Nissan has turned to its European Technology Centre in Cranfield, England and its Spanish assembly plant in Barcelona to produce its latest contender to the four wheel drive market in Australia. The Terrano II is described as a seven seater multi-purpose vehicle and although similar in size to the Pathfinder, it is claimed to be an addition to the existing Nissan four wheel drive line-up, rather than a replacement model.
As suggested in the model name, Terrano II is the second generation of this vehicle with the original model of the Terrano being available in overseas countries for some years. However, this is the first of the model to be released in this country.
In Australia the Terrano II is available in two versions; the base RX and the top of the line Ti, both in either 2.7 litre intercooled turbocharged diesel or 2.4 litre petrol engine and five speed manual transmission. Prices start at $33,990 for the RX petrol and extend to our test TI diesel at $41,990.
There are about eight similar size four wheel drive vehicles with which Terrano II will compete. All competitors have models in the same price range making it a battle for sales which will in most cases be won by the contender with the best value for money and the quickest delivery.
Features and equipment
Nissan's latest contender features two engines. The 2.4 litre Overhead Cam four cylinder petrol engine code named KA24E, has three valves per cylinder and is an updated version of the previous model, with improved noise and exhaust emissions. The alternative 2.7 litre Overhead Cam four cylinder turbocharged diesel engine known as a TD27Ti, is an upgrade of the engine in the previous model with the addition of an intercooler and electronically controlled fuel timing and quantity.
A five speed manual transmission is standard in the Terrano, as Nissan has decided not to provide an automatic option. Although externally identical, the transmissions for the diesel and petrol models do vary in all ratios except 4th gear, which is traditionally 1:1. A morse chain transfers drive from the rear of the gear box to the two speed transfer case which in turn provides drive to the front and rear axles. Automatic free wheeling hubs are incorporated in the front axle of the part-time four wheel drive system. The final drive ratio differs depending on the engine chosen.
The independent front suspension consists of upper and lower wishbones and torsion bars in place of coil springs. The live rear axle is suspended on coil springs and is located by four trailing arms and a panhard rod. Both front and rear suspensions are stabilised via standard anti-roll bars. Power assisted steering is of the older style recirculating ball type.
A considerable amount of effort has been expended on the security of the Terrano. Nissan's anti-theft system is code named NATD3 and is fitted standard as an integral part of the electrical circuit. This system includes Superlocks, which disconnect all door locking mechanisms, preventing them from being opened from the inside even if the window glass is broken. The stereo system will sound the alarm if an attempt is made to remove it whilst in the active mode. An ignition immobiliser prevents the engine from being started by means of a signal which is sent to the engine management computer via a transponder built into the ignition key. Nissan's message to would-be thieves is, don't bother!
Body and finish
The corporate Nissan image is evident right from the first appearance of the Terrano's grille. The stylists have attempted to portray a bold off-road look incorporating the air intake in the centre of the bonnet, without compromising the smooth aerodynamic features created to distinguish the model.
Large bumpers flow into colour coded wheel arch extensions on all models and are interconnected by moulded side door cladding on the TI version. The rear bumper incorporates a low centre step and treadplate to enable easy access through the large one-piece side hinged rear door.
Panel and paint quality is equal to any of its competitors, although there are some larger gaps between the bumpers and cladding.
Comfort and space
There is adequate head and leg room for all but the exceptionally tall in the front seats of the Terrano and although there are more adjustments available on the driver's seat, I believe it is not as comfortable as the seats Nissan were using in its pre-nineties vehicles.
As with most vehicles, the comfort level deteriorates as you move toward the rear. The second or centre row of passengers also have good head and leg room and although there are head restraints for the two outer occupants, the comfort does not match that of the front bucket seats. Two positions are provided for the rearmost passengers and as the seat is quite low to the floor without a well in which to place their feet, this seat is not really suited for adults, but rather for children up to early teens.
