Snow and rain; traffic jams and roadworks; manic motorways and snowy Alpine passes; Europe threw it all at us on day three of our Nissan Qashqai road trip.
Again, the new Nissan has conquered everything we've thrown at it in its smooth, refined and comfortable way as we now leave Western Europe behind us and head further east.
The day started up in the clouds in Liechtenstein, before heading into Austria where the fog and drizzle soon made way to sleet and then snow as we headed onto an Autobahn in the mountains.
Winter tyres meant steady 60mph-plus motorway running was still possible, especially in a country with disciplined motorists and a mature infrastructure where a "we’re all going to die" attitude doesn’t creep in at the slightest hint of the white stuff.
Once we’d made it through the snow and a serious amount of tunnels – some so long they charge you nine euros for the privilege of using them – Innsbruck was the first port of call, a pretty town on the river that once hosted the Winter Olympics. They do a quality chocolate croissant and all, if you’ll forgive the Alan Partidgeism…
After heading south out of Innsbruck, Italy was next on the agenda, through some more dramatic motorways sweeping through the mountains and clouds, and via a small Austrian village to really have a proper run in the white stuff. Suffice to say, the snow chains were not needed.
A peculiar traffic jam awaited us in Italy as we left the snow behind. Lorries are not allowed to pass each other on a long stretch of two-lane Autostrada in Northern Italy, and a six-mile-long jam appeared in the inside lane as cars – including our Qashqai – in the outside lane carried on at the speed limit.
The cause? A stretch of one-lane roadworks, meaning the lorries lucked out and had to sit it out until the roadworks started with no relief for them possible in the outside lane.
The queues soon gave way to allow Europe’s fastest motorways outside of Germany to return to their natural pace before we nipped west for the scenic route via the stunning Lake Garda. It was so pretty and, better still, deserted because we’re outside the season, so we ended up spending nearly two hours driving around it for pictures and video.
Remembering this was serious and important work and not a holiday, we quickly nipped to Verona in the twilight before a two-hour blast on the westbound Torino-Trieste Autostrada in the rain – and avoiding many an Italian motorist who’s alien to the concept of lane discipline – before reaching our resting point for the night in Trieste, in the groin of Italy, some 18.40 euros worse off from the toll road.
Today’s plan is for an initial dart through the corner of Slovenia before heading down the Croatian coast, then inland to leave the European Union and drive across Bosnia to discover this recently war-torn country.
The biggest triumph of the trip for the Qashqai so far has been its level of comfort. I’m normally a right fidget sitting down, especially on long drives, but this is proving to be a very relaxing way to cover this many miles. I once drove a Land Rover Discovery to the other side of Ukraine and back, and this Qashqai is up there with it for long-distance comfort, smoothness and refinement. High praise indeed.
The seats are great, and there’s none of that subtle oscillating ride that you don't immediately notice, but it means your eyes have to constantly refocus on the road ahead, making them heavy and tired.
I’m of course all for a level of dynamic engagement, but would happily pat on the back the engineer who sided with this level of comfort for a car like this and its intended purpose, and indeed for the route we’re doing. That said, I’ve yet to get near a B-road in it… perhaps Bosnia will have an extra surprise or two.
In total, we’re 1500 miles into the route, and averaging almost 620 miles between fill ups at some 47mpg, not bad when we’ve been flying at 80mph-plus on Continental highways in often awful weather conditions.