Nissan's latest Elgrand ditches one seat for more comfort and frills
Less is more Passengers in the new Elgrand get pampered with arm rests and foot rests in the second-row seats. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Nissan's Elgrand has always been an understated and underrated car. The latest 2014 version stays close to its tradition of unassuming luxury.

The nip and tuck came barely two years after the last model was launched here. Nissan's local agent Tan Chong Motor calls it a "new minor change" model which, without exaggeration, saw minimal changes to the car that was last reviewed by Life! in April 2012.

The latest Elgrand retains the previous car's 2.5-litre inline-4 engine, which also powers the current Nissan Teana sedan and Murano SUV. There is also no change to the continuously variable transmission, with six pre-set "ratios". Size-wise, the car is still as long (4,945mm), wide (1,850mm), tall (1,815mm) and boxy as its predecessor, which means that there is no loss of usable space.

The biggest change is in its appearance. The latest version sports an unusually huge grille, with a sharply sculpted front bumper that resembles a menacing sumo wrestler baring his teeth, ready to pounce on his opponent. There is even an inch-thick strip that runs across the grille above the headlights, similar to a sumo wrestler's headband.

The headlights powered by LEDs swivel as the car steers round corners, a feature common only in luxury cars.

The test-car's cabin has black maple wood inlays and double- stitched leather seats that look like they came from Infiniti, Nissan's luxury division.

The best seats in the car are the two individual seats in the second row. Their occupants will be pampered with arm rests, foot rests that fully support their knees and calves, and back rests can be inclined to angles rivalled only by the long wheel-base versions of the BMW 7-series and Mercedes-Benz S-class.

Such comfort levels are achieved only because Nissan ditched the second row's three-seater bench. Besides the seats, other luxurious features include two sunroofs, air-conditioning vents and sun shades for second- and third-row passengers. A 10-inch iPad-size drop-down entertainment screen completes the collection.

There are 16 cup holders - more than two for each person in the car, which is somewhat excessive. There is also no shortage of storage compartments.

The Elgrand's equipment level does not disappoint. Its low ground clearance, keyless entry and sliding doors allow effortless entry and exit. Front occupants get memory seats. Touchscreen controls of the audio and navigation system on the centre console are easy to use. There is also the usual array of safety features such as airbags (eight), traction control and anti-lock braking system.

The third row seats can be folded flat, freeing up space for luggage or two adult-sized bicycles.

When fired up using the keyless ignition, the engine is exceptionally quiet from inside the cabin. On the go, the car is as predictable and unpretentious as piloting a barge. Its cruise control makes expressway driving effortless.

But while there is sufficient torque to merge with and keep up with expressway traffic, overtaking has to be well timed. The suspension is decidedly soft and the car is best driven in a leisurely manner.

The steering feel does not fully connect the driver to the car, and body roll is expected of a car of its mass.

But since the Elgrand is clearly targeted at doting dads who want their family members pampered and mums ferrying their kids to tuition classes, the uninvolved drive will not be seen as a major flaw.

Still, the three-day test drive threw up two areas for improvement.

First, fuel economy of the test-car was dismal. Its average was about double the 8.9 litres/100km published figure. This may improve over time, as the car has barely 100km on the odometer.

Second, the car lacks the useful 360-degree monitor, four-camera parking system that was found in the previous Elgrand and the current Teana. It makes do with a single camera mounted at the rear. It will take repeated tries and possibly scraped bumpers before drivers can parallel park confidently.

Tan Chong says the cameras were dropped because they were not compatible with the locally fitted entertainment system, but they would still have been useful nonetheless.

For families that "die-die" must have an eight-seater, their only option is the standard variant of the car, which costs $8,000 less. But they will not enjoy frills such as the sun roofs and armchair seats. For the rest, it pays to trade one seat for a lot more comfort.

The Elgrand clearly pampers the passengers more than the driver. To move sales, perhaps the wives and kids should also be targeted through test- riding, besides the usual test-driving.

And once the wives and kids are hooked, doting dads will sign their cheques without hesitation.

 

CAR INFORMATION

Nissan Elgrand 2.5 Highway Star 7-Seater (A)

Price

:$177,800

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line DOHC

Engine Cap

:

2,488 cc

Horsepower

:

168 bhp / 5,600 rpm

Torque

:

245 Nm / 3,900 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A) Xtronic CVT with manual mode

Acceleration

:

12.6 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

180 km/h