|  First Published: October 2011

Nissan Australia have taken performance to a whole new level with the release of the Pathfinder 550. The leading 4WD manufacturer has added upgrades to both engine and gear box in the top of line Ti 550. Both upgrades give a whole new meaning to the word torque.

While the proven four cylinder 2.5L engine, with its 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, is still available throughout the Pathfinder range, the new 3.0L V6 engine pumps out 170 kW and 550Nm. This is a potent bit of gear indeed, especially when mated to a new seven speed auto shifter. Note that a manual gearbox is not offered in the new Pathfinder 550.

Pure power

While the 2.5L turbo diesel never seemed to lack power, the new Ti with its V9X engine - a joint venture with French partner Renault - is an absolute stump puller. It’s powerful and very responsive and being mated to an auto gear box offers torque on tap. In fact the 550Nm of power comes in at around 1700 rpm which means the engine doesn’t have to work hard for grunt. Towing capacity for a braked trailer is 3.5t, which make towing boats, camper trailers and even caravans a breeze.

There are some interesting specifications when we look at how all this power and torque is derived. The intercooled diesel engine features a 65 V6 configuration, double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and a single turbo charger mounted between cylinder banks.

It’s reasonably quiet for a diesel and fairly smooth for an oil burner thanks to the engine cylinder block being constructed from compacted graphite iron, which is lighter than traditional grey cast iron yet more rigid than aluminium.

Fuel injection of the V9X is via a high pressure double common rail system, while a emission converter and filter are combined within the exhaust system is used to clean up all emissions to a quite high Euro 5 standard.

On the topic of things European the V9X engine is manufactured in France and the Pathfinder in Nissan’s Barcelona plant. It makes it difficult for Nissan to call it Japanese manufactured!

Market comparison

The new Pathfinder 550 sits within the medium SUV market, however the V6 engine puts it leaps ahead of rivals in the power department. Main rivals the Toyota Prado and Mitsubishi Pajero are powered by four cylinder turbo diesel engines which offer 127Kw/410Nm and 147kW/441Nm respectively, so it’s easy to see the big difference between the contenders for performance honours.

Moreover, the Ti 550 comes with a seven speed auto shifter when others offer five or six speed auto units. I found seven speed shifter fine on the open highway but a bit reluctant to change smartly when punting around the city. That being said, it may just not suit my personal driving style.

On the Road

The Ti 550 Pathfinder’s car like ride comes courtesy of independent double wishbone, coil springs over shock absorbers up front and a multi link/coil springs set up at the rear. It was as much as one would come to expect from a top of the range vehicle featuring virtually every option available the car, however it also proved itself in an unusual, not quite planned, off road excursion.

This is how it happened... A mix of country and highway driving to get to know the car saw us travel west to Aratula, back east to Beaudesert and then on to Brisbane. I noted on the map at home, which was reinforced by the Pathfinder’s Sat Nav system, an unsealed road leading to O’reillys. The road - Duck Creek Road - looked like a good idea as a short cut track to get us up on top of the range for lunch. It’s a private road, in fact, but open to public use as per the signage. Folk who like to test their 4WDs out will likely know of it but personally if I don’t see that road again that’s fine by me.

The good idea turned to an exercise in concentration and off road driving skills as I carefully negotiated the shiny new Pathfinder over washouts, gullies, ruts, and whatever that track threw at us. Half way up and with the roughest bits well behind us, it started raining; light at first but becoming much heavier within a short time. Trickles turned to torrents and the wipers worked over time. All this just for lunch with a view!

Oncoming vehicles with nervous drivers passed us at snail’s pace. Some heading upwards had stopped when they ran out of driver confidence or ground clearance. With no place to turn around we had to cruise around them and continue upwards.

Slow and steady it was, with the 550 in all wheel drive permanently, and sometimes in low range– conveniently available at the turn of a dash mounted knob. As the wagon slowly but carefully picked its way up the range, I could hear the big diesel engine ticking over with just the occasional burst of revs to keep us moving. The All Mode 4WD system certainly earned its keep, that’s for sure.

In all, it was a very good, yet unplanned test of the Pathfinder 550 and I can say that it came through with flying colours, even if they were somewhat muddy.

Summing Up

I believe that the Ti 550 Pathfinder is going to appeal to folk requiring a very strong vehicle for towing without wishing to step up to a larger vehicle. The Pathfinder is more than just an SUV in that it offers low range in four wheel drive mode . I consider it to be the ideal compromise between big brother Patrol and the smaller soft roaders that do offer a very comfortable ride but are limited in their off road capability .

The Ti specs are admirable. These include cruise control, Electronic Stability Program, leather seating for seven, satellite navigation, rear seat DVD system, Bose sound system, rear air conditioning, power sunroof, rain sensing wipers and automatic headlamps.

Fuel capacity is 80L and Nissan claim around 9.3L/100km, which a mix of city and some country work went fairly close to. The Ti 550 offers luxury and performance that comes at a price of around $76,000. It might seem like a lot of money but if you have a look at similar offerings from the Pathfinder’s competitors, it’s apples with apples.

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