of speed.

BANG! Despite ABS brakes, the wheels still hit the deck quite hard while turned slightly left. It sounded worse than it was, as the tyre hung onto the rim, and we just accelerated out and along the beach.

So far, despite a slight error, the X-Trail is doing quite well. With the test car being an automatic, you’ll realise that the shortish first gear is just to get momentum, and second gear is where the X-Trail really shines.

Running alongside a Mazda Tribute V6 and a Holden Colorado, the X-Trail wasn’t shy in keeping up. At some points, while keeping a steady 60km/h (on beach sand mind you), if the boot was sunk in, the X-Trail would accelerate a lot quicker than expected, taking the other two by surprise.

2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review

The other excellent feature was the VDC remaining off when switched off. Even when sliding around in the ruts, a “hidden” stability control system – as in VW’s Tiguan or Subaru’s Forester – still crops up every now and then, with a quick brake here or a slight clamp there, washing off precious speed. Not so, the X-Trail. It did what it was told. Kudos to Nissan.

You do need to keep the momentum up, though, as the X-Trail’s biggest downfall is its ground clearance. In standard form, the X-Trail must be moving to push the top layer of sand out of the way. The one time we had to brake, to allow other traffic to pass safely the other way, it beached itself on the bottom of the body. A quick snatch out and we were away, only stopping where the ruts weren’t so deep.

Climbing big hills also proved painful as any rutting slowed the Nissan down to the point where even though the engine was willing, there was too much speed washed off to get up and going again. Then is was a case of either backing off and reversing down the hill, or completely burying yourself. We opted for the former.

2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review

However if it’s not too deeply cut up, the X-Trail handles it better than a lot of softroaders, despite being a diesel. It powers on after other diesel engines would have given up. Some bog down in the revs, but the X-Trail’s 2.0-litre just recovers, even after a big hit, such as left-foot braking.

Even though our test car was an automatic, there was no hindrance, or slackness in power delivery. Having said that, the manual with its extra 17kW and 40Nm should fare even better. The hill-descent feature also works a treat, even on slippery, crumbly surfaces.

With some inexpensive modifications, the diesel X-Trail could handle even more challenging situations. The drivetrain, although not the smoothest out there, is a winner, and the All-Mode 4WD system never once gave up the ghost, and believe us, we tried.

2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review
2008 Nissan X-Trail off-road review

Not only is the X-Trail cheap to run, inexpensive to buy, and extremely practical and well built, it’s very accomplished, too. As far as SUVs go, the X-Trail in the value for money stakes is a clear contender.

CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go:


  • Engine: 1995cc four-cylinder (16 valve)
  • Power: 110kW @ 4000rpm
  • Torque: 320Nm @ 2000rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Brakes: Discs with ABS, EBA and EBD
  • Driven Wheels: All-wheel
  • 0-100km/h: 12.5 seconds
  • 0-400m: Not Tested
  • Top Speed: 181km/h
  • Fuel Type: Diesel
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 65 litres
  • Fuel Consumption: 7.4 litres/100km
  • CO2 Emissions: 216g/km
  • Safety: ESP, front, side & curtain airbags
  • EuroNCAP Rating: Four Star
  • Spare Wheel: Full-size alloy
  • Turning Circle: 10.8 metres
  • Tow Capacity: 1350kg (Braked)
  • Warranty: 3 year/100,000kms
  • Weight: 1683kg (Tare)
  • Wheels: 17 x 6.5-inch Alloy

Road Test the Rivals:

  • zahmad

    Another world class great car from Nissan….shame it isn’t the same for its small cars which are not being updated due to their alliance with Renault!

  • Andrew

    Those last two pics really show that the departure angle is quite poor. Also the tow weight is quite low for a vehicle in this class. The Tiguan can tow 2500 kgs although doesn’t seem nearly as good off road.

    • Blokie

      Not sure where you get that from?
      the Xtrail is a softroader and Braked towing is 2000kgs, which is actually higher than a lot of V6 SUVs !

      Redbooks has the Tiguan as 2000kgs as well

  • John of Perth

    A good and accurate review. I have the diesel and manual and after 12,000kms in three months and a few proper offroad trips, can attest that so far within reason this vehicle will go places.

    The Tiguan has a 2,000kg tow rating which is higher than the diesel auto but the same as the diesel manual Xtrail.

    Had a similar experience to the hard landing reported – and rolled the tyre off the rim – see Youtube (Xtrail rolls…)

    With the manual once tyre pressures are sorted for soft sand, there is no stopping it in 4WD lock/ESP off mode.


  • Richo

    John – i’d love to know what you consider to be “proper offroad trips”. The car is good for a soft roader, but isn’t capable of anything approaching proper off roading. My Mum has one and its actually a really nice car to drive on the road, and pretty good on the beach, but if we approach anything even remotely challenging, we pull over because the little X just isn’t up to it.

    • Di

      Totally agree with Richo. XTrails are not capable of going too far off a road. Where I live it is by no means capable of serious offroad driving.

  • Richo

    the issue by the way isn’t a lack of traction on the beach, its a lack of ground clearance. In the bush, its a combination of a lack of ground clearance and wheel travel. Also there is nothing in the way of underbody protection, we ripped the plastic guard under the engine bay off twice!

  • Richo

    just watched the youtube clip, the problem there wasn’t too much tyre pressure as you didn’t run out of traction, the problem was the line you took which resulted in the front of the car going into the air. I can see what you where trying to do in avoiding the wheel ruts (which wouldnt have been a problem had the car had enough ground clearance which goes back to what i was talking about) but you went too far to the left which launched the car into the air and the landing broke your tyre.

    Lower tyre pressures would have only helped if you needed more traction, but traction there wasn’t the issue, it was the line you took. As i said 17psi is fine for sand. 12psi is actually too low unless you have bead lockers and will actually increase your chances of the wheel coming off the rim, especially on road spec tyres

  • http://www.littlepixiegifts.com.au Gift-Ed

    Great review. I think the Suzuki Vitara is still the pick in this class though.

  • Spitfire

    A full size ALLOY spare wheel. Well done Nissan. Other manufacturers take note. If you want to sell me a car I expect a matching spare wheel otherwise no sale.

  • John of Perth

    Let’s just say that once I go the pressures to 12/13 it did not matter if i was in the wheel ruts; there was no issue with ground clearance.

    As a balance between your Landcruiser/Pajero/Prado and the times I need to use this offroad, it can handle most normal situations. Sure wheel articulation etc is never going to approach that of a heavy duty 4Wd but I guess the mix for me and my 4WD club activities works. It is also more suitable for everyday work n play.

    I am doing a long beach run beginning of Jan and now that I know the limitations of the vehicle I am not concerned about going off road.

  • John of Perth

    Gift-Ed – The Suzuki is a great vehicle – however the Xtrail eats it for space – I placed my Xtrail alongside a Territory and it is as long!

    The other item is the diesel engine – the one in the Nissan is far better than the Vitara’s for driveablilty, noise, refinement.


  • Doug

    How does this compare with the CX7? I would think the xtrail is better, but overall (after looking through each car) I believe the CX7 is better built and desgined. Pitty it only comes in turbo (what are learners meant to learn on?)
    Anyone compared the two?

  • http://ozmazdaclub.com Ozmazdaclub ZB

    Great to see the last model Tribute only for the trip…what a great SUV they were…lets hope that Mazda drop the new 2.2ltr turbo diesel from the 6 in the CX7. With 136kW and 400Nm this would be a great package and give Mazda a manual CX7.

    Before I sold my trusty 4×4 Bravo and got a 2 my wife and I went on a weekend trip with some soft roaders and one of them was a an Xtrail and I have to say that I was impressed.

  • George yerou

    its a brilliant car at off road because we have tested it at it skills but it also does great handeling and hits 135 mph with its 3.0 leter petrel fuel ingected engin but make sure you get the t spec

  • steve



    • http://karlandsusan1@bigpond.com karl

      Whell I own A Nissan X Trail STL.and
      I have A few mates who have done the trip to Cape York,
      my advice is Tyres:Good Year,Kevlar.
      Suspension:Old Man Emu.
      Water:A water pipe about 20-30ml the lenth of your roof rack both ends sealed A fill point at the top and A hose with A tap At the end,for drinking or whatever.

  • http://Dodge steve

    I am planning a trip to Cape York in June in my 2008 X Trail ST L. Will upgrading suspension and wheels help.
    Will refitting the engin protection plate with a metal one be nessasary.( Nissan still fits a plastic one)

    Anyother hint would be appreciated.


  • lee

    Steve, probably wouldn’t take an x-trail to cape york unless you’re planning ot sell it soon afterwards

  • D

    Great review. Are the Xtrails pre 2008 just as good offroad?? And does anyone know of a similar review for the Suzuki. Also, do the rear seats fold down flat in the back of the Xtrail?? Suzuki??

  • David

    D. T30 (pre 08) X-trails are good. Not as much clearance and some troubles with the 4WD system sometimes overheating in serious cases.

    T31 seems to have fixed this problem. Rear seats in the exy go flat from tailgate to front seats. Not sure about the Suzy.

    Both Models are excellent on sand and are impressive in other types of driving aswell. check out australianxtrail.com.au to see more info on these. Some great trip reports and they have looked hard at positives aswell as negatives on both models.

    There’s plenty of video footage and photos to show just what they will acheive.

  • Neel

    I would love to know the location of the test,
    as I see VIC plates on the test car.

    Any thoughts


    • Randell

      Test location, Pippindinni sand dunes 30 minutes north of Perth.

  • Gabriel

    The petrol X-trail is a better bet than the new diesel version. I own a diesel X-Trail and it has an oil leak which continuously contaminates the EGR valve and air filter, affecting performance. Nissan has been trying to fix the problem for 8 months, but no permanent solution on the horizon.

    The Diesel X-trail is a lemon.

  • george

    Eloner and Amy sit next to me in RE hahahaha

    from george yerou

  • ruralreg

    I’m thinking of buying a diesel x-trail (2010) model as it appears to have what I want, however after reading reviews from overseas owners the diesel seems to have a lot of problems with many owners reporting blown turbos, leaking intercoolers and fuel pump problems which cost heaps to fix.

    These reports seem to relate to a 2.2 litre diesel. Is this a different engine from the 2.0 litre diesel in Australia?

    Any advice on the reliablility of the 2.0 litre Nissan diesels in Australia, they haven’t been here very long so I may give them a miss and buy something else, perhaps a Subaru Outback

  • maximark

    Hi ruralreg, the 2.0 litre Xtrail has the same problem here so don’t even touch it.If you google Australian Xtrail forum you will found all the information about the CVT and diesel issues there. I’ve got my CVT petrol one and they have to already replace 3 transmission after it’s only done 30000kms, and I’m still monitoring it because the problem still exist though not as worst as before.

    When it comes to warranty back up, Nissan service advisers are the worst ones I ‘ve ever come accross, they try anything not to fix your car and I have to fight really hard with them to have my xtrail fixed. Also the the sixth monthly services are very expensive, it cost around $320 to $360 for the petrol, and the diesel even cost more.

    I think it’s better to buy a CX7 diesel, Forester or even the Santa FE (would be my choice out of the 3 due to long warranty and the Hyundai service advisers are very helpul, I used to have a Hyundai so I know.) So to be on the safe side and have better warranty back up and service don’t buy the Xtrail. Hope this helps.

    • Chris

      I’ve had a TL diesel Xtrail since Sept 2008, and haven’t had any issues with the engine. None. Zip. Nothing.

  • jibb-jibb

    Is it so that the diesel problem is due driving habits? I’ve read that, only short inner city trips can be the source for the problem mentioned above. The diesel needs to be run for a longer time (maybe over 80km) on a highway for the engine to stay clean and healthy.

    I don’t know… but I got cold feet after reading about X-trails diesel problems. Such a shame cause it seem like a really nice car.

    Maybe i go for the Tiguan or Hyundai.

  • Blokie

    we have a late 2007 Model T31 (Current shape) CVT 2.5 Petrol.

    main reason i bought it was the rear cargo space compared with the Suzuki, I have a soft spot for Suzukis, but they just had a really small boot.

    Our Xtrail has been pretty good, i was suprised to see in the review above that build quality got a positive, as mine is a bit slip, slop slap. there are a few rattles and squeaks. Im not real fussy, but they can get annoying.

    Nissan dealers are very below average i have found as well.

    Economy wise, its been pretty good as well.

  • Byron

    I have done 80,000 now in my 2008 X-trail diesel and no problems whatsoever with it. I’m so impressed i’m thinking of trading it in for a new one. It really is the ultimate practicle vehicle with space, economy, reasonable power and some off road ability. I have no problems in recommending the diesel to anyone.

  • gus

    What would your opinion be on the performance of the 2002 xtrail T30 Ti Luxury i am looking at buying to travel the centre of Australia and west coast, not too much sand / off-roading but i would like the possibility. how do you think it would do on corrugated roads