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2009 must haves from Nissan


 The reason is simple. Godzilla says everything about Nissan and where it is going. It reflects a bold take on design, a commitment to technology, smart financial planning, global sales success and the ability to produce cars that are uniquely Nissan.

But there is much more to Nissan than a limited-edition supercar capable of cranking out the all-time quickest lap around the Nurburgring racetrack in Germany. Nissan 360 is a deep-dip immersion in the world of Nissan that is run for the world's motoring press every four years. There are workshops on future technology, the chance to drive everything in the Nissan family – from the smallest and cheapest to the biggest and most expensive – interviews with senior executives and much, much more on every technical and business front.

Nissan had 60-something cars in Portugal for test drives – in all sorts of conditions – from a short city loop to a country run, a four-wheel drive torture track and hot laps at the Estoril circuit.

The vehicles ran all the way from the tiny Pino and Otto minicars to the stonking GT-R, but there was also a full family of Infiniti models, a Clipper truck and an LPG-powered Tokyo taxi. With so much choice, we picked a few to see how they are likely to shape up for Australia:

 

2009 Murano

This is the bigger new Murano, already out and about in America, and the signs are good.

It looks much the same, with the same basic body shape, but is far roomier inside with better quality finishing. It also drives sharper and has a plusher ride, both worthwhile improvements resulting from what Nissan calls its “D-platform” mechanical package.

But the Murano still only has five seats, which will hurt it against the Mazda CX-9 and its other rivals, and Nissan Australia still has to decide how to sell it here.

Verdict: Uncertain

 

Titan V8

The giant Titan is a ripper, even if it was a tight fit through the narrow streets of Sintra, near Lisbon. The test truck was a giant dual-cab V8 easily capable of swallowing five adults and a couple of motorcycles, as well as to wing up to four tonnes.

It had plenty of grunt from a 5.6-litre V8 with 236kW and 521Nm, a comfy cabin, surprisingly good handling and rode smoothly for a truck.

Nissan Australia should get it here as soon as possible as it is better than an F-Series Ford and there is obvious opportunity Down Under.

Verdict: Potential star

 

Cube

The boxy city car was designed for Gen-Yers but is surprisingly grown-up. The styling is five-year-old stuff and the front bench seat is retro and cramped, but the Cube drives far better than you would expect. It's not a rocket, but it gets along well enough and the ride is very good for the size. It doesn't take too much imagination to see the potential for Gen-Y buyers in Australia, as well as customisers who would go crazy on the car. But it needs to be cheaper than the predicted range of $28,000.

Verdict: Winner

 

X-Trail diesel

It has to come and it will, but the diesel engine in the X-er and Dualis was nothing special.

It was noisy at idle, strong, but not outstanding, and way short of the refinement of a VW group turbodiesel. The test cars were fitted with a baby diesel, with 110kW instead of the 127 coming here, so we hope that the upgrade will make the X-Trail and Dualis more than just economy contenders.

Verdict: Jury still out

 

Infiniti EX

We expected them to drive like Japanese Buicks, but they didn't – with European-style quality and comfort. Infiniti has been focused on the US but with European sales starting soon, it has been turned into an impressively global luxury brand that, as we reported last week, might come to Australia – but not for about five years. The EX would be a headliner with good looks, comfy and classy cabin, punchy power and smooth ride.

The wait, however, could seem like infinity.

Verdict: Five years is too long to wait

 

Altima hybrid

Why can't the Toyota Prius look this good?

The Altima running gear is a straight snitch from the Prius, as Nissan was desperate to have something to sell in hybrid-crazy California. It paid to play. The petrol-electric Altima will only run for a single generation but it's a good drive.

Verdict: No chance for Oz

 

GT-R

Two laps on a track does not tell you much about the GT-R. But the GT-R is instantly impressive with speed, speed, speed. Destined to be a sellout success in Australia, just like everywhere else it is sold.

Verdict: The business

 

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