... some buyers are actually taking advantage of their "softroader's" off-road capability by venturing - well, off road. Plenty are suburban tractors all their lives but some actually get dirty. And there's a growing trend for women to get into the bush and go four wheel driving.
Plenty of women are taking the big, stump jumping, mud plugging, bush bashing family 4WD "truck" but a growing number are departing the bitumen in "sensible off roaders" like the Nissan X-Trail, a dual purpose vehicle that is eminently capable off the beaten track (not the 2WD model).
X-Trail is hovering around the top of the segment in sales and has been here for a decade and through four re-vamps. Some 113,000 have been sold. There is a bewildering range of them available with front wheel drive 2.0-litre petrol power and 4x4 in 2.5 petrol and 2.0-litre turbo diesel.
Add in four or five specification grades and auto (CVT and six speed) and six-speed manual transmission and you get the picture. There's an X-Trail for just about everybody.
Compact SUVs and the X-Trail in particular lend themselves to occasional off road driving in moderate conditions because they are simple to drive and feature locking 4x4 mode as well as on-demand 4x4. On demand uses sensors that detect wheel slip on the driven front wheels to channel drive to the rear wheels as well.
It is an OK system but does have some drawbacks which is why the locking 4x4 mode is so handy off road. The X-Trail uses an electronic system to switch from front wheel to all wheel drive and it's quite adept. But better still on the new models is hill descent control, hill start assist and other features to make off road driving easy.
The new autos are great for the dirt because they are adaptive - meaning they change the way they operate to suit driving conditions, and a driver can keep both hands on the wheel all the time with an auto. Definitely an advantage off road. X-Trail has 212mm of ground clearance and a comfortable and supple suspension that capably isolates rough roads.
The 11.0 metre turning circle is acceptable but the steep approach and departure angles are impressive. Some state governments foster off road driving courses tailored for various groups including women. The focus is put on a range of skills and knowledge needed to successfully and safety drive off road. Things like:
4WD characteristics and handling.
Steep ascents and descents.
Negotiating all types of terrain.
It's all good clean fun and has been designed to have as light a footprint on the environment as possible. Get going.