I’ve never been to a ride and drive where they spoke more about the food than the actual car. Yet there we were, over 30 of the motoring press, seated down at the residence of Chef Tayag in Pampanga, being served a 10 course meal over 3 hours (your booking will not be accepted if you cannot commit to the full 3 hours) and told a story about each dish as it was about to be served.
“Pag walang kwento, walang kwenta” (If there’s no story, there’s no value) Chef Tayag tells us during his welcome speech. “Every dish has a story. And in order to fully appreciate it, you must know that story.” He trails off before disappearing into the kitchen
“My house, my rules.” Mary Ann Tayag immediately takes charge and announces before we start. “And the first rule to dining is that there are no rules. All I ask is that you sample each dish exactly the way we prepared it. Just once. Then if you want to drown it in banana ketchup, that’s fine with us. So long as you know how it tasted the way it was intended to be.”
It is a refreshing approach, indeed, as many celebrated chefs tend to intimidate people into enjoying their meals by threatening their guests with the ignorance card if they don’t share the same palette. Here, they respect their customers. They appreciate that taste is highly subjective, and are not hung up on defining it for you, but by taking you on a journey where you could discover it for yourself.
In fact, Chef Tayag’s goal is to reintroduce Filipino food internationally by telling its’ story to the world. “Worldwide, whether or not you’ve been to that country, everyone knows at least one or two Indian dishes. Chinese dishes. Korean dishes. What about Filipino dishes? Unless you are a Filipino or have visited here, nothing really sticks out.”
And then it hit me. Nissan were doing the exact same thing. No wonder the whole Chef Tayag side trip. They are reintroducing themselves to the Filipino market with a similar multi-course meal that started with the Almera, Sylphy, Altima, and now the all-new X-Trail and are cooking up something really big. They want to be back on the map. And they’re going about it the same way––by re-telling their story, one dish at a time.
This is an entirely new era for Nissan. And they needed to sit us all down and re-explain who they are, where they came from and where they’re going. And, just like our culinary adventure, it takes time. The company has a very storied past here in the Philippines, but somehow, people stopped telling that story, and sadly, they ended up being overlooked.
Today, not only is the company under completely new management, it is a completely new company, with young, vibrant and fully motivated people (like the Tayags are to their craft) who are fully committed to putting you through the full multi-course Nissan experience.
The X-Trail is just one of those courses, perhaps a signature dish, that will keep people coming back for more and make Nissan one of those top of mind brands, whether or not you own one.
It starts off with a very fresh and persuasive design that is immediately appealing, and then mixed up with some first-in-class features, like active engine braking and active ride control, and then seasoned with some very keen pricing.
They turn up the heat by throwing in a third row, which is only available in the Chevrolet Captiva, and then let it simmer with a 2.5 liter engine that may be down on power from the last one, but when blended to a continuously variable transmission, keeps everything on the boil for longer. There’s also a 2.0 liter option, but I think it is best served in a 2.5.
Big improvements for me are of course the 3rd row, which although quite cramped, is still an option for young kids. Also, the interior is now much more modern, with better connectivity, a generous use of high quality plastics and a plush ride. The X-Trail was already a comfortable SUV, but Nissan have taken it up a notch with even more sorted suspension and active ride control that reads the changing road conditions and adjusts to absorb it better.
I also like the fact that the second row adjusts forward and backwards to distribute the leg room a little more democratically. I spent equal amounts of time in the drivers seat, the front seat and the rear seat, and I have to say that Nissan have done a great job here. Could even be best in class. Plus it features another segment first 360 degree camera that gives you a birds-eye view of your surroundings. I have seen it before in other cars, but they cost 3, maybe for times as much.
It was difficult to get a reading on fuel consumption as we had three different drivers with three different right feet, but Nissan are claiming a big improvement over the previous generation––and with better drag coefficient, a more efficient gearbox and eco mode, it is not hard to believe.
Initially, I felt it was underpowered until my colleagues reminded me that I drive a 240hp Ford Escape. So I guess it’s all relative; just like how spicy is spicy in food, but a little more zing during the climb up Kennon would have been welcome. But having said that, I’ve tried it the way Nissan prepared it, liked it, and can’t wait for the next dish, which I hear is the all-new Navara.
Here’s hoping they become a staple again on Philippine roads.
The all-new X-Trail comes in two delicious flavors––a 4X2 2.0 CVT for 1,375M and a 4x4 2.5 CVT for 1.580M