Just a few months ago CarShowroom.com.au was in picturesque Del Mar, California – just around the corner from Nissan Design in La Jolla where the original Nissan Pathfinder was created under the control of acclaimed automotive designer Jerry Hirshberg. Times have changed - Del Mar-based Mr Hirshberg is now a world-famous artist working with bamboo and the Pathfinder has evolved from its original arrival at the cutting-edge of the 1980s SUV cult tailor-made for the southern Californian lifestyle.
The all-new Nissan Pathfinder delivers seven seats, family-friendly interior space and a curvaceous look which is a stark contrast to the original which was all straight lines, rugged, tough and perfectly set-up for a weekend surfing getaway. Now, Pathfinder’s entry-level couldn’t consider sand dune driving as it’s two-wheel-drive (like the rival Toyota Kluger driving the front wheels).
But Pathfinder retains a North American link – it’s manufactured at Nissan’s world-famous plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
With six airbags, including front-to-rear curtain airbags, the all-new Nissan Pathfinder has the maximum five-star safety rating from ANCAP. And that’s very important for families.
Seems Nissan’s Pricing Department also had families in mind and the comprehensively-equipped seven-seat Pathfinder starts from $39,990.
Nissan Pathfinder Overview
This is the all-new new generation Nissan Pathfinder and it’s taken a new direction – the bygone ‘tough-roader’ has given way to a modern look and a lightweight monocoque body. It’s a refined seven-seater more attuned to the needs of urban-based families than for carving out a new path off the Strzelecki Track.
CarShowroom.com.au has just spent a week in the mid-grade ST-L model Nissan Pathfinder 2WD which retails for $50,290.
Over the entry-level ST model, the ST-L as tested gains extras including leather trim, a glass front sunroof and panoramic glass rear roof, electric adjustment (rake/reach) for the steering wheel, heated and power-adjustable front seats and some extra exterior chrome.
Nissan Pathfinder Engine
Power comes from Nissan’s VQ35 3.5-litre, six-cylinder petrol engine with 190kW/325Nm on-tap.
Drive is via Nissan’s next-generation X-tronic CVT automatic transmission. We must say this is one of the best CVTs we’ve driven with smart operation and none of the ‘droning’ which can be annoying with these ‘no-shifting’ autos.
Fuel consumption for the 2WD Nissan Pathfinder is rated at 9.9l/100kms. Nissan says it opted to drive the front wheels of 2WD models for better fuel consumption and, interestingly, the similarly front-driven (although larger 3.5-litre capacity) Toyota Kluger lags behind with fuel consumption rated at 11.0l/100kms.
Nissan Pathfinder The Interior
Compared to previous generations, luxury and space abound inside the all-new Nissan Pathfinder (well this is an SUV designed primarily for the North American market). As for family-friendliness – how do ten cup holders, six bottle holders, four 12V power outlets and an under-floor storage compartment behind the third row seats sound?
Up front, Nissan’s new tilted instrument cluster (Altima sedans have a similar set-up) provides a modern 3D look with nice graphics. Plenty of adjustment for the seat and modern steering wheel (electric in the ST-L we tested) means even lanky drivers can be accommodated although we found the seat back to be a tad hard.
Audio is a six-speaker system with the usual connectivity.
We liked Nissan’s ‘EZ Flex’ seating system (the second row seats have a slide function) and ‘Latch and Glide Technology’ (a lever activates that slide function for easy access to the third row). This thoughtful idea is just one example of the simplified family life in the Pathfinder.
Nissan Pathfinder also trumps many in this league with its cargo space even when fully loaded with people. But fold the second and third row seats and you have a massive 2,259-litres of space to fill.
For load-carrying versatility, the second row seat split-folds 60/40 and third row 50/50.
Nissan Pathfinder Exterior & Styling
Nissan Pathfinder ‘purists’ were no doubt shocked when the all-new model appeared – gone is the ‘chunkiness’ which has been a Pathfinder hallmark, replaced with a modern, cohesive look which blends curves and a high waistline to give a strong on-road presence.
At the front, the new-generation Nissan grille with the large badge and bright chrome combines with the currently-trendy large, angular headlights to give a strong first impression. This is reinforced by the large, curved bumper, large cool air intake and the ST-L’s integrated fog lights .
From the side is where the all-new Nissan Pathfinder really differentiates itself from previous generations – there’s actually substantial curves around the front fenders and a strong side character line blending into more curves around the rear wheelarches. The waistline is high (provides a more substantial look) however the rising third window is a slight throwback to previous generations.
And the rear view is again accented by curves for the tailgate door and window. Modern high-mounted tail-lights are nicely crafted.
Our ST-L model Nissan Pathfinder rode on 18-inch alloy wheels (range-topping Ti scores 20-inch alloys).
Nissan Pathfinder On The Road
Luckily the Nissan Pathfinder is a family-oriented seven-seater because our ST-L 2WD was called on for lots of family haulin’ and weekday commuter work during its week in the CarShowroom.com.au garage. From taking the tribe to weekend sport to the early morning 70kms trek to the airport, our Nissan Pathfinder logged plenty of kilometres and was up to the task with ease.
And ‘ease’ is an apt de ￡ó￡?￡ò￡é￡e￡?ion for life in Nissan’s seven-seater. Cruising down the freeway and blending into the peak-hour crush was handled with aplomb – lots of power from the 3.5-litre V6 for merging and overtaking (aided by that proficient CVT) and nice refinement at speed.
And the CarShowroom.com.au juniors plus their mates and an avalanche of sporting equipment for netball and baseball was easily accomplished thanks to the Pathfinder’s abundant interior space and cargo capacity. It’s called ‘practicality’ and the Pathfinder has it in bucket-loads (unlike some rival seven-seaters).
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the Nissan Pathfinder was a tad too soft for our tastes – all very safe and predictable but noticeable ‘diving’ and ‘squatting’ under braking/acceleration as well as noticeable body roll. And - a bit surprisingly - on wet roads, the front wheels were a bit too keen to spin before the traction control worked its magic.
Perhaps the suspension calibration for North America needs some fettling for Australian conditions and tastes.
Nissan Pathfinder Issues
Nissan needs to inject some of the sharp driving dynamics from the Juke into the larger Pathfinder.
Nissan Pathfinder Verdict
As an all-rounder priced at $39,990, the Nissan Pathfinder ST 2WD is an alluring package for family buyers. Obvious interior style combined with prodigious space means this thing delivers on practicality and value-for-money.
And in an era of four-cylinder this and turbo that, it’s nice to just have a familiarly-smooth and powerful V6 under the bonnet.
You also get the sense – backed by decades of Nissan SUVs – that the Pathfinder will take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ for a long, long time.
Nissan Pathfinder The Competition
Although a tad more expensive at $51,490 for the equivalent 2WD seven-seat KX-S model, Toyota’s Kluger has just a bit more punch from its 201kW/337Nm V6. It’s a Toyota so you know Kluger is beautifully made and loaded with kit (but so too is the all-new Nissan Pathfinder).
At $44,525, Mazda’s front-drive CX-9 ‘Classic’ is a relative bargain but do check the detailed specifications. Not as space-efficient inside as the Pathfinder, the CX-9 is certainly all-class and we still like the looks.
Dynamically, Ford’s rear-wheel-drive Territory TX is the pick of the bunch. But it’s nowhere near as spacious as the Pathfinder inside. You’ll need $54,990 for the equivalently-specified Titanium 2WD (rear wheels), the Territory also delivers under the bonnet with 195kW/391Nm from Ford’s erstwhile 4.0-litre V6.