Just over 100km from Melbourne, Victoria is Daylesford, a majestic sprawl of springs, lush woods and thriving farmlands. One couldn’t ask for a better place to visit, and so we were naturally delighted when Nissan offered to send me there. The icing on the cake? I’d be hitting the road in a new Nissan Qashqai N-TEC. The popular and compact SUV landed on native shores in 2008 and has been seducing Aussies ever since. Suffice to say, both the journey and destination were equally superb.
As the top-shelf entry in Nissan’s Qashqai range, the N-TEC is as luxurious in its class as it is optimal. Recent improvements to the aerodynamic exterior include a new front with integrated bumper. That’s joined by new horizontal finishes, 19” wheels, and ‘boomerang’ LED headlamps and taillights. Under the skin is a 2.0L engine with 106kW of power and 200Nm of torque. There are also new and improved stabiliser bars, firmer spring rates, and damper re-tuning to absorb bumps. In general, Nissan went big on dampening, and the ride is that much smoother and quieter as a result.
The luxury theme continues indoors. In fact, that’s where the Qashqai N-TEC really gets to strut its stuff. Kicking things off are elegant designer touches like the new D-shaped steering wheel, premium finishes on the air vents and door handles, a leather boot on the automatic gear shift, one-touch power windows and heated front seats.
However, the interior flourishes are mere foreplay to the bevy of technology that makes the Qashqai N-TEC a very pleasant drive. Put simply, Nissan left no innovative detail behind. A 360-degree camera system and adjoining touchscreen display allots the driver complete awareness of his or her surroundings. Featured for the first time is Active Return Control, which brings the steering back to centre with natural ease. Also included are Blind Spot Warning, Intelligent Park Assist (meaning the car can reverse park itself), and Rear Cross Traffic Alert among a boatload of other safety features. It’s all part of Nissan’s Smart Vision Pack, which definitely takes its name to heart.
Then there was the getaway itself. Melbourne to Daylesford. A smooth ride accompanied by the picturesque backdrop of rural Victoria got things off to a good start.
First stop, Redbeard Historic Bakery in Trentham. With bakery founder John Reid as our guide, we learned to make delicious (which is understatement) sourdough from scratch. This was hands-down some of the best tasting bread I’ve ever eaten! John isn’t your average baker, and anyone who eats his bread will agree. Not only did we make our bread, we got a short education on the origins of bread-making, an overview on the differences between sourdough and regular bread and even a bit of bread-related Australian history thrown in the mix. Before this experience, I would never have thought that learning about bread could be so interesting.
From there, it was time to come down off my bread making high and jump back into the the Qashqai for short Drive to my ultimate destination, the Lake House, Daylesford, to eat and retire for the evening. The food was delectable, the location stunning and the accomodation impeccable.
In a region renowned for it’s natural springs, it was only befitting that I indulge in some ‘me time’ and visit Hepburn Springs. So the next day, it was time to get back behind the wheel of the Qashqai and roll into the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa. There, I enjoyed a legendary massage, along with a bath and sauna. As my mind and body melted into sensual ooze, time itself all but vanished.
Finally after the an incredibly relax couple of days, I was back in the Qashqai for a smooth ride back to Melbourne Airport.