Nissan Elgrand E51 Review

Key benefits of Nissan Elgrand E51 ownership

Let’s start with a summary of the key benefits of owning a Nissan Elgrand E51 as I see them:

  • Luxury transport for large families, or smaller families with lots of stuff.
  • Definitely one of the better looking MPVs.
  • Plenty of power from the 3.5 litre V6 engine.
  • Available with rear wheel drive or switchable 4WD with centre differential lock.  Particularly useful if you go camping, tow things or get icy / snowy conditions in winter.
  • Good reputation as a capable towing vehicle.
    Picture of the front left of a silver 2003-2004 Nissan Elgrand E51.
    Front left view of a silver 2003-2004 Nissan Elgrand E51 by TTTNIS (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Background

The Nissan Elgrand E51 is the second generation of Nissan’s premium minivan / people carrier / MPV.  I’ve jumped straight to the 2nd generation because it is the most popular at the moment.  I’ll try to add a similar post for the older Elgrand E50 and the newer E52 Elgrand at a later date.

The E51 Elgrand received a minor facelift at the end of 2004: earlier cars have a horizontal body coloured trim strip in the front grille (the silver car shows this) and later cars don’t (the white car further on in this post).

Engine and drivetrain

The Elgrand is available with 3.5 (240 hp) or 2.5 litre (186 hp) V6 engines.  The 3.5 litre VQ35DE engine is also found in the excellent 350Z roadster (Fairlady Z in Japan) and V35 Skyline.

Both engines are available with rear or switchable 4 wheel drive via a 5 speed automatic gearbox.

Interior accommodation

The Elgrand seats 7 or 8 people depending on the trim level and seat type.  The outer 2 seats in the middle are captain style seats rather than a long bench.  Where present, the middle seat doubles as an arm rest/table/storage area.  Some of the higher trim levels don’t have this middle seat in the 2nd row.  The 2 middle row seats can rotate to face the rear of the car.  On some of the higher trim level vehicles these seats also come with built in retractable leg rests.

Picture of the interior middle row seats of a Nissan Elgrand E51 Rider
Interior of a Nissan Elgrand E51 Rider by Paul Townsend licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The 3rd row seating is also configured as 2 ‘main’ seats at the sides with a lap belt for the 3rd person in the middle.  These seats can be folded to the side for extra luggage space.

I think it is best to think of it as having luxury / spacious accommodation for 6 people, or 4 if you’ve got the 3rd row seats folded to the side for extra boot space.

Equipment

There is a lot of equipment on these cars!  In addition to the transmission and seating options already mentioned above, the following equipment is available, albeit not at all trim levels.

If you’d like an English language Nissan Elgrand owner’s handbook to help explain how all of this works, you can buy one here.

Exterior & Driving

  • Front fog lights.
  • HID / xenon headlights.
  • PAS/EW/EM/central locking.
  • Adjustable height steering column.
  • Keyless entry and start (smart key).
  • Radar cruise control – maintains a set distance from the vehicle in front.
  • 16 or 17 inch alloy wheels.

Safety

In car entertainment

  • Bose 9 speaker sound system (the 9th speaker is a subwoofer in the boot).
  • Roof mounted TV screen for rear passengers.  The TV part of the setup won’t work in the UK but the DVD part will.

Comfort

  • Leather seats.
  • Sunroof (x2).
  • Power rear door (s) with remote control operation from the key and driver’s seat.
  • Dual zone climate control.
  • Power front seats.
  • Wood trim panels.
  • Power curtains.  How have you managed for so long without these?
  • Remote control operation of climate control and sunroof.

Trim level hierarchy

This is always a complicated thing to explain on Japanese vehicles like this.  I’m going to list the ‘core’ trim levels offered.  There are some additional special editions which I won’t cover because that would make this list really long.  The trim levels are as follows, based on list price when new:

  • V – lowest (least costly) trim level.  Cloth seats, often beige in colour.
  • VG
  • Highway Star – popular middle ground trim level with half leather seats.
  • Rider S
  • Rider – high level of bling with extra chrome on the grille, bigger alloy wheels and a bodykit.  Full leather seats available.
  • X
  • XL – most expensive trim level.  Generally higher specification but slightly less bling than the Rider.  Full leather seats.

Potential downsides to Nissan Elgrand ownership

We’ve covered a lot of the good points about the Elgrand.  What about things that might put you off?

  • Fuel consumption.  It weighs 1.9 to 2.2 tonnes and (in most examples) has a 3.5 litre V6 engine, so this isn’t going to be great.  I reckon you’ll get 20-25 mpg depending on how you drive.
  • Reliability, build quality and durability are good, but not quite up to the standard of Toyota’s Alphard (in my opinion).

Which one to buy?  My Nissan Elgrand recommendation

I recommend the (optional) 4WD transmission with the 3.5 litre engine.  Sometimes rear wheel drive cars can get stuck fairly easily in wet boggy fields, snow, sand etc and this is why I’m recommending the 4WD.  Ignore this part of the recommendation if you never encounter these woes!

I’d also recommend going for one of the darker interiors.  The light interiors show up dirt much more easily, and can look dated more quickly than the darker colours.   The half leather Highway Star trim level looks really smart, as does the Rider edition with Autech bodykit if your budget allows.

Picture of the rear of a Nissan Elgrand E51 Highway Star
Rear view of a Nissan Elgrand E51 Highway Star by TTTNIS (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Alternatives to the Nissan Elgrand E51

If you’re in the market for this type of vehicle but don’t want to buy an Elgrand, the next most obvious choice is the Toyota Alphard.   I’ve  written a post comparing on Nissan Elgrand vs Toyota Alphard here. You could also have a look at a Honda Elysion.

Want something a bit smaller and cheaper?  How about a Toyota Noah (or Voxy), Nissan Serena or Honda Stepwagon?

If there is anything else you’d like to know about the Elgrand, feel free to post a comment or question below.

Nissan Elgrand E51 Parts For Sale

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