Numerous storage options are available in the cabin area with a medium size lockable glovebox and a shelf set into the dash above it. A pocket is located in each front door whilst the centre console supports two open storage pockets and a glove compartment with a lid. The luggage area in the rear is somewhat limited whilst the third row seat is in the upright position, but the seat is easy to remove leaving more than adequate space for necessary luggage.
Behind the wheel
Being positioned rather high, vision from the driver's seat is quite good both to the front and side. Rear vision is assisted by large electrically operated external mirrors and a small but adequate internal night and day mirror.
The tilt adjustment on the driver's seat cushion and the steering column, provide numerous position alternatives, although some drivers could not find a comfortable combination. The driver's foot well is restricted, with barely enough room to place the left foot between the clutch pedal and the transmission hump, and the lack of a left foot rest does not improve driver comfort.
I did have to resort to the owner's manual for some of the radio functions, although the remainder of the instruments and controls were self explanatory and easy to operate. Being European based, the turn signal lever is situated on the left of the column whilst the wiper control is positioned on the right. I, like many others, am gradually getting used to this format.
On the road
The acceleration and performance achieved with the Terrano's 2.7 diesel engine was certainly not startling compared with petrol engine equivalents of this type. However, in actual on-road performance, the only time the engine felt sluggish was on take off. The engine's torque begins at just under 2000 rpm and starts to diminish at 4000 rpm giving an effective torque range of 2000 rpm. Provided the gearbox is used to keep the engine within the torque band, the on road performance is more than adequate. There is a slight turbocharger lag evident particularly if the engine is allowed to operate below 2000 revs; however, this is barely evident if the vehicle is driven correctly.
The gear lever is relatively short for a four wheel drive vehicle and provides a light positive control of the gearbox. Although the ratios of the upper gears are well suited to the diesel engine, first and second gear would better match the engine's performance if they were slightly lower.
The power assisted front disc and rear drum brake system provided adequate braking tbroughout our test and although some slight fade was experienced this was not considered detrimental.
The Terrano was surprisingly flexible and in spite of its heavy build and high centre of gravity, its road manners were quite acceptable. Although some of the smaller road imperfections appeared quite harsh the larger bumps were absorbed well through the combination torsion bar and coil spring suspension.
Preparing the Terrano for off-road driving conditions can be done without leaving the driver's seat. Automatic free wheeling hubs take care of the engagement at the front wheels, whilst transfer case selection is attained with the lever beside the gear stick.
Four wheel drive is available in both high and low range and 4H can be selected on the move without using the clutch at speeds below 40 km/in, but movements in or out of 4L must be performed whilst the vehicle is stationary.
The real suppleness of this vehicle is experienced in off-road conditions. The Terrano is at home in rugged country aided by its overall flexibility, good suspension travel and excellent approach and departure angles. On a couple of occasions the tow bar limited the vehicle's departure angle due to its being considerably lower than any other part of the vehicle.
The large plastic bumpers and mudflaps are not well suited to serious off-road driving as evidenced by the damage incurred by the previous drivers of our test vehicle.
Servicing the Terrano is a relatively easy task with most items likely to require attention being accessible, although the injector pump is a little difficult.
Servicing has been scheduled at 10,000 km intervals, although 5,000 km engine oil changes are recommended for the turbo diesel engine models.
Manufacturers warranty is 3 years or 100,000 km.
Nissan has nominated the towing capacity of the Terrano II as 2000 kg for trailers equipped with brakes and 750 kg for unbraked trailers. Under the current NSW regulations however, this would be restricted to 1728 kg. It is also recommended that the towball mass should not exceed 10% of the gross trailer mass or a maximum of 100 kg.
Although a capable four wheel drive vehicle, the Terrano is not an outstanding entry in either looks or performance and will therefore struggle in the already crowded mid range off-road market.
It seemingly will compete against Nissan's own Pathfinder and the lack of an automatic option will no doubt lose some sales.
All this put aside, the Terrano II should be added to your list when considering a medium size four wheel drive vehicle.