Staking new ‘Terra-tory’

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Text and photos by Aries B. Espinosa

IN perhaps what could be considered a long-overdue move, Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. has finally made its presence felt in the midsize SUV category with the regional introduction of its new frame-based Terra.

Nissan Philippines, Inc. (NPI) hosted the launch program at the Clark Global City open grounds in Clark Economic Zone, Pampanga, with more than a hundred motoring journalists from across Southeast Asia and Oceania witnessing the Terra make its grand entrance late afternoon of May 28 on an elaborately landscaped terrain.

Executives from the regional headquarters of Nissan and NPI answered queries, among them was the obvious “why just now?”, when the automaker’s research and development efforts for a mid-sized SUV were already underway as early as four years ago.

Ashwani Gupta, Alliance senior vice-president of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi light commercial vehicle (LCV) business unit, replied; “We started this way back, no doubt about it. But we wanted to come up with a differentiation. So we’re the last mover [in this segment], but consider what’s different. We have the Nissan Intelligent Mobility, and then specific features for the Philippines, such as that it’s a seven-seater, and then developing the powertrains, from gasoline to diesel. Now we feel it’s the right time.”

Mr. Gupta added that the entry of the Terra would also fill in the midsize SUV segment where Nissan has been missing out on all the heated action. “In Nissan, one out of every six vehicles sold are light commercial vehicles. When you look at the global market, out of maybe 92 million vehicles sold, 21 million are LCVs. So, globally, one out of six sold is an LCV. Ours is one out of six, because we didn’t have the mid-size SUV. And now we have the Terra. Our growth will mainly come from here, because we missed this one segment.”

It’s an outlook reflected locally by NPI, as company President and Managing Director Ramesh Narasimhan said: “We are entering into a segment where there is an opportunity for Nissan to grow, and I am confident that the product will do extremely well. Our expectation is that we will grow versus last year, and the Terra will be the strongest contributor to the business growth of NPI in 2018.”

This regional launch, then, was meant for journalists and the dealers to experience firsthand all things different with the Terra, inside and out. The 40-kilometer ride-and-drive activity held May 29, on the well-paved streets of Clark and on the ever-changing river trail of Sacobia, showed how the SUV’s design and engineering inputs would combine seamlessly with the technology, performance and safety features of the Terra.

From a design standpoint, the Terra harks back to way more than the four or five years of its actual development. Terra is a descendant of the Patrol, Nissan’s off-road icon originally designed for police and military use. “Over 60 years of SUV heritage went into the development of the Terra,” Mr. Narasimhan stressed.

But where the Patrol diverges into an eight-seat off-road beast, the Terra forms into the more “docile” seven-seat hybrid urban and outdoor adventure SUV configuration. Docile, because it offers creature comforts, such as the first-in-class second-row, one-touch remote fold-and-tumble seats, premium leather seats, ambient lights, overhead entertainment, and Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies such as the lane departure warning, blind spot warning and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection, and the smart rear-view mirror that allows drivers to see images from a back-mounted camera.

The beast in the Terra was unleashed by way of its 2.5-liter YD25 diesel engine that produces 190 hp at 3,600 rpm and maximum torque of 450 Nm at 2,000 rpm — more than enough muscle for the vehicle to negotiate the rocky and sandy surfaces of the so-called “Delta 5” course, even with four or five warm bodies on board.

Rough as the course may have been, the Terra provided exceptional comfort with its reinforced chassis, five-link coil spring suspension system and rigid rear-wheel axle. The 4WD DIFF-Lock system, coupled with hill-descent control and hill-start assist gave drivers more confidence in negotiating difficult stretches of the route.

NPI was loathe to admit that it had the advantage of studying the best price point of its Terra variants by coming in late in the game, offering the tech-laden SUV at an attractive range starting from the base variant 2.5L Mid 4×2 six-speed manual transmission at P1.499 million to the top-of-the-line 2.5L Premium 4×4 7AT for P2.096 million.

Nissan dealerships have started accepting reservations since June 1, while actual units from Thailand will be available in the Philippines on Aug. 20.