Cars > Off-Road

Driving the Nissan Terra off the beaten path

We take the market’s hottest SUV out for some 4WD fun

Yes, Nissan Philippines spared nothing in demonstrating the Terra's capabilities. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

With Nissan’s over 60 years of SUV heritage and considerable research and development under its belt, the new Terra holds much promise for the Japanese automaker’s continuous growth in our market and relevance to Filipino consumers, offering such innovations as Nissan Intelligent Mobility. The Philippines was fortunate to have been chosen as the first recipient of this new midsize sport-utility in the region, with preorders already being accepted for unit delivery in August.

This is the top-of-the-line Premium 4x4. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Instead of letting us rely on our presumptions about the Terra’s performance based on what we had seen during the launch, the Nissan team (with the help of off-road instructor Beeboy Bargas) made us drive the new SUV on some really rough terrain. The place: Porac, Pampanga. The route: Delta 5 river, a lahar-flow channel leading to the infamous Mount Pinatubo crater. To give you a clearer picture of the terrain, it’s basically a mix of volcanic ash, sand, mud and boulders combined with flowing water that changes from day to day. It’s a demanding course that would push the limits of any off-road machine.

Driving where other SUVs may not dare go. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

After getting a first taste of the Terra’s smooth and quiet ride on the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway leading to the Porac exit, we were convinced that much thought had been given to its refinement. In our opinion, the tiller and dash layout could have used a little more design attention for a more modern look that veers away from Nissan’s previous crop of vehicles. Then again, we aren’t really here to be wooed by interior looks.

Here's our idea of how to best spend a summer afternoon with the boys. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

From paved roads to a narrow rocky trail of ascent and descent leading to Delta 5, there were moments that would give claustrophobic drivers an anxiety attack. This is where the Terra’s safety tech comes in to calm edgy nerves with the help of the around-view monitor built into the rearview mirror, allowing you to navigate through tight passages without incident. Admittedly, we initially had trouble seeing the projected images on the “intelligent” rearview mirror due to glare, but after fiddling through options in the menu, we were able to adjust the brightness of the display for a clearer view.

The route was mostly tackled in RWD. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

The trail eventually opened up to a breathtaking view of the lahar river and Pampanga’s unforgiving topography. Right before we entered the river, we were about to switch from two-wheel- to four-wheel-drive when our navigator-instructor said to leave it be. Within the first minute of traversing the lahar course, we were already impressed and confident with the Terra’s composure given the conditions and being in just rear-wheel drive at that. As we proceeded, the path got more challenging. We went into 4WD to avoid sinking and getting stuck, especially in softer wet spots. Through slips and slides, the Terra’s frame was fairly easy to keep under control. Do consider that we’re no experts in off-road driving, but with a few pointers from our instructor, the drive was exceptionally manageable and extremely fun.

Off-road driving is as easy as turning a rotary dial and then pushing a button. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

The Terra’s suspension was delightful. It never seemed to bottom out even when things got really rocky. Suspension tuning is dialed in between being appropriately stiff for off-road use and being pliant enough for a healthy dose of comfort sans the overly wallowy sensation. Whether in the driver’s saddle or in the second row, we couldn’t recall a single jarring moment despite us bobbing around quite a bit due to abrupt changes along the course. In addition, steering feedback was light enough for us to tackle sudden maneuvers without breaking a sweat. Substantial ground clearance, a 32.3° angle of approach and a 26.6° angle of departure combined to keep our undercarriage bits surprisingly intact through some treacherous formations.

The Terra's 'intelligent' rearview mirror is useful for challenging drives like this. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

After taking one last break as we reached the end of the charted course, the trip back felt faster since we had already gained familiarity with the terrain—not to mention that the Terra had definitely won our trust. The steep climb through the same narrow trail we had tackled earlier proved a bit daunting, but thanks to being able to switch to 4WD Low and engage the locking differential with a push of a button, we could feel the vehicle’s traction kicking in as it hugged the path that led us back to civilization. The Terra’s power may not be at the top of its class, but the 450Nm of torque on tap never gave us any doubts through uphill routes. Hill-start assist and hill descent control were also useful under such conditions.

Real SUVs are driven off the pavement. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

All in all, the Terra turned out to be an agile and comfortable off-roader, capable of conquering some seriously tough situations. One of the off-road veterans in the group mentioned that he wouldn’t dare take a more popular vehicle in this segment through the same trail. Straight from the production line, the Terra is ready to deliver a satisfying experience through any terrain.

If the Terra is comfortable off the road, imagine the ride it offers on asphalt. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Filipino families who have a sense of adventure or who live in the countryside will definitely appreciate this SUV’s sincerely capable nature. Truth be told, the Terra is a solidly built vehicle that’s raring to serve the wide-ranging needs of those afflicted with wanderlust. It’s no knockout in the styling department, but it certainly makes up for that in terms of functionality, toughness and ability.

Manskee Nascimento

Manskee is a music-loving petrolhead who specializes in car care. He finds peace in long drives to and from his home in La Union.