Nissan’s Potent New Pathfinder
  |  First Published: November 2005

The new Nissan Pathfinder has arrived and Nissan couldn’t be prouder of their new creation. And new it is; the only significant items I could find common to both the old and new vehicles were the topside location for the rear passenger’s door handle and the dash-mounted 4 x 4 control system. The rest of the vehicle is such a departure from the original that only the name remains unchanged.

I had the opportunity to test drive a shiny ST Pathfinder with an amazing 2.5L inter cooled turbo diesel engine. It certainly didn’t take long to grasp the benefits of the new model and recognise the potential for future models. The engine is very powerfulgiven its modest cubic capacity of 2.5L.

With their new Pathfinder Nissan appear to have taken into consideration what a family buyer might want from a four-wheel drive and set out to meet those needs.

Seven seats and a flexible layout

The new shape Pathfinder is a seven seater. Ho, hum, you say, there are plenty of these seven seaters about. True, there are. But what sets the Pathfinder apart is the degree of flexibility within the internal seating and the luggage carrying capacity of the vehicle – Nissan claims that there are no less than 64 different options. This is made possible thanks to seats or sets of seats that can be laid totally flat and out of the way or simply folded down. And believe me, the folding set up is child’s play, it’s so simple. The second row of seats folds on a 40/20/40 basis while the third row has a 50/50 split. Yet all seats, apart from the driver’s, can be laid totally flat. In this configuration, with 2.8m of cargo length, even the tallest adult can sleep in the car, which is exactly what I did just by throwing an air mattress into the back for an overnight stay on cod waters. Added to this great layout is a comprehensive storage system with optimum positioning of all nooks and crannies. A middle seat under-storage area holds a lot of personal items thoroughly out of view.

Three models available

The new Pathfinder comes in petrol or diesel models with three levels of specifications namely, ST, ST-L and Ti (petrol only at this stage) and each model includes a comprehensive list of features and equipment. I was quite happy with the ST features including ABS anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, air conditioning, remote central locking, electric mirrors and windows, cruise control and CD/Tuner.

In diesel form the ST was a lively performer. Flexibility and terrific strength are features of the Pathfinder’s 2.5L turbo charged inter cooled engine. The engine produces 128kW and there is a handy 403Nm of torque for towing the boat (3000kg towing capacity with braked trailer) as well. Mated to that ultra-slick gear box with its close ratio gears the engine just powers along in any gear with a willingness that feels more like a well-tuned petrol engine than a diesel. The Pathfinder combines the seamless power of a brilliant turbo diesel engine with its twin overhead cam shafts and constant rail fuel injection to really ‘run away’ on the open road. Fortunately, the cruise control system eliminates the need to constantly monitor the speedometer when on the highway. Incidentally, the Pathfinder’s gears follow a conventional ‘double H’ pattern with reverse gear beside sixth. Reverse is only available after the gear knob is depressed to avoid accidental engagement.

Off-road ability impressive

The 2005 Pathfinder has a fully boxed all steel ladder chassis which ensures great rigidity in the off-road situation. It also features Nissan’s latest generation electronically controlled All Mode 4 X 4 system with low range gearing. While the previous Pathfinder was no slouch off the road there is no denying that the new one has benefited from the evolution of the technology. The All Mode traction control system allows for minimal driver input with the advanced electronics providing the correct traction for given circumstances. In most situations the system will be left (there’s a dash-mounted rotary knob selector) in auto, which ensures the vehicle will use full rear wheel drive until loss of traction or the slightest slippage is detected by sophisticated sensors. Upon detecting traction loss, the sensors then activate the multi-plate clutch ahead of the rear axle to apportion torque correctly to all four wheels.

I drove the Pathfinder through some very loose sand and shingle on a steep little pinch leading up from a New England river and I noticed that the front wheels kicked into action almost the instant I detected a slight yaw from astern, which indicated some loss of traction from the rear wheels in the loose and uneven terrain.

Yet driving the Pathfinder on the highway will also impress with a car-like ride thanks to the independent double wishbone with coils over the shockers up front and the independent multi link with coil springs in the rear. In short, you can leave the Pathfinder in auto mode and simply drive it on or off road and leave the electronics to sort out the drive system.

In all, Nissan’s new Pathfinder is an impressive piece of machinery and with the ST starting around the $45,000 for the turbo diesel, as reviewed, it slips within its market niche at a highly competitive price.

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