NissanSafetyDrivingExperience_09

Edaran Tan Chong Motors (ETCM) recently organised a special driving course exclusively for its customers. Called the Nissan Safety Driving Experience, owners were given a chance to use their own cars for the course or a choice of Nissan vehicles as their practice car. Held at the Malaysian Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS), this writer had a chance to take part in it as well.

We started off with theory lessons which covered seating and steering basics, the physics of oversteering and understeering, and lateral and longitudinal forces that affects the way a car handles. This was followed by vehicle safety systems such as anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control, systems which we made full use of later.

Prior to setting off towards the different areas of the course, we were given a choice of either a Nissan X-Trail T32, Sylphy B17 or an Almera as our practice vehicle. We would eventually use it for four out of five parts of the driving course. Yours truly chose to go with the Nissan X-Trail as his weapon of choice.

NissanSafetyDrivingExperience_03

Splitting into groups of five, this writer was put together with a few others to begin the first part of the course; the slalom test. Instead of using the cars in which we selected, we were handed a Nissan Teana as our first practice vehicle for this part. In this bit, we were being timed with an ALGE Timing Device, to make things a little bit more interesting and competitive.

Now, this isn’t the first slalom course that this writer has been through, so this was admittedly a little bit easier for himself than for the rest. Consisting of a total of ten curves altogether, the vehicle dynamic control of the Teana was put to the test. It’s no surprise, but the Teana handled each zig and zag without much effort at a speed of 50 km/h. It handled well, that I felt the need to push it harder.

On various tries, increasing speed each time, to truly get the car’s stability program to work harder, at one time it did feel as if I took things above the limit. As I took on a U-turn at about 70 km/h, the tyres started working harder, slipping due to sand on the road, while I could feel the body almost swaying sideways. But, as expected, the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) stability program did its part to correct the vehicle, moving it steadily through.

NissanSafetyDrivingExperience_08

We made way to the next part of the course – braking. This time using the vehicles that we chose, participants were asked to accelerate at speeds of up to 40 km/h and later 60 km/h and slam on the brakes hard to feel the ABS kick in. Most participants were quite hesitant to do so I found, until the very end at least where many eventually succeeded in carrying out the task as the exercise matured to an end.

Following this, we were then asked to carry out the next part of the braking section; braking to engage the ABS and swerving, to demonstrate how ABS allows for better control of the vehicle when making a instant swerves. Now, having done this before, a key takeaway that I found was to always look into the direction in which one wants the car to travel, not at the obstacle in front. The X-Trail did this flawlessly as the ABS engaged, swerving to the left, without hitting any cones.

After lunch, we then went back on to the course as we progressed on to the lane changing exercise. This part was tricky. How it works is as such; while similar to the second portion of the braking exercise, we were required to swerve into the direction in which our instructor would direct us in, either left or right, at the last minute. Simple, right? But what if your instructor IS the obstacle at the end?

NissanSafetyDrivingExperience_29

Yes, we needed to react in an instant, all-in-all, about three seconds to be exact. If not, it would have been a fatal event (it almost turned out to be so at one point). The objective of this exercise, was to test a driver’s alertness and the ABS control, if ever an obstacle were to suddenly appear.

Progressing onwards to the skid-control exercise. Aside from the cones, the course had something else added to it: oil. This exercise was designed to demonstrate how the vehicle (and most modern vehicles) can safely take control of such road conditions, with the help of the VDC and traction control, working together. Moving at a 50 km/h we were required to take a bend with a patch of oil in the middle of it.

NissanSafetyDrivingExperience_48

To attempt this, we were asked to lift off the accelerator which in turn allowed for the system to work automatically. It did. At times it felt like the vehicle understeered, but the system immediately worked to counter the loss of handling, automatically braking one wheel to allow for the vehicle (and driver) to regain control of the vehicle. In the second part, we were asked to keep our feet on the accelerator.

The purpose of this was to demonstrate how oversteer happens. The X-Trail managed to counter both oversteering and understeering, perfectly. Finishing up, most of the participants were impressed with how their vehicles could in fact counter such slippery road conditions. We ended with basic cross steering methods at the end of it all, where we were given the chance to practice the hand-over-hand steering technique.

Overall, a good experience for Nissan owners as many gave positive feedback after the event. As I’ve said before, defensive driving skills won’t turn one into a race car driver. That said, it’s good life skills to possess, especially in today’s urban environment.