Large Nissan SUV finds a new path away from the beaten track...
The fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinder arrives in Australia in October, signifying a new approach for Nissan in the large SUV segment.
For the second time in the Pathfinder’s 27-year history, Nissan has switched from a body-on-frame to a unibody construction. This means the new Pathfinder is less about being a rigid and off-road capable SUV and more about being a city-based family car.
While the previous generation Nissan Pathfinder was essentially a Nissan Navara ute with a different body, its replacement shares its platform with the Infiniti JX and Nissan Murano, two refined and car-like vehicles, which as with the new Pathfinder lack the low-range gears for proper off-roading.
From the outside the new 2014 Nissan Pathfinder continues the current Nissan design trend, with a bold nose and a curvy but aggressive front end. The rear end is on the softer side, appearing almost disconnected from the front. Overall though, it’s certainly more appealing than the model it replaces.
Given the Pathfinder has been on sale in North America for almost a year, for our review we came to Los Angeles in California where we test drove the 3.5-litre petrol V6 and the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol hybrid, the latter of which has replaced the a diesel engine option. For diesel-adoring caravan, trailer and boat towing customers, however, the V6 is rated at 2267kg compared with the hybrid's 1588kg maximum.
The V6 has a power output of 194kW and torque of 325Nm, while the hybrid manages a combined 187kW and 329Nm. Both appear comparable on paper, expect that the hybrid models adds somewhere between 54-110kg of weight depending on variant.
Despite this, the economy sticker for the hybrid reads 9L/100km for the combined cycle, while the V6 returns 10.6L/100km in front-wheel drive models and 11.2L/100km when driven through all four-wheels.
Although at this stage only the V6 is confirmed for Australia, we suspect the lack of a diesel powertrain will signal a green light for the hybrid Pathfinder in 2014.
Behind the wheel the V6 Pathfinder is gutsy without being quick. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) does its best to extract maximum power from the V6 engine at all times, but it takes away that traditional ‘gear-shift’ feeling, which is seldom accompanied by a more conventional acceleration cycle.
There’s an inherent feel that this is a large SUV. There’s no doubt about it, the Pathfinder feels really big. The top-spec variants are equipped with a round-view monitor that gives you a computer-generated bird’s eye view of the car presented through the seven-inch screen, allowing for better parking.
Nonetheless, this is not the sort of vehicle to drive into the CBD on a daily basis. In saying that, it’s easy to steer and move around town, while the high-up seating position does make driving a tad easier.
The Pathfinder V6 does lean into corners when pushed, but not nearly as much as its hybrid brother, which feels overly soft and bouncy. The hybrid, while more fuel efficient, wouldn’t be our pick given the additional weight and lack of ride refinement.
Both models will do the regular family just fine for A-to-B commutes, but in terms of ride comfort, the Ford Territory is way out in front.
Thankfully, then, it’s not just ride comfort that the Pathfinder has going for it. Inside, the changes are instantly noticeable. Though it carries forward the interior design of current Nissan models, with a high-up infotainment screen and the unnecessarily complicated controls, it still brings with it plastic switchgear for the aircon dials, and flimsy-feeling buttons that cheapen what is otherwise a very comfortable place to be.
The fit and finish is mile ahead of the previous model, while also outdoing its Japanese and Korean rivals. Road noise intrusion is impressively low, particularly for an SUV so large.
The seats themselves, at least during our short drive, felt plush and supportive with heated and cooled options on the top-spec Platinum. The second-row has vast amounts of space with dedicated aircon vents and two LCD screens for restless kids. A dual panoramic sunroof, which is more focused for rear passengers also helps life the cabin ambience immensely.
It’s a proper seven-seater, too, with the third row actually able to accommodate human beings. We wouldn’t recommend adults take these seats for long, but if need be, it can work.
The flexibility of the seven-seats is also praise worthy, with Nissan employing a new system called ‘EZ Flex seating” which allows a multitude of seat position combinations and third-row access, particularly with a child-seat in mind.
Overall the new 2014 Nissan Pathfinder is a big step up from the previous generation SUV, it boasts a modern and friendly interior with great levels of refinement. It should be priced between $50-$80,000 with the hybrid variants the more expensive option.
Nissan Australia will announce the full specification and pricing of the Pathfinder in the coming weeks.