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FIRST DRIVE: 2018 Nissan Terra

Nissan recently launched the Nissan Terra in the Philippines, the first for the ASEAN market and only the second after the all-new frame-based SUV made its global debut in China in April 2018.

The Terra nameplate, incidentally, reminds us of Nissan’s previous foray into the ladder-type frame pickup-based SUV, the Nissan Terrano, which was available locally in the 1990’s.

The Terra’s launch is a big deal for the Japanese carmaker because it is joining the pickup-based SUV party a generation late as its competitors are now well into the second generation of their similar offerings. As Renault-Nissan Light Commercial Vehicle Business Unit Senior Vice President Ashwani Gupta told CARMUDI PHILIPPINES in an interview though, Nissan wanted to make sure that when the Terra is launched, it will be the best vehicle in its segment with lots of best-in-class features. And after driving two variants of the Nissan Terra both on-road (VL 4×2) and off it (VL 4×4), we’re inclined to agree with him.

The on-road test started with a brief sprint from standstill to around 25 meters away to test the braking capabilities of the Terra followed by a quick drive around a pylon at speed and then reversing into a designated box before the entire effort was capped with a drive through a slalom course–and then we had to do everything again for a second time.

The on-road test was a revelation for the Terra’s, well, on-road composure. The front end dipped just slightly during the emergency braking maneuver and didn’t at all feel that you were going to be tossed over the dashboard and through the windshield, and it never felt top-heavy when we were doing around 60 kph while going around the pylon. The slalom course is typically the best way to test a car’s stability because as you progress through it, the vehicle becomes more unbalanced because of the alternating left-right maneuvers, and surprisingly enough, for a vehicle with the kind of heft as the Terra, it never felt like we were going to topple over to its side. After the on-road test, we make our way to the so-called Sandbox at Alviera in Porac, Pampanga which will be the jump-off point for our off-road trek. To get there, we switch to the lone 4×4 variant and during the roughly 15-kilometer drive through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), we get to appreciate the Terra’s accoutrements.

Nissan Terra
© Patrick Everett Tadeo for CARMUDI PHILIPPINES

The Smart Rear View Mirror is essentially a combination of an old-style analog mirror that also happens to be a video monitor and lets you see what’s behind the vehicle in case your line of sight inside the car is blocked by the heads of your passengers with the flip of a switch. A camera mounted high up in the rear window captures what’s behind the Terra and then projects it in the monitor in the mirror; and it’s not just a small, square monitor built inside the mirror but the entire mirror itself becomes a video screen. Besides acting as an electronic rear view mirror, the Smart Rear View Mirror also serves as the display of the  Intelligent Around View Monitor as it displays the videos captured by the front, rear, and side mirror cameras simultaneously. In addition, the images captured by the cameras mounted under the side mirrors can be switched from giving you a simulated bird’s eye view around the truck to what’s directly by the side of the truck–perfect for when you’re navigating either through tight alleyways or a crevice.

We also appreciate the legendary Nissan air conditioning system with its roof-mounted vents for the second- and third-row passengers, not to mention the vents behind the center console box for the second-row occupants as well.

As we get on the dirt trail after the Sandbox, we switch from two-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive High mode to tackle the rocky trail ahead. The 2.5-liter diesel engine proves up to the task with its 190 hp and 450 Nm of torque making short work of the rocks the Terra had to crawl over. As we reach the now-dried lahar-filled Pasig-Potrero River for the trek to the so-called Delta 5 trail which leads to Mount Pinatubo’s crater, we switched to four-wheel Low mode as we were now going to do some serious off-roading through slippery sands and muddy river crossings.

Throughout the off-road trail, the Terra didn’t disappoint us. Not once did the suspension bottom out as we drove through ruts and the 225 mm ground clearance proved capable of climbing over berms, whether at an angle or straight on.

Perhaps the best testament to the Nissan Terra’s off-road capabilities is this: during the entire drive, not once did our trail instructor and guide–no less than Rain Forest Challenge veteran driver Larry Mendiola–feel the need to take over or even tell us what to do as he he just pointed out the route to take and largely left us alone.

The Nissan Navara proved to be a game-changer in the pickup truck segment when it was launched locally. The Nissan Terra, which is based on the Navara, has all the features of its stablemate and more. While it looks bland among its Japanese competitors–a friend described it as a mini Patrol after Nissan’s full-size SUV while a reader called it an mu-X clone–it more than makes up for it with its array of features, some of which they don’t have. The Nissan Terra may be 13 years late in entering the pickup frame-based midsize SUV market but it sure does make up for it by arguably being the best offering in its segment today, which means everyone else now has to play catch-up.

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