Lightweight heavy

As good Nissan luxury saloons have so far been unheard of in this continent (sorry. Maxima), the QX represents new territory in which the pursuit of refinement and dynamic performance are the priorities. It certainly shows. I cannot be sure that we Europeans necessarily wish for our large saloons to have such anonimity, despite a huge amount of design research on Nissan’s part. On visual appeal it isn’t strong enough to challenge the Omegas, BMWs and Mercs, but may give the profoundly ugly Ford Scorpio a run for its money.

Two forms of the new all-alloy V6 engine make their debut, the I38bhp two-litre and 1 90bhp three-litre, each with 24 valves. Naturally, Nissan claims great refinement, power and flexibility from both units, which are fixed to the chassis by a combination of stiff and fluid-filled mounts to lessen vibrations. The latter are electronically controlled on high-spec variants. New five-speed manual or four-speed auto gear’ boxes are available.

Sophisticated multi-link beam rear suspension has been mounted to the very rigid bodyshell to aid smoothnes and eliminate changes in geometry and consequent erratic handling.

Nissan’s improvements continue inside the QX. It is far more spacious than the Maxima it replaces, and the cabin is easy on the eye, well equipped with safety features but rather ordinary, and unnecessarily laden with laquered wood. As with all Japanese cars these days, it is comfortable with good vision and clear instruments, light controls and supportive seats offering a great driving position.

We drove the 2.0SE which almost floored us with the power, smoothness and flexibility of the little gem of a V6 just as Nissan had predicted. We haven’t yet driven the equivalent Omega or the Scorpio, but we cannot see either’s engine offering anything like a serious challenge in refinement, low-down gutsiness or revvability. The QX feels faster than Nissan’s claims of about 11 sec to 60mph, and 125mph. The surprises don’t stop there. Amazingly enough, for a Japanese car and especially for a Nissan, it has very communicative steering and it also handles well. One’s perception shrinks the size of the lithe, taut chassis when throwing it around.

Turn-in is crisp, understeer is negligible and traction is excellent. There is little presence of dive and squat under acceleration and braking, or for that matter, roll on corners. As a motorway cruiser, the QX is just as impressive supple and quiet. For a little over £18,000, Nissan can be justifiably proud of the QX. Dynamically, it should rocket the company’s profile in this market sector, even if its looks hardly boost its appeal.