by Brad Leach - 24/09/10
Nissan’s Mid-Size SUV Now A Formidable Competitor
Nissan Pathfinder scored a more powerful diesel engine in its recent upgrades and now powers-up against rival Toyota, Mitsubishi, Kia and Hyundai products in our mid-size SUV segment.
The upgrades weren’t limited to under the bonnet with Nissan Pathfinder gaining extra equipment, a better interior and freshened exterior styling.
But Nissan Pathfinder’s strengths remain – a 3,000kgs towing capacity and immense off-road capability with low-range 4WD.
Nissan Pathfinder was first conceived for the SUV-crazy North American market and was a creation of Nissan Design International in San Diego, California. Since then Nissan Pathfinder has become a global star for Nissan, selling strongly in the USA and Europe.
Locally, Pathfinder has earned its stripes for Nissan Australia – a mid-size SUV that’s popular with 4WD enthusiasts and families.
The current Nissan Pathfinder model lineup ST, ST-L and – as tested by Car Showroom – the range-topping Pathfinder Ti, are now powered exclusively by Nissan’s 2.5-litre turbo-diesel engine.
Nissan Pathfinder is a good looker with styling which stands out in our crowded mid-size SUV segment. The latest 2010 upgrades delivered extra luxury and convenience including (for the Pathfinder Ti tested) enhanced audio with hard drive, Bluetooth telephone connectivity and dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning.
The big news for Nissan Pathfinder is the improved YD25 2.5-litre turbo-diesel, which now delivers 140kW (up 11 per cent) and 450Nm (12 per cent more). That leaves the Pathfinder strongly positioned when compared with diesel rivals - Toyota Prado (127kW/410Nm), Mitsubishi Challenger (131kW/400Nm), Kia Sorento (145kW/422Nm) and Hyundai Santa Fe (145kW/343Nm).
Nissan Pathfinder’s turbo-diesel is a common rail direct injection engine, which means fuel consumption, and exhaust emissions are optimized. In fact, despite the extra power and torque, the latest 2.5-litre is 15 per cent more fuel efficient than its predecessor (8.5l/100kms for the six-speed manual or 9.0l/100kms for the five-speed automatic as tested).
We were impressed by Nissan Pathfinder’s handy torque and its quiet operation at all speeds. Without doubt Pathfinder is powered by one of the most refined Japanese diesels.
Nissan Pathfinder racks-up a strong score for its upgraded interior. Mid-spec ST-L and Ti models feature nice leather seats (electronic adjustment for the fronts) and there is plenty of space for five.
The Nissan Pathfinder Ti model as tested replaced the previous wood grain trim with a more modern metallic look, the instruments were freshened and the center-dash cluster for the satellite navigation, audio and climate controls was updated.
Pathfinder presents a very cohesive look with the seven-inch colour screen delivering 3D mapping for the nav. and doubling as the screen for the standard reversing camera (with Predictive Path Technology). Nissan Pathfinder’s audio was upgraded to a six-CD system with Bluetooth connectivity, a 9.3GB hard drive and iPod/MP3 input.
Mounted on Pathfinder’s center console near the gear lever is the ‘ALL MODE’ 4WD switch with a handy low range for extreme off-road action – a Nissan Pathfinder strength.
You sit high in the Nissan Pathfinder – the driving position is good and Nissan’s stylish leather-bound steering wheel has switches for remote audio operation and cruise control (with a digital dashboard display confirming the set speed).
The Car Showroom juniors had plenty of space in the second seat and gave the thumbs-up to Nissan Pathfinder Ti’s standard rear-seat DVD entertainment system (mounted in the roof) with their own headphones.
Pathfinder’s second row seats flip and tumble-fold for access to the third row seats (the latter fold flat to the floor when not in use).
Luggage capacity was impressive and Nissan Pathfinder’s wide-opening tailgate provided a low loading lip.
We like Nissan Pathfinder’s mildly chunky look with its large rear glasshouse. The recent upgrad delivered an extra 80mm to Nissan Pathfinder’s length (now 4813mm) thanks to a more rounded front bumper.
Other styling changes include a revised bonnet and grille, new headlights and a new rear bumper with squared edges. The Pathfinder Ti model as tested also gained Xenon headlights with auto-leveling and washers.
Nissan Pathfinder stands out amongst its rivals with a low waistline and large side glass – along the lines of the Land Rover Discovery.
The Nissan Pathfinder Ti model as tested runs 17-inch alloy wheels and these are housed under curved wheel-arch extensions for a stylish look.
It’s been a while since we last drove a Nissan Pathfinder and the latest Ti model impressed with a high level of refinement at all speeds. Nissan gets a thumbs-up for the quiet operation of the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel.
Around town Nissan Pathfinder does remind you it’s one of the larger mid-size SUVs and its 11.9-metre turning circle meant our tight CBD car park required some maneuvering. The Pathfinder’s excellent reversing camera was a huge help – these should be standard in all SUVs.
Nissan Pathfinder gave a polished performance over our twisty mountain roads test loop. The Pathfinder’s turbo-diesel’s strong torque was nicely matched to the five-speed automatic transmission for good responsiveness across the range.
Nissan Pathfinder’s ride and handling was comparable with the best of the mid-size SUVs – nice chassis balance with the predictable body roll at high speeds. Grip levels were high and the independent suspension coped well with bumps and corrugations – accentuating Nissan Pathfinder’s overall refinement.
If you plan to use seven seats daily, the packaging of Nissan Pathfinder (like most SUV-based seven-seaters) is a bit compromised.
The extra grunt of the 2.5-litre diesel engine puts Nissan Pathfinder at the front of the mid-size SUV pack. It scores highly for its off-road prowess, towing capacity and on-road refinement.
Even if you’re shopping for a full-size SUV (like the Nissan Patrol), it is worth considering Nissan Pathfinder because it will probably account for most of your needs – but in a slightly smaller package.
Seven seats muddy the value-for-money comparison. At $62,740, the Nissan Pathfinder Ti sits between Toyota’s Prado GXL and Mitsubishi’s Challenger XLS and in that company, the Nissan’s refinement and turbo-diesel performance are impressive.
A bit more coin gets you the American Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited.
Excellent turbo-diesel; lots of kit; purposeful looks
Gets crowded with seven occupants
